If there's one thing you can take to the freakin' bank when it comes to the plotline of Horror films, it's that if your main characters don't have any bars on their cellphone reception, that ain't ever good. Strange owners of places people stay in aren't usually a great sign either, and you run right into one of those in "Jingle Hell" before the title screen even kicks in. The production values of this film are excellent, and you can visually see that the quality is there right away, which is always an enticing start to watching anything these days. While the cast might be on the tinier side if you're counting the bodies & all, you'll find quality exists there too. They might all be in the wrong place at the wrong time in terms of the storyline driving this tune, but we've got the right people to make the horrific magic happen. "Jingle Hell" is about a half-hour long, and you'll start seeing the mayhem coming quickly atcha by about ten minutes or so; it moves fast and eventually morphs the story in a more dramatic direction.
The first time you see the Snowman out in the yard is already frightening enough, but when he wanders straight into the cabin, that's practically terrifying. If you're one of those people like myself that tends to watch films from that angle of 'what if this were me' in whatever scenarios come your way onscreen, then you'd probably assume you'd have bricked your shorts if some masked freak just sauntered into your kitchen without an invitation! The wide-eyed expression behind the mask is fiercely intense, and you never really know who might be lurking behind it all. Everything seems so well-intentioned as "Jingle Hell" begins; it could have simply been a sweet story of two sisters reconnecting for the holidays. That being said, if you were to ask me even before I watched this, I'd tell ya there's nothing scarier than family. "Jingle Hell" makes great use of that aspect as the storyline contorts into its malevolent design.
There are a lot of things that work really well in this film overall. The direction from Sean Cruser is solid and reliable; the shots are clear, and the scenes are precise. The makeup and gore are great, and the blood is convincing and certainly plentiful. The overall premise works, and you can genuinely feel the ominous vibes of "Jingle Hell" from the very start, knowing that it's only a matter of time before the mayhem takes over. Things that are harder to justify would be stuff like the ol' cellphone bars not being there…we can all agree that it's definitely an effective plot device that always instantly establishes an extra degree of danger. Still, at the same time, it's something Horror fans tend to run into every second movie they watch. Other opportunities exist within this film that could have generated a bit more suspense, like characters being in their masks a bit longer and the design of the masks a bit more ghoulish. The use of silence for our masked friends can also raise the tension level - whereas if things become too normal in that regard, it becomes easier not to be too scared. It all depends on what you're going for, of course. I like to be scared when I'm watching a Horror film or movie, and I felt like the first half of "Jingle Hell" managed to accomplish the suspense really well, whereas the latter half lets that part become more of a secondary priority.
It was still entertaining, and there's no doubt about that. It just ended up being different than I thought it would be or where it felt like it was going in the first half. For some, that'll be a good thing, and for others, it might leave you wanting a bit more of the creepiness that was presented at the start. Still, suppose you're looking for a holiday-tinged film that isn't "A Christmas Carol" or any of its incarnations for the millionth time. In that case, you might find yourself really enjoying the opportunity to put on "Jingle Hell" for a different experience this yuletide season. I'm going to go with three stars out of five. I feel like "Jingle Hell" does a lot with what it's got, but that it also had the opportunity to go the extra mile in order to scare the daylights out of us, and wavered a bit too much in that regard, like it was pulling punches more than it should have. Again, entertaining from start to finish, but again, it probably turns out a lot different than folks will expect, and it'll be up to the court of public opinion to decide if the twists and turns were the right ones for this film to take by the end.