Writer/director Aaron Mento's Ugly Sweater Party is a fun, if frustrating watch. It features genre icons like Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) and Sean Whalen (The People Under the Stairs) in prominent and fun roles, and has an absolutely bonkers premise. It even starts out promisingly, with Whalen - as serial killer Declan Rains - being interrogated to death by two police detectives.
Smash cut to ten years later, and the viewer's meeting friends Jody (Hunter Johnson) and Cliff (Charles Chudabala) before they attend a party being thrown by a couple of twins they met during spring break. Jody is introduced shaving his pubes, while Cliff is doing a sexy dance.
Long story short, the party's an ugly sweater party, Cliff ends up wearing a mysterious sweater worn by Declan, and everything gets weird. The party's at a ‘Christ Camp’, the twins recently found Jesus, their mom's a horndog, and Satanism, thrash metal, and a laser blaster all make an appearance before the film's finished.
It definitely gets pretty messy, and the performances are more enthusiastic than powerful. Although Whalen isn't really offered much after the opening scene, he's certainly creepy enough. The rest of the cast gives it their all, but the lines they're being asked to deliver are pretty ridiculous. Add into that some camera work that doesn't offer up much more than aping Friday the 13th or The Evil Dead, and it's a pretty bog-standard slasher, laser blaster massacre notwithstanding.
Mento doesn't lean into the Christmas aspect of the film nearly enough for this to count as a holiday slasher, aside from some strung-up lights and the occasional decoration. The party aspect is pretty brief, and after that, it becomes another mad slasher in the vein of Troma and its myriad offspring, wherein linear story development is tossed aside in favor of ever-increasing mad randomness. Tying in the possessive device that is the Satanic ugly sweater more strongly into a Christmas plot point might've helped immensely, but given that the holiday aspect is but a small detail, it's ultimately a moot point to try to puzzle it out.
Ugly Sweater Party is a fun watch after a strong beer or two, but the film ultimately offers up a lot more than it can deliver. Despite some fun digressions involving a disgruntled ex-employee driven to murder by the metal band Omicida and some very gnarly practical effects work in the early scenes, the movie ultimately turns into yet another messy plot with CGI substituting for anything substantive.
UGLY SWEATER PARTY / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: AARON MENTO / STARRING: FELISSA ROSE, SEAN WHALEN, KEVIN CALIBER, BERNA ROBERTS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW