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If you think you’ve unwrapped all the best holiday horror offerings, “The Christmas Tapes” is a worthwhile genre gift you may have missed.

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A family’s Christmas Eve celebration is interrupted by a stranger claiming to have car trouble. His phone is dead, so he asks them to use theirs. Should they trust him? Does he want to use their phone, or does he have something else in mind?

Written and directed by Robert Livings and Randy Nundlall, Jr., The Christmas Tapes is a found-footage anthology that delivers off-beat holiday horror treats with a dash of macabre humor.

Lisa (Janice Burt) and Bill (Todd Lubitsch) are gathered in their living room for their traditional Christmas Eve celebration with their older children, Rachel (Ruby Setnik) and Eli (Joshua Rose). They each open up one present. Rachel receives a video camera and Eli a scarf.

As they decide what movie to watch, the doorbell rings. A man, Geoff (Greg Sestero, The Room), stands there holding a large wrapped box. He tells them his car broke down and asks if he could use their phone. The family decides to let him in. At first, he makes some idle chit-chat, then tells them how disappointing Christmas always was for him.

Rachel goes into the bathroom, takes her new video camera, and films a brief commentary on the situation, treating it as a joke. However, when she comes out, she finds that Geoff is holding the family hostage with a gun. He opens the box to reveal a set of VHS tapes — each containing a movie he wants them to watch.

Each tape is a found footage horror short.

The first, “The Travel Buggies,” follows travel vloggers Dave (Caleb Lush) and Jess (Louise Harding) as they head for a camp-out in the freezing cold snowy woods around the haunted Donner pass. Overall, the short is creepy and suspenseful as you wonder who or what is lurking outside of Dave and Jess’s tent.

“The Christmas Gift” is about a Dad, Dean (Jason Kuykendall), who wants to wrap himself in a box and be delivered to his kids for Christmas by a couple dressed as Santa (Vernon Wells) and Mrs. Claus (Lori Richardson). This short gets a little bit gory, and Wells delivers a standout performance.

“Untitled” is a very brief and bizarre mix of sci-fi and horror in which a man (Robert Livings) delivers a package and is stalked by a mysterious Man in Black (Larry Glenn).

The final short, “The Christmas Spirit,” follows a couple, Ian (Ian Hobbs) and Devin (Devin Valdez), as they move into a new home on Christmas Eve. The moving company calls to say that their truck broke down and they won’t have their furniture for a few days. So, they decide to settle in and happen to have their tree and decorations in their car.

After Ian leaves to pick up an air mattress to sleep on and some dinner, Devin puts up the tree and decorates. She hears a tinkling music box version of Jingle Bells playing in the silent, empty house. She follows the music to a closet and finds a box of old Christmas decorations, which she puts on the mantle.

After this, strange things start to happen in their house. Devin insists they need to call a paranormal investigator. Who could agree to investigate on Christmas Day? Paranormal Perry (Dave Sheridan) is up to the task.

This short is genuinely creepy in a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY type of way.

It has the perfect setting: a dark, empty old house with a box of vintage Christmas decorations in the closet. Sheridan delivers a funny and entertaining performance as bumbling paranormal investigator Paranormal Perry.

The movie ends with Geoff giving the family a special present, which ties the movie together nicely like a festive holiday bow.

Overall, the shorts are strange, presenting odd scenarios; however, their strangeness kept me watching. A low-budget, found-footage horror comedy, The Christmas Tapes is meant to be off-beat. Some shorts felt too brief, but, on the whole, it really held my interest. The cast is also solid, especially the standouts Wells and Sheridan.

If you’re looking for something different this holiday season, I suggest giving The Christmas Tapes a watch.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Butterflies

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3

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