David DeCoteau is known for directing a certain kind of movies, that many would find anything but worth watching.
To make matters even more complicated, he sometimes directs films under pseudonyms, just like the good old late Aristide Massaccesi (aka Joe D’Amato).
“Santa’s Summer House” is another creation of the ever-busy DeCoteau (being listed here as Mary Crawford), which is a straight-forward family film.
We’ve got a bunch of people, going out on a vacation, and they get lost along the way. Thanks to the driver, going through a heavy fog results them ending up on the wrong road, and eventually at the wrong place.
This may sound like a cliche beginning of a slasher film, but it isn’t. Our group, which consists of a family of three, an arrogant engineer, and two girls end up at the door steps of a huge mansion – which turns out to be Santa’s summer house.
*During summer, Santa relaxes at his mansion and grants wishes to people who end up in his mansion. Why? To save himself time during winter, when he has to grant wishes, get it?*
Santa’s wife Nana (Cynthia Rothrock) persuades the group to stay at the house for a few days, since the resort at the original destination is already booked in full. Home-made cookies help the visitors to make the right decision…
What follows is the acquaintance with Santa Claus himself (Christopher Mitchum), and lots of eating, playing games, gift-giving, and so on. As it turns out later, the group did not end up in Santa’s house by accident…
One thing is when you have an action film with established action stars that don’t do action – that’s frustrating and irritating. The other thing is when you have a family film with action stars – where they’re not supposed to do splits, roundhouse kicks and so on. The second option sometimes works.
“Santa’s Summer House” has four such established martial arts stars – Gary Daniels (kickboxing champion, 90’s action movie star), Cynthia Rothrock (arguably the most famous woman-fighter on screen, and a great martial artist), Kathy Long (5-time world kickboxing champion), and Daniel Bernhardt (star of Bloodsport 2-4). We’re really missing guys like Lorenzo Lamas, Jeff Wincott and Matthias Hues in the cast, but that’s okay.
In a film like this, Daniels, Long, Rothrock and Bernhardt are forced to apply their acting skills, instead of the usual things they do. The results are sort of mixed.
Bernhardt, of all four, seems to have the best acting skills, as his character is vivid, never boring and tries to be as cocky as possible. Daniels and Long do not seem as comfortable in their roles, and Rothrock seems to have too much fun being “Mrs Claus”.
“Santa’s Summer House” takes place in one mansion, thus all the “action” you can expect, takes place in the house (or in the yard). The story of the film is way too simple, and when the characters gather to play a croquet game (which lasts for 10 minutes or so!), it really shows that the filmmakers tried to stretch the film for longer.
And no, Bryan (Bernhardt) and Dean (Gary Daniels) do not get into a fight during the croquet game – although it would’ve been interesting, considering the great shape both actors are in.
Obviously the action stars agreed to do the film as a small step back from what they usually do, and the cast was probably having a lot of fun filming it.
It should be noted that director David DeCoteau made another film, in the same mansion, with Cynthia Rothrock, probably right after the filming of this film was done, and Daniel Bernhardt has another film with DeCoteau scheduled for release in 2014.
So, is “Santa’s Summer House” worth watching? Yes, if you like your action stars doing a non-action film. Considering what body of work the mentioned stars have behind their backs, “Santa’s Summer House” can be considered a rather forgettable addition to their filmographies.
BZFILM SCALE: 4/10
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