In a quiet suburban New Jersey town, the Heston family sleeps soundly on Christmas Eve with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. In the middle of the night Joan Heston (Carolyn Slesinski) hears a noise. Convinced that it is a terrorist burglar, she wakes up her husband Charles (Tom Pavey) and convinces him to investigate. Charles Heston (nyuck, nyuck, get it?) agrees, but not before exercising his second amendment rights and bringing along a shotgun (another good nyuck nyuck). As Charles heads downstairs, he hears the prowler and he gets nervous. Rounding the corner, he comes face to face with the intruder and fires. But after the smoke clears Charles realizes that he has killed a beloved Christmas icon. Soon, he and his wife are arguing about how to get rid of the evidence. That’s when things get really bizarre and some strange men in black show up at the Heston’s door…
“The Night before Christmas” is a 21 minute short from writer/director Bart Grieb and it’s a charming spoof of classic Christmas TV shows. Apparently also influenced by the old “Fractured Fairy Tales” cartoons from the 1960s, Grieb takes a look at what would happen if the timeless Christmas characters that we all love crossed over into our modern paranoia-driven times. What follows is an amusing and goofy satire as Charles and Joan attempt to hide the evidence of their crime both from the authorities and their children. However, the Hestons’ simply have too many personal issues of their own to work out so they turn out to be totally clueless.
While the short fails to reach dizzying heights of madness that the situation calls for, it’s still satisfying to watch a family of modern suburbanites totally screw up the holidays for the rest of the world. Both Tom Pavey and Carolyn Slesinski put in solid performances as the befuddled couple. They make it clear that they’ve hit the middle age marriage wall and every one of their comebacks drips with sarcasm.
This is the first in a series of planed films about the Heston family and I can’t wait to see what other mischief they get into. Filled with marvelous kitschy pop references, “The Night before Christmas” is an irreverent and sassy short about the pitfalls of having a traditional kind of holiday in the modern world. It’s great fun.