Twas the night before Christmas, the children cosy in bed. Santa’s sleigh has gone crash and his reindeer are dead. Welcome to the world of Jonathan van Tulleken’s Anthony, a 16-minute dark comedy that reimagines Father Christmas as a chain-smoking foul-mouthed maverick more interested in taking care of number one, than the millions of children he’s supposed to bring joy.
Essentially a two-hander between British comedian Tim Key (as Santa) and actor Tom Basden (as the titular Elf), Anthony follows the pair as they attempt to save Christmas after an explosion leaves their reindeers dead (or almost dead!) and their sleigh and its contents scattered and on fire. With Santa’s first actions after the crash to light a cigarette from a flaming teddy bear, before staring his helper in the face and declaring him a “prick”, this isn’t exactly the feel good festive fun you’re used to seeing around this time year.
Though not the first story revolving around a “bad” Santa, what van Tulleken’s film lacks in originality it more than makes up for with its twisted sense of humour and spirited performances. Co-writer Keys especially looks to be enjoying himself, delivering lines like “you can’t whip an animal too hard” or “pile up the elves and make a fire” with a sense of mischievous glee, that makes his performances all too believable.
Created back in 2014, van Tulleken was no stranger to the short film world when made Anthony, having been nominated for a BAFTA back in 2010 with his short Off Season. Since completing this Christmassy short, he’s gone on to direct episodes for a number of British TV series’ including Misfits, Top Boy and The Aliens.