Director Joe Russo's film is a panic-inducing Yuletide present

You could search a long time to find a more nerve-shredding family Christmas than the one depicted in the new horror short Midnight Clear — and the smart money would still have you coming up empty-handed.

The film is directed by Joe Russo, producer of filmmaker Mick Garris’ podcast Post Mortem and of the upcoming horror anthology movie, Nightmare Cinema, whose directors include Garris, Joe Dane (Gremlins), and David Slade (30 Days of Night, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse).

“While in post-production on Nightmare Cinema, I had lunch with David Slade,” says Russo, explaining the genesis of the project. “I told him about a short film idea my childhood friend turned go-to composer, John Jesensky, and I were kicking around. David agreed that it was a universal story about a fear that was lurking in the back of everyone’s minds right now, and encouraged me to tell it. The only problem… Our story, Midnight Clear, took place at Christmas and it was already mid-September… Miraculously, a talented cast and crew, many returning from Nightmare Cinema, came together inspired by the chance to tell a story that we hope will serve as an important reminder this holiday season.

“After getting some invaluable directing advice from two other Nightmare Cinema filmmakers, genre legends Mick Garris and Joe Dante, we dove into production. Racing to beat our holiday deadline, we turned a white-walled North Hollywood apartment into the visual definition of Christmas. But while it may have looked like winter, the unseasonably warm two-day October shoot made it feel like anything but. Trapped inside a 90-degree hot-box, we all persevered to make Midnight Clear a reality. To bring out the story’s themes, we wanted the film to feel like a Normal Rockwell Christmas painting, and we maximized our very small budget to make sure that production design, costumes, lighting and 1970s anamorphic lenses gave us that very classic holiday-season look. Playing off one of our darkest socio-political fears, Midnight Clear is an exploration of how two different characters react knowing death awaits them, and how there is always still time to put our differences aside and come together before the very end.”

Midnight Clear stars Jessica Morris (Role Models), Kurt Kubicek, Caige Coulter, and Kue Lawrence and is co-written by Russo and Jesensky. Other key behind-the-camera personnel include executive producer David Armstrong, director of photography Andrew Russo, and production designer Lauren Fitzsimmons.

Watch Midnight Clear above.