Back in the 1980s it was easy to make a Christmas horror film. Slap a Santa suit on a deranged killer and the script practically wrote itself. Now that the Christmas demon, Krampus, has become ingrained in North American minds, most modern-day Xmas horror flicks will have some kind of mention of this evil bastard. Furthermore, being that the anthology has made quite the comeback over the last few years, it only seems natural to bring this format to the holiday-horror arena. Add these ingredients together and voila! A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is born.
Taking inspiration from 2007s TRICK R’ TREAT, A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY follows a similar format with four different stories that are loosely connected. I also liked that the four stories aren’t told from beginning to end in one shot. The stories are woven together which adds more suspense and tension to them. The framework of the anthology is a radio DJ, Dangerous Dan (William Shatner), whose radio program is hosting a live broadcast with Santa from the local mall. As the night goes on, not only does Dangerous Dan become more and more drunk, but more and more bizarre stories emerge in the small town. Eventually there even seems to be a massacre at the mall itself. The wraparound story didn’t at first seem to offer too much to the overall film–it honestly felt like nothing more than homage to Adrienne Barbeau’s role in the 1980 film, THE FOG–but by the end of the movie the wraparound ended up being the most compelling and interesting story of the bunch.
The first story, my favorite of the anthology, is about Santa (George Buza) fighting off a horde of elves who have been stricken with a virus that turns them into zombies. This story has the most action and gore in it, and it is fun as hell to watch Santa using various Christmas-themed items to hold back and kill off the zombified elves. Again, this story is chopped up into smaller segments and is shown over the duration of the anthology. This was a great idea because we get a bunch of cliffhangers that make us anticipate and eagerly await the next segment.
In the second story, a group of friends–Dylan (Shannon Kook), Caprice (Amy Forsyth), Molly (Zoé De Grand Maison), and Ben (Alex Ozerov)–investigate an old, closed down covent that use to house unwed mothers. This is your standard ghost-possession story and didn’t really have much of an impact on me. The acting was strong and the story was good, but let’s face it, a ghost story is a ghost story!! Thankfully the ending of this segment got dark (more on this below).
The next story has a great setup and payoff. In it, a family heads out into the woods, unaware they are on someone’s private property, to cut down a Christmas tree. As they are leaving the woods, their young son, Will (Orion John), disappears for a few minutes. The father, Scott (Adrian Holmes) finds him and they all head home. Almost immediately Scott and his wife Kim (Oluniké Adeliyi), who have a very strained relationship, notice that their son is acting odd. He suddenly has a voracious appetite and a vicious little mean streak. The reveal for this story is definitely the most unexpected in the entire anthology.
In the last story, a miserable, selfish family goes to visit an older relative and accidentally attracts the attention of Krampus, the Christmas Devil. They are stalked in the woods by the creature and their only chance of survival is to put aside their petty issues and come together as a family. Good luck with this bunch!!
Like I mention above, the acting is terrific in all the stories. No actor stood out as being amateurish or just plain bad. Buza, who plays Santa in the zombie story, stands out in his performance of the jolly one. Buza takes the typical character of Santa and believably transforms it into an action hero to rival Bruce Campbell’s Ash from the EVIL DEAD franchise. But the real power of this story comes in at the end of the film when we see how the Santa-fighting-zombies story fits into the wraparound story. Very clever!! All the stories get very dark as well. This is definitely not a film you want to watch with younger children. A few of the stories seem lighthearted in the beginning but all delve into some really dark territory by the end.
A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY will remind you more of TRICK R’ TREAT than any other recent anthology film, and I had a lot of fun with this one. With great acting, fantastic special f/x, and talented directs, A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is a must-watch film this Christmas season (you’ll also like it if your Jewish or Muslim as well. Just sayin). Don’t miss this one!!
Directors: Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, & Brett Sullivan
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars for the overall anthology
Gore: 7 out of 10 skulls for the overall anthology
Zombie Mayhem: 4 out of 5 brains for the first story
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer