A Christmas Horror Story, 2015.
Directed by Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban and Brett Sullivan.
Starring William Shatner, Rob Archer, Michelle Nolden, George Buza, Jeff Clarke, Shannon Kook, Adrian Holmes, Percy Hynes White, Orion John, Zoé De Grand Maison, Amy Forsyth, Alex Ozerov and Olunike Adeliyi.
A radio show host narrates four interwoven horror stories, all set on Christmas Eve.
Attempting to do for Christmas what Trick ‘r Treat did for Halloween, A Christmas Horror Story is an anthology movie that follows the lead set by the aforementioned Trick ‘r Treat and intertwines its stories, breaking off from one particular group of people’s circumstances and switching to another, and then to another, and then back again. There are four stories altogether, all set in the town of Bailey Downs (a reference to the town in Ginger Snaps and Orphan Black) on Christmas Eve and held together by local radio DJ ‘Dangerous’ Dan (William Shatner – Star Trek) who is addressing the townsfolk over the festive period.
After opening with a battered and bruised Santa (George Buza – Diary of the Dead) looking more than a little worse for wear we rewind 12 hours and join DJ Dan hosting his double shift of Christmas duties and trying to get his seemingly un-festive weather man into the spirit of things. Through Dan’s narration we learn that Bailey Downs has a history as one year ago two students were discovered slayed in a ritualistic killing in the basement of the local high school. As part of a school assignment, Molly (Zoé De Grand Maison – Orphan Black) and her friends Ben (Alex Ozerov – Blackbird) and Dylan (Shannon Kook – The Conjuring) go into the school after hours, with a bit of help from their friend Caprice (Amy Forsyth – Defiance), and start filming a documentary about the horrors that took place in the school building but the principle is still on the premises so the three teenagers hide in the basement where the murders took place, and soon wish they hadn’t. While this is going on Caprice has had to take off with her bickering family to visit her father’s rich elderly aunt but once they get there their actions invoke the wrath of Krampus, the anti-Christmas spirit who doesn’t take too kindly to the family’s attitude.
Meanwhile cop Scott (Adrian Holmes – Cabin in the Woods), who has been investigating the murders at the school, takes his wife and son out into the woods to cut down a tree for Christmas. Ignoring the ‘No Trespassing’ signs, Scott cuts down the tree he wants but loses track of his son Will (Orion John), who turns up after a few worrying minutes and then the family go home. But it doesn’t end there as Will starts showing signs of bad behaviour, and then Scott’s wife Kim (Olunike Adeliyi) takes a phone call from the owner of the land they took the tree from…
And finally we get to see why Santa was looking so battered as preparations for Christmas Day are interrupted when the elves fall foul to a zombie virus – yes, you read that correctly – and begin to assault the big man, who happens to be well prepared and begins to despatch the drooling elves with his sharpened staff and lightning-fast reactions.
Which all sounds like a tremendous amount of fun – and in certain places it is – but A Christmas Horror Story suffers from the erratic approach that it takes as you never really get any proper level of excitement as the film jumps from story to story without capturing any sense of tension. Of the four main stories it is the Santa versus the zombie elves one that is the most fun – who wouldn’t have fun with Father Christmas slaughtering his elves by decapitation? – but you get this action in bits and pieces, and in between you get the other three stories which aren’t actually that interesting. The story of Scott and his family is the best of these, setting up a bit of a mystery with characters that we do actually give the slightest hoot about – especially as it is hinted at that Scott has a history of anger problems that plays into his actions once he gets home – but the other two just don’t seem to focus on anything in particular. Caprice’s story gets a little more interesting when Krampus appears but the creature is criminally underused here and really could have been any old monster as he really doesn’t do that much.
Krampus does appear again in Santa’s story after he has dispatched all of his elves and there is a final fight that ties into our original glimpse of him at the beginning of the film, which leads into the final – and not totally unexpected – reveal. As for the story of the three teenage students trapped in the basement, it tries to go for the sort of plot that has been rehashed in dozens of recent supernatural found footage movies but is just too jumbled and messy to engage in any satisfactory manner, and just becomes an annoyance.
A Christmas Horror Story is fun for the most part but ultimately not that memorable, which is fine as you’re only likely to watch it once a year at the most anyway but it’s not likely to replace Christmas Evil, Black Christmas or Silent Night, Deadly Night as the quintessential Christmas horror movie. The casting of William Shatner is really the masterstroke here as watching DJ Dan get more and more drunk as his double shift goes on is the glue that holds the whole thing together, keeping things light-hearted in between the scenes of gore – which are plentiful and very well done – and CGI snowfall. When this film played at FrightFest in the summer it went down a storm, and in a festival setting amongst hundreds of genre fans it is the sort of film to get that reaction, but when watching it on your television in the comfort of your own home without that electric atmosphere to bolster it up then A Christmas Horror Story comes across as a little flat and a little disappointing.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★