For many people the holidays are a nightmare; crappy relatives, fighting to find the perfect gift, and hiding from that one bloke at work who carries around a sprig of mistletoe, but Hollywood loves to once in a while make a Christmas movie that takes the holiday season to a gory horrifying state. One of my all time favorite Christmas movies is Joe Dante’s Gremlins, and of course who cannot love Bob Clark’s seminal holiday master piece Black Christmas, but for every good holiday horror movie we do get a lot of dreck; with two prime examples of this being Silent Night Deadly Night and Jack Frost (and no I don’t mean the Michael Keaton film, though that one was pretty horrifying). This brings us to this latest entry A Christmas Horror Story by directors Grant Harvey, Steve Hoban, and Brett Sullivan.
Now one may think, “What kind of film needs three directors?” Well A Christmas Horror Story is an anthology piece with four stories interwoven over the course of one Christmas Eve in the fictional town of Bailey Downs. So three directors kind of makes sense until you realize there one director short for the four segments. Maybe the fourth story they all pitched in, or more likely there was an accident in the editing room and the fourth story created itself. This may explain why the film seems to open up with a shot of a frozen Middle-earth.
The first of the stories is a kind of wrap around story which centers on Santa (George Buza) having a touch of a problem with rage fueled zombie elves. Just as dear ole Santa is getting the last minute duties covered before his annual ride he is shocked to find out that Shiny (Ken Hall), one of his hard working elves, is not in the festive spirit, and when offered a cookie-break he refuses the offering and instead takes a hatchet to his own hand. He dies, and this is a shock to the rest of the elves who up to this point assumed elves couldn’t die. Things get a bit darker when this “virus” spreads and soon Santa is up to his big white beard in the bloodthirsty little shits.
The next story deals with a three students sneaking into their school to make an investigative video about a double murder that took place there a year ago to this very night. Barbara Walters wannabee Molly (Zoe De Grand Maison) convinces fellow classmates Dylan (Shannon Kook) and Ben (Alex Ozerov) to spend their Christmas Eve in the dark and dank basement corridors where nuns once kept unwed mothers. Unfortunately for our idiot trio the ghost of one of these poor women wants another go at having a child, which is odd as she died trying to abort that one she had.
Then we have Officer Scott (Adrian Holmes) who goes out with his wife Kim (Olunike Adeliyi) and young son (Orion John) to cut down a Christmas tree, but for some reason this officer of the law choses a forest clearly marked “No Trespassing” as a perfect place to look for a tree. Before you can sing a chorus of “O Tannenbaum” stupid little Will, who also suffers from asthma, has wandered off to investigate a noise he heard. A frantic Scott and Kim finally track the kid down to a creepy tree with an opening that looks like it was designed by H.R. Giger. They bring their son home and immediately the kid starts acting creepy; such as stabbing his dad in the hand and watching his mom take a shower. Turns out they didn’t pull Will out of that tree but instead brought out an evil changeling. Will the creature kill the hapless couple? Can Will be rescued in time for Christmas Mass? Could we care less?
Lastly we have the dysfunctional Bauer family taking a trip to see their rich Aunt Edda (Corrine Conley). The dad has hauled his family out on Christmas Eve in the hopes of securing some much needed cash for his company that he has been fraudulently keeping alive, but dad isn’t the only bad apple in this group, there is his daughter Caprice (Amy Forsyth) a kleptomaniac and her brother Duncan (Percy Hynes White) who we learn has murdered the family pets. And do you know what happens to bad little boys and girls on Christmas Eve, they must face Krampus, the legendary anti-Santa who punishes the guilty in as gory a fashion as possible.
Unlike such horror anthologies such as Creepshow and Tales From the Darkside this movie does not tell one story after another, but instead weaves in and out of each of them throughout the films 99 minute running time. This is the film’s major failing as it completely undercuts any tension built up during any particular story, not that any of them are that great to begin with, but this editing choice kills whatever suspense it’s created and destroys the pacing. A couple of characters overlap ie Office Scott was a cop on the scene of the original school murders and Caprice supplied the keys that got the kids inside the school, but none of these people ever meet again so it all comes across a pointless. The use of William Shatner as radio D.J. Dangerous Dan is I’m assuming supposed to further tie the four stories together, but his drunken ramblings about Christmas cheer really don’t add anything to movie as a whole. It’s certainly not the most embarrassing moment in Shatner’s career.
The only clever thing about this movie is how the Santa segment pans out, and as its reveal is the best part of this movie I will certainly not spoil it here, but as it’s a ninety minute wait to get there I can’t really say it’s worth the wait. Anthologies are tricky beasts, and with three directors and five writers it certainly would make creating a cohesive whole even trickier. A Christmas Horror Story is far from the being one of the worst of its kind, but it is guilty of being boring at times and for a horror movie that crime is unforgivable.
A Christmas Horror Story (2015)
Movie Rank - 4.5/10
Three directors, five writers and a partridge in a pear tree could not pull off this horror anthology, though the acting and effects work were decent the pacing and storytelling failed miserably.