By now I’m sure everyone with any interest in horror has seen the still of the iron abbed, chain wielding Krampus from this film. Pretty impressive to be sure, but what about the rest of the film, does it live up that image? For the most part, yes it does, but it screws up so badly in the last few minutes it very nearly cancels out everything up to that point.
The film is an anthology, but unlike the other big holiday horror omnibus film, Tales of Halloween, this only has four stories and in an unusual format they don’t run one after the other the film cuts back and forth between them. The stories are all quite interesting, a family looking for a Christmas tree trespass into the wrong woods and bring back more than they intended as something takes possession of their son. Student film makers sneak into their school to do a documentary about a brutal murder that happened the previous year and find that they’ve been cast in an encore performance. A family with loads of skeletons in their closet find a trip to Aunt Edda’s turning into a battle for survival against the legendary Krampus. And at the North Pole, Santa has to contended with murderous elves. All of this is held together loosely by William Shatner as DJ Dan, filling the airwaves with Christmas carols and himself with spiked eggnog.
All of the stories are good, the one dealing with the changeling is a slow burn, quiet and unsettling as it builds to it’s climax. The story of the teens plays some interesting, (and some cliched), riffs on the ghost hunter genre, it’s good but the weakest of the four. The family versus the Krampus tale is an excellent slice of action horror/monster mayhem as the anti Santa punishes a family for it’s sins. And Santa vs the zombie elves could easily have been a feature on it’s own, it’s fast paced fun and very gory. It’s also where the film blows it.
As much as I want to give it away so I can describe how awful it is I won’t drop a spoiler on you. I’ll just say it negates both figuratively and literally much of what has gone before. Even an “it was all a dream” ending would have been better. To be fair, some folk really love the ending, but most of those I know who’ve caught it have pretty much hated it.
The film is the work of three directors Steven Hoban (Darknet), Grant Harvey (She Made Me Do It) and Brett Sullivan (Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed). The presence of so many veterans of the Ginger Snaps filmsmay explain the film being set in Bailey Downs, the setting of the first two Ginger Snaps films. Four writers contributed Doug Taylor (Splice), Sarah Larsen (Darknet), James Kee (Darknet), and Pascal Trottier (Hellions). They all do good jobs with their segments.
The highlight of the cast is obviously Shatner as the progressively more inebriated DJ. He’s actually quite funny without being a total parody, something he’s been guilty of in the past.
A Christmas Horror story differs from Tales of Halloween not just in the number of stories but it’s approach to it’s casting. Rather than cram it full of genre celebrities it casts good actors with or without ties to horror, going for solid performances instead of endless opportunities to play spot the cameo or have in jokes.
So A Christmas Horror Story gets a split decision. It’s a great film for 99% of it’s running time but goes badly off the rails at the end. I’m still giving it a recommendation, but not nearly as strong as I wish I could.