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Thursday, December 13, 2018

A Christmas Horror Story (2015)




The Christmas horror marathon continues with this interesting flick. It is sort of an anthology as it has five distinct stories that somewhat relate to each other while at the same time existing separately. What I’m used to is a wraparound story with different segments running from start to finish. Think Creepshow or Cat’s Eye. This movie does it differently as all the stories take place on Christmas Eve in the small down of Bailey Downs and are told as they happen. Instead of complete stories we get a lot of jumping from one to the other. For the purposes of my review I’m going to spilt up and talk about each segment individually. Also, unlike other anthologies these stories don’t have their own titles. It is all very confusing.

I’m going to start with the least Holiday connected story. Here we have some High School students breaking into the basement of a private school a year after a double murder. We know something supernatural and creepy happened with it because they watch a crime scene video showing how twisted it was. Why do this? They are trying to create a documentary about the killings for a school project. After some background about the history of the school where we find out that it used to be a nunnery where unwed pregnant girls were sent and the tale of one girl that claimed to be a virgin things get creepy. The place is haunted, which the audience knows before the characters. We see the ghost behind them lurking around. After some jump scares, face stabbing, and ghost fetus stuff the segment ends in a satisfyingly creepy way.

Of the five this is probably my least favorite. Other than the characters talking about Christmas and discarded nativity figures this is basically just a ghost story. Though they do sneak a war on Christmas line in there that was funny in a Fox News sort of way. But again, this been done many times. While the jump scares and eventual appearance of the ghost are well executed, I just wasn’t that interested in what was going on. This is also the segment that is hurt the most by jumping around. Just about the time things get creepy we jump to another story breaking any atmosphere and momentum they were building. Still it wasn’t too bad, and I can see some fans really digging it.

Shatner is awesome in everything including this movie!
Next up is a story about a family going to see a distant relative. The father is sort of a sketchy dude who ends up trying to pitch his wealthy aunt on a business opportunity. She isn’t having any of it and gets quite angry at them after the son breaks a statue of Krampus. After sending them on their way they end up stranded after something darts out in the road forcing them into a ditch. They try to walk back to the aunt’s house and in the woods encounter a creature that starts to pick them off one at a time. Sure enough it ends up that Krampus is real and was punishing them for their sins.

This is the first of two spots where Krampus shows up. The makeup effects work is elaborate and while we don’t get to see the actual kills what is implied is pretty gruesome. The characters are unlikeable, which works for the story, and it has a decent twist ending. Plus, they kill a kid! An annoying one, but still that was unexpected and sort of fun. Maybe I’m just a twisted old dude, but I liked it.

The third story has a different family going into the woods to get their Christmas Tree. This story connects back to the first that I mentioned in that the police officer from the crime scene video is the Dad. Jumping a fence to get a tree from private property the parents lose track of their son. When they finally find him there is clearly something wrong with the kid. It only gets creepier when they get home as he stabs his Dad with a fork and gets inappropriate with Mom! After a mysterious phone call and finding her husband dead Mom decides that the kid is a changeling and needs to be taken back to the woods. This leads to some weirdness involving the guardian of the creatures.

This is the only of the stories to have a happy ending as somehow the evil murderous changeling decides to give the mother back her lost son after she does him a solid. The story gets sort of vague and isn’t terribly logical, but then again monsters living in trees that can look like humans should make you suspend your disbelief. We also get a cool bit of gore with the kid playing with a lopped off hand, which I’m sure didn’t scar the child actor’s emotional well-being at all.

Zombie Elves... man they creep me out!
Next up comes the most recognizable face in the movie. In the background of some of the other stories we hear a radio D.J. named Dangerous Dan talking. This is the great William Shatner who spends his entire segment sitting behind a microphone riffing on the holidays and picking on the weatherman at the station. Not only does this create the loose timeline connecting the other segments but it becomes very important in the big payoff of the movie. This includes him talking about the food drive at the mall where one of the kids from the first story I talked about was supposed to volunteer. At some point a terrible thing happens at the food drive and hostages are taken. How does this connect? That would require some spoilers that I’m not going to give.

Santa vs. Krampus... it had to happen!
This leads to the final story and my absolute favorite. Santa Claus is at the north pole working with the elves to get ready for Christmas. One of them develops a cough and starts cussing up a storm, which shocks everyone. Then he dies, but elves can die, and sure enough he comes back as a zombie! The other elves become infected and before you can say Romero Rules, we have Santa fighting it out with a horde of potty mouthed zombie elves. Head and limbs go flying as Claus does battle with the living dead. But how did this happen? The big payoff is when Krampus shows up to do battle with Santa. Yep the creature from the second story was behind the death and reanimation of the elves in an effort to destroy Christmas once and for all. Or was he?

There is a huge and awesome twist at the end that I never saw coming. I probably should have but I totally missed an important clue. I’m not going to spoil it here and hope that you end up missing it too because it makes for a great ending. I hadn’t heard of this movie until it showed up on Shudder and after watching it I don’t understand why. My only complaint is that they didn’t present this in a traditional format for an anthology and cut all them together. It takes a bit away from the movie but I can live with that. This is a blast and will get added to my must watch Holiday movie list. Yeah, I know I’m weird… I highly recommend A Christmas Horror Story.



© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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