Directors: Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan
Cast: William Shatner, George Buza, Rob Archer, Zoé De Grand Maison, Alex Ozerov
Watch A Christmas Horror Story online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Netflix UK / Rakuten TV / Google Play
More often than not, Christmas movies tend to be great big letdowns… bar the ones every so often that can be added to that rather limited but sacred list of brilliant festive flicks. Throwing horror into the mix is an even bigger ask for success, but it can, under the right circumstances, be achieved.
Krampus is a more recent, solid entry to the sub-genre of Christmas horror, with classics such as Gremlins doing a fine job of mixing its scares with satire and some zany comedy to boot. A Christmas Horror Story treads the precarious path of breaking into that difficult realm of acceptable frightening festive films – and it actually succeeds. By no means are we talking stone cold Christmas classic material, but what’s presented is more than satisfactory in terms of our naturally low expectations.
The film is a series of stories – some related, others not – that take us on psychological, physically violent, emotionally taut journey, from Santa surviving a deadly outbreak at the North Pole, and a group of teens sneaking into a haunted part of school, to a demonic child akin to The Omen’s Damian. All taking place on Christmas Eve no less, which culminates in 90 odd minutes of entertaining, scary, and sometimes whimsical characters. All this is happening while interspersed with the aural sounds of one William Shatner, who’s conducting a pre-Christmas show from the comfort of his radio station, which gives a sense of calm between the intensity.
Often, something directed by three creative types and written by four can have disastrous consequences. Yet A Christmas Horror Story isn’t the unimaginable mess it easily could have been. Instead, directors Grant Harvey, Steve Hoban, and Brett Sullivan divide up the workload and make each instalment into something individual and contrasting to one another. It’ll come as no surprise to learn that whether we’re following three teens set to make contact with ‘the other side’ or a family fending off an unseen anti-Christmas foe, blood and gore abound – and the film is plentiful in its gratuity.
Without giving anything away – not that there are a host of shocking plot twists to reflect upon – the one involving Santa literally fighting for survival amidst a horde of ravenous zombie elves is a notable highlight. The manner of how this segment plays out is particularly entertaining, providing most of the film’s action sequences, as a badass Father Christmas uses his staff (and brutish swinging skills) to decapitatingly good effect.
A Christmas Horror Story uses these often engaging story threads to forge a solid anthology set around winter. It perhaps works best due to the variety on offer; structurally not dissimilar to anthology films such as XX or V/H/S, it splices the stories up while still managing to make sense. We’re never threatened with experiencing anything mind-blowing, but narratives involving possessed children, haunted houses, a devoted Santa, and blood-thirsty Krampus provide something familiar enough to sit back and enjoy.