December 2015 gifted us with a good number of Christmas horror films, including several low-budget slashers and creature feature Krampus, which scored a theatrical release. But for those who fear the possibility of leaving their house and getting shot up in a cinema this season because they said “Happy Holidays” to the guy behind the concession stand instead of “Merry Christmas,” I would highly recommend lighting the tree, cozying up by the fireplace, and watching A Christmas Horror Story, one of my new favorites. Meanwhile, check out my page of holiday horror for a massive list of Christmas flix.
As for this Christmas horror anthology, well—it’s a Christmas horror anthology! We have far too little of those. However, the movie approaches the anthology genre a little differently. As our wraparound (sort of), we have William Shatner playing a radio DJ, but his segments are essentially pointless because the film doesn’t actually have separate stories presented one after the other.
Instead, it jumps back and forth between stories. Some may find this a distraction and perhaps frustrating, since a scene will just start getting good in one story when you’re suddenly ripped away from it and thrown back into another story. But if you’ve ever read any of Stephen King’s novels, you should be used to this technique.
The characters in A Christmas Horror Story never cross paths (aside from one exception at the end), unlike Halloween horror anthology Trick ‘r Treat, which took place in one town on Halloween night and interconnected all the tales and characters in between focusing solely on each single story. The only way the tales really connect in A Christmas Horror Story is that they all take place in the town of Bailey Downs—which happens to be the same fictional town in which Ginger Snaps took place. Awesome. The four stories here include:
- Curious high school students head to an abandoned building where a massacre took place the previous Christmas. This story gives us the first taste of gore and a good jump scare, but ended up being my least favorite tale. They’re trapped in the building with some sort of mysterious supernatural force (the ever reliable ghost girl), with themes alluding to Mother Mary and the virgin birth.
There’s even a moment with an abandoned Nativity set and reference to “the war on Christmas.” Yeah, I kind of check out when that bullshit gets thrown around. But leading boy Shannon Kook is a cutie.
- A couple takes their young boy into the woods to chop down a Christmas tree. The boy disappears momentarily, and after they find him and bring him home, he is not the same. He’s pretty much a little devil so bad he isn’t even worthy of Santa’s coal.
It’s not every day that we get Christmas horror focusing around evil children. Refreshingly, this story features an African-American family.
- While kissing up to a rich, elderly relative, a family conjures the wrath of the Krampus demon and is then hunted through a snowy forest by the creature. Underneath the makeup of this menacing monster is this hottie….
- The Santa story proves to be my absolute favorite. It’s Christmas at the North Pole, and with little explanation, Santa’s elves become infected, and turn into flesh hungry zombies! Santa becomes an ass-kicking zombie slayer.
This is where two stories finally come together. Santa gets into a battle with Krampus! This is also the only story that gives us a good old Tales from the Crypt twist ending.
Christmas spirit abounds, thanks in part to how beautiful the movie looks. Visually, it reminds me of films Saint Nick (blog here) and Rare Exports (blog here). There’s something very cool about Christmas horror films that have that polished, lush, “winter wonderland” look and feel. The stories are perfectly varying in tone and subgenre, from the almost campy tone of the Santa/zombie story to the darkly tragic tone of the demonic little boy story. Plus, there’s no shortage of action, suspense, scares, and gore. This is really one of those movies that you could watch every year to get into that Christmas spirit, and I would welcome a sequel.