A Christmas Horror Story sees four interlaced stories all set the day before Christmas. They follow a student documentary which fast turns terrifying; a family on the hunt for a Christmas tree and bringing home a little bit more than that; Santa Claus getting in to a spot of bother at the North Pole and another family being terrorised by the monstrous Krampus, intent to give a whole new meaning to the Christmas spirit.
With four intertwining festival tales to get you in the mood for some holiday cheer, A Christmas Horror Story adds a dash of blood and sprinkle of terror to remind you that Christmas is not just a time for fun, laughter and presents. It’s a time for bloodshed and general nastiness. We all love an alternative festive film to enjoy in the Winter months, and A Christmas Horror Story is another great addition to this tiny sub-genre of horror. It ticks all the right scary Christmas boxes to ensure that it is a mostly humorous, horrifying and fun 95 minutes.
Each story blends well in to the other and they are all memorable enough to stand on their own two feet, ensuring they are different from the rest. The decision to not play each story separately like a typical anthology was refreshing, and means that you’ll get four climactic endings at the same time. It also gives the film the opportunity to ramp up the tension and cut to a different story at opportune moments. There are times when the editing feels a bit choppy, but the aim to keep its audience on tenterhooks throughout usually works. Each story builds up its own level of suspense and when each one hits it final moment it’s like being hit on the head with a giant candy cane; it’s painfully sweet.
Whichever one of the four you prefer will be a matter of opinion, but they all certainly have their strengths and weaknesses. For me, the poorest of the 4 tales is the one concerning the students filming a documentary. This is the most cliched and predictable part of A Christmas Horror Story and doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. The teens wander around an abandoned building, strange things start to happen; it’s all a bit underwhelming to be exciting. It doesn’t feel as festive as the other stories as it lacks any genuine connection to the time of year the film is trying to focus on. Where the other stories feature obvious connections to Christmas; Santa, the Krampus and the journey for a Christmas tree, the student’s endeavour is just set on Christmas Eve. It lacks the Christmas cheer – or fear – the other stories so wonderfully embrace and, thus, becomes the poorest of the bunch.
For its unrelenting insanity and introduction of zombie elves, the Santa Claus segment is the most memorable and the greatest. Seeing Santa commit the most heinous acts on his tiny elf army is the most fun you’re going to have this Christmas, I assure you. He goes on a relentless killing caper as he refuses to take no more from Shiny and Sparkles as they spew ungodly language from their teeny blood-soaked mouths. A favourite of mine is when Santa is called a “Christmas c**t.” It’s crude, shocking and shamelessly entertaining.
A Christmas Horror Story manages to explore 4 very different stories and tie them all together with a nice little bow. It’s best to watch this with knowing very little, as you only spend around 20 minutes with each story its easy to say too much. However, I will say that this is a ridiculously merry and fabulously dark exploration of the other side of Christmas. For an anthology film to score a 3 out of 4 on its stories is a great accomplishment, showing that with a strong group of directors and a dash of simple creativity, you can make a near-perfect anthology horror.
Words: Jessy Williams (@JessyCritical)