Looking for an alternative Christmas film this festive season? Here’s my review of this new addition on Netflix.
The horror anthology has been around for a long time (Dr Terror’s House Of Horror with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing is one of the great late night horror films), and have had a slight resurgence in recent years. The rise of video on demand and streaming services means that low budget films (and films that do not get traditional widespread cinematic releases) can still reach larger audiences, so films like Trick ‘r Treat and V/H/S (and even the more gimmicky, less successful attempts like The ABCs Of Death) have made a serious impression.
A Christmas Horror Story is a series of four stories framed by “Dangerous Dan” (the great William Shatner) a small town DJ stuck doing the graveyard shift on Christmas Eve. He is determined to have a good time, and as the liqueur flows, he becomes more sentimental about what Christmas means, and implores his listeners to share the season of goodwill with their family.
As his show goes on however, there are reports of a hostage situation at a local mall – and this isn’t the only strange occurrence in the town. A group of high school students are making a documentary about two murders that happened the year before. They break into the school to film where the murders took place, since no one at the school will talk about it, but strange things happen when they get locked in and are forced to spend the night there.
At the same time, one of their friends goes on a trip with their family to see an elderly aunt. She tells them a story from her Bavarian childhood, the story of Krampus, the counterpart of Santa who punishes wicked children. After one of the kids misbehaves the parents decide to head home, but after an “accident” on the way home, they find themselves being chased by someone. Or something… could it be Krampus?
There are other supernatural elements going on in the town. A policeman goes to cut down a tree for his wife and son, and goes deep into the woods owned by “Big Earl”. His son wanders off briefly, but when he comes back he seems different. Is the tree cursed? Or did something happen to them out in the woods? And just who is Big Earl?
Finally, we have the story that makes the cover of the DVD. At the North Pole, Santa is planning for Christmas when his elves start getting sick. They turn into rage filled zombies, and Santa is forced to kill them. What is causing the infection? Can Santa stop it in time? Or will Krampus be able to defeat the weakened and distracted Santa?
A familiar set of stories (especially with Krampus being released the same year!), but I really enjoyed this. Shatner is an absolute joy, and I really admired the different tone of each section. A couple of the stories are a little bit flat, but they redeem themselves by sticking with and fully committing to their endings. The minor characters are fun (the aunt’s caretaker especially), and the stories play-out concurrently, so there is very little downtime in setting up the stories.
A really enjoyable horror film!
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
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A previous version of this article appeared on TheSnootyUshers.com in December 2016.