October 2, 2015
Pascal Trottier, Doug Taylor, Sarah Larsen, James Kee, Jason Filiatrault
Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan
George Buza as Santa
Rob Archer as Krampus
William Shatner as DJ Dan
There’s a certain little Christmas film with a ton of potential known as Krampus headed for the market in a few months. Michael Dougherty is the man responsible for the film and early looks have us revved and ready for something special. Based solely on the first trailer, the movie looks amazing. What’s interesting about this is that Michael Dougherty is the same man who delivered the amazing Halloween themed anthology Trick ‘rTreat a few years ago, and his new film Krampus will be competing with the new seasonal anthology A Christmas Horror Story, which places the feared Krampus on center stage. A Christmas Horror Story, for the record, also utilizes a near identical approach (we’re talking layout and execution here) to Trick ‘r Treat. Does all of this mean anything? Not really… other than the fact that if you love Christmas flicks, and you love Trick ‘r Treat, you’re going to absolutely adore A Christmas Horror Story.
Four tales are sewn together through imaginative links and overlaying plot points. In one tale, Scott, a man struggling to overcome a very traumatic job experience finds himself in the woods with his wife and child. They’re there to chop down a Christmas tree, which seems like it should be a blast of a family activity. But when their son, William goes missing for a brief time the terror intensifies. Luckily, they find William and bring him home in one piece, injury free. However, as Christmas Eve moves forward, we learn that there’s something wrong with the boy.
This particular piece feels like an amazing nod to the early wave of killer children pictures. Adrian Holmes is terrific as the father fighting to keep himself and his family existing on the same page, and the fact that emphasis is placed primarily on the troubled relationship between man and woman, rather than the child himself, feels wonderfully appropriate. There’s an opening for copious blood and guts but the characters get the respect they deserve, which in some strange way actually makes the segment far more terrifying than it should be.
Another piece of this anthology homes in on three teens who break into a school that one year prior played host to a mysterious and brutal double homicide. These youngsters are headed in to uncover and film the truth, but as they work their way deeper into the school they find themselves trapped, and quickly learn that they never really wanted to know what became of those poor kids. But it may be too late for this trio; they’re inside, and something evil lurks behind these walls.
A fun almost-exorcism kind of tale, this will likely be recognized as the weakest of the short stories, but the consolation prize is the fact that it isn’t bad by any means. It’s engaging, and it’s got a cool, creepy setting. The performers, three youngsters who all sport relatively green résumés are convincing in their craft. While they may not be insanely likable characters, they handle the content like veterans and you’ve got to respect that. We get a little gore, a little sex and a bleak finale. It works.
Turning our attention to the more animalistic features we first look at the tale of Santa Claus himself, whose holiday cheer goes flying out the window when his workshop is overrun by zombie elves. These little boogers are nasty, but they’re not much for the heroic Claus, who keeps himself busy kicking ass and taking names. The only question is can take enough names before the violent little bastards take the life of Mrs. Claus?
Hands down the goriest effort in the collection, this one emerges another big shiner. We get all kinds of admirable prosthetics and a character we can really, really get behind. And we don’t just get behind Santa because he’s Santa, we get behind him because him one-man mission to laughter evil flesh-eaters is insane. He’s the proverbial last man standing amongst a building full of monsters and his ability to maintain his composure immediately endears him to fans. This guy is awesome, this segment is awesome and special effects rock the rock. Must see portion of the film? You bet your naughty ass!
And finally, we can put our focus on a dysfunctional family who runs afoul of something mysterious in a rural, snow covered location. It darts across the barely detectable road, a white blur that somehow stands out in the swirls of white flakes that surround it. The vehicle loses control and in moments one helpless family is stranded. But the creature still lurks within the white, hunting each member without a hint of mystery. What is it? You’ll want to watch to discover that answer, because it is absolutely glorious to behold.
Another excellent tale, anchored by more familial tension and terror. This one features some amazing makeup and creature work, diverse showings from a half dozen talented thespians and a damn epic battle between man and… something else. Satisfying from the jump, it’s an impressive way to round out our four stories. But the truth is, it doesn’t bring things to a definitive end.
The conclusion of the film (which, for the record is tied together by hilarious segments that feature the great William Shatner portraying a booze sipping radio DJ) comes as Santa Claus, who managed to survive his war with the miniature undead, toes the line with the fabled Krampus; the anti-Claus who has no desire to gift children but every desire to slaughter them in vile fashion. And within this exchange we get one mind blowing twist. Given the caliber of the stories themselves, a twist isn’t at all necessary, but we get it just the same and it is one of the most rewarding spins you’ll see in a genre film. Will we spoil it for you? Not a chance!
It feels as though the comparisons to Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat will inevitably come rolling in, and rightfully so. While A Christmas Horror Story is obviously focused on an entirely different holiday, the manner in which Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban and Brett Sullivan’s picture is weaved together is unmistakably similar to Dougherty’s 2007 hit. In some ways (the continuous splicing and pacing of the picture) it is a superior work, while in others (primarily the wit and sharp humor) it is a tad inferior. But none of that truly matters. What does matter is this: A Christmas Horror Story is a wild, bloody ride loaded with insanity and atmosphere. It’s the kind of picture that is highly likely to work its way into dedicated genre followers’ Christmas viewing lineups, and it isn’t about to be forgotten anytime soon. Once you see this beauty, you’ll understand that 2015 has gifted us a very, very special Christmas horror story!