A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY
A Christmas Horror Story appears to have been made by the alumni of the Ginger Snaps series Grant Harvey, Steve Hoban and Brett Sullivan. Of the three, Brett Sullivan was editor on Ginger Snaps (2000) and made his directorial debut with the first sequel Ginger Snaps Unleashed (2004), while Grant Harvey acted as second unit director on Ginger Snaps and went on to direct the second sequel Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004). Steve Hoban produced all three films along with other Canadian genre works such as Blood & Donuts (1995), Wolves (2014) and several Vincenzo Natali films with Nothing (2003), Splice (2010) and Haunter (2013), as well as one previous Christmas horror film with the remake of Black Christmas (2006). Hoban makes his theatrical directorial debut here.
Harvey, Hoban and Sullivan have chosen to make A Christmas Horror Story as an anthology. No problem with that there have been a number of multi-director anthologies before and the idea has been on the rise in recent years with the likes of The ABCs of Death (2012), V/H/S (2012) and sequels, among others. On the other hand, they have made some decidedly odd choices. One of these is that all the stories take place simultaneously and the film keeps cutting back and forth between story strands, something I do not believe I have seen an anthology do before. This tends to be disruptive to the building atmosphere you are just getting into the mood of one piece when it jumps tracks to another story. The other is the peculiarity that you never know which director was responsible for which story not even the end credits delineate who did what.
A Christmas Horror Story is slickly made, if a film where it seems that so many cooks in the broth have caused it to pass by efficiently but without memorable distinction. The episodes are nothing standout. Both the Krampus and haunted school stories achieve mild atmosphere but never anything that is distinctive or standout, while the school ghost story is not that well tied to the films overarching Christmas horror theme. The effects team do deliver an impressive looking Krampus making A Christmas Horror Story oddly one of three films in the 2015 season that have dealt with this somewhat obscure figure from Germanic folklore alongside Krampus (2015) and Krampus: The Reckoning (2015). The changeling story is okay but again nothing memorable. William Shatner serves in effect as the narrator, although the end the film arrives at reveals that he is actually part of one of the stories. As the gregarious, half-drunk radio host, Shatner is perfectly in his element and plays to the gallery with immensely entertaining regard.
The most entertaining segment for me was the Santa one, which opts for a far more fantastical setting than all the other segments. The images of Santa hacking up zombified elves with axes hits the right malicious anti-Christmas sentiment that you wish the film had conducted more of. The most effective aspect however is the twist ending that completely throws everything we have seen throughout the segment on its head.