It’s the Christmas season, so I would be remiss if I did not review a Christmas movie. However, if you’re looking for a cozy feel-good flick to watch by the fireplace, A Christmas Horror Story (2015) may not be your best option. That being said, A Christmas Horror Story is an entertaining and unconventional film for any Halloween and horror fans who want to get festive in their own way this December.
Set in the fictional town of Bailey Downs on Christmas Eve, A Christmas Horror Story is actually composed of four different loosely-tied narratives, between which the viewer is frequently bounced by the excellent editing work of Brett Sullivan and D. Gillian Truster. While confusing at first, the creative method of cutting between the four tales works quite well, helping to delay tension and allow all four stories to build suspense simultaneously.
Helping to blend the four stories is DJ Dangerous Dan (William Shatner), a local radio host who provides auxiliary plot information from his Christmas music marathon. Shatner is splendid in the role, though there is no way the eggnog that he drinks throughout the film is merely a prop. While his role makes little sense early in the film, Shatner’s presence ends up serving a greater purpose than simple comic relief, and the film would feel far more disjoint and uncomfortable — in a bad way —without his transitory intermissions.
The first story that viewers are introduced to is also the only one set outside of Bailey Downs. Up at the North Pole, Santa’s elves fall ill and become a kind of zombie-demon hybrid, quickly overrunning the toy factory. As expected, Santa (George Buza) must hack his way through this not-so-jolly horde if he is to save Christmas.
While admittedly cheesy, the battle between Santa and the undead elves is quite amusing, if not stimulating on a deeper level. The significance of the North Pole narrative is not very pronounced until late in the film, leading viewers to focus more heavily on the three other plotlines.
The next story to be introduced involves three teenagers who become locked in their school’s basement while filming a school project. The year before, two students were mysteriously murdered in said basement, so of course these dumb kids decide to go down there themselves —it is a horror movie, after all. Led by the obnoxious Molly (Zoe De Grand Maison), the trio find themselves stranded in the basement and assailed by some nefarious force.
This plotline is by far the most generic of the four, which has its pros and cons. On one hand, this part of the film generates the most traditional horror of any of the stories, and I found myself genuinely scared during scenes from this story. However, the high school plotline is also highly predictable, meaning that fans of the horror genre may not get much out of it. Torn between moderate fear and moderate boredom, I did not personally enjoy this plotline very much.
Tied to the high school narrative, the next story involves a family traveling to their estranged aunt’s house. The primary character of this plotline is Caprice, a friend of the teenagers trapped in the school basement. She herself finds trouble as well, as her family is quickly kicked out of their aunt’s house and is subsequently attacked in the woods. While this plot is pretty contrived, it serves as the most introspective portion of the film, as Caprice’s family is forced to confront their own dysfunction in the face of a mysterious assailant.
Finally, my favorite plotline is also the last to be introduced. Officer Scott Peters (Adrian Holmes), who had found the murdered students the year before, goes out to find a Christmas tree with his wife Kim (Olunike Adeliyi) and son Will (Orion John). However, after momentarily losing Will in the forest after trespassing onto a stranger’s property, Scott and Kim return home and find that their son is acting bizarrely.
The mystery behind Will’s behavior, combined with Scott’s trauma from the year before, helps make this plotline the strongest of the four by far. Adeliyi’s performance as Kim is the best of anyone in the whole film, even better than Shatner, giving viewers a protagonist with whom they can truly resonate, whereas many of the film’s other characters are hard to root for.
A Christmas Horror Story admittedly bites off a little more than it can chew, but both the high production value and the Scott and Kim storyline serve to elevate the film from mere B-movie status. I found the film to be surprisingly enjoyable, despite my admittedly low expectations. Whereas the use of four distinct storylines could have left an incomplete feeling, A Christmas Horror Story concludes by tying its stories together in a nice, blood-soaked bow. While not the merriest holiday movie, A Christmas Horror Story is an ambitious film that will leave you with a new and macabre Christmas memory.
Wagner’s Watch-worthiness: 6/10
*Credit it to RLJ Entertainment, 2015