Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Holiday Horror: A Christmas Horror Story
A Christmas Horror Story is an anthology film that has 4 interlocking stories all taking place on Christmas Eve. To tie all the stories together, Dangerous Dan, a drunken radio DJ played by William Shatner, reports from the Bailey Downs radio station on his annual double shift. Fun fact, Bailey Downs is the fictional rural Canadian city where Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald lived in one of my favorite horror films Ginger Snaps. Anyway, Dangerous Dan is irreverent and fun while he plays music, keeps the Christmas spirit with heavily spiked eggnog, and tries to figure out what happened to his weatherman. He and the town tie all the stories together so it feels cohesive.
The first story has three high school journalists breaking into their school to report on an unsolved murder that occurred the year before. Two students their age were ritualistically murdered in the school's basement and they want to report from there directly. At first, everything is going fine. They find some remnants of the crime scene like a biblical line written on the wall in blood washed away but still visible. After being trapped in this basement, a supernatural being makes itself known. This murder is connected to a girl's death in the past when the school was a convent. While this segment was atmospheric, the story wasn't as developed as the others.
The second story focuses on the family of a police officer who went on leave after investigating the modern murder from the previous segment. He takes his family to illegally cut down a tree from someone else's land. His son was lost for a few minutes, but he returns unharmed. When they return home, his demeanor is entirely different as he refuses to speak, sneaks around the house, and lashes out violently. The changeling concept is a cool one that isn't seen very much. The kid was extremely creepy and this segment had a lot of suspense and a few very uncomfortable scenes. I liked the balance of reality and fantasy. This segment is better than the first, but had a small flaw in some unreasonable reactions.
The third story involves a family that's lost the Christmas spirit. A man, his wife, and their two children (one who is friends with the teens in the first segment) travel a long way to meet their estranged and rich grandmother. The entire way, everyone bickers and snipes at each other. The reason for visiting isn't reconnecting with family like the father said, but to try to get money from her. After being stranded in the snow, they realize they are being stalked by Krampus, who is portrayed much differently here than usual. His skin is snow white and he has an extremely buff human torso with an animal-like face topped with horns. Krampus traditionally carries chains, but this one uses them to attack those he punishes. This segment was the most fun thanks to the wonderful practical effects of the creature and the memorable changes to the tradition folklore.
The last story has Santa fighting against zombified elves in the North Pole. This isn't the bowlful of jelly Santa, but more like wrestler or a very aged Thor. He uses his super strength and golden shepherd's crook (just like St. Nick) to decapitate and maim the elf zombies. Elves shouldn't be able to die at all, but they all suddenly become infected with this zombie disease. The concept seems to be Santa fighting against the death of the Christmas spirit at first which I thought is a cool and delightfully cheesy way to portray it. At first, I enjoyed the segment, but it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the stories. The ending of this segment completely ties everything into a cohesive whole and solidified my love for the movie.
Each story has its own flavor, but feels like the direction and look are all the same even though it was made by 3 different directors. Not all of these stories are the best, but the film is overall fun to watch. The last story is my favorite by a long shot for its use of zombies and the hardhitting ending. I especially liked that the segments are cycled through many times instead of doing each segment individually to mix things up and move things along. I would definitely watch this every year along with the rest of my Christmas horror films.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins