Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
“A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY” (Mile High Horror Film Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
To be completely fair, there were only few ways A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY could have failed in this writer’s eyes. As a lifelong fan and supporter of anthology horror as well as having a soft spot for Christmas horror, a film that would blend the two (and effectively at that) would automatically have an advantage as opposed to your average, everyday fright film. And luckily, A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY uses neither subgenre as a shameless gimmick, instead delivering a really impressive and diverse film that brings psychological and gory goodness in equal measure.
A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is comprised of five stories over a single night on, you guessed it, Christmas, connected to one another similarly to the format of TRICK ‘R TREAT instead of the story-wraparound-story format most anthologies operate by. The stories include a family on the run from a vengeful Krampus, a trio of teenagers who find themselves in a haunted orphanage, a sullen radio DJ covering an ominous Christmas happening, a family whose X-mas tree outing yields horrific results, and even Santa Claus himself coming up against crazed, bloodthirsty elves.
Directed by longtime Vincenzo Natali collaborator Steven Hoban, GINGER SNAPS 2 director Brett Sullivan and GINGER SNAPS BACK director Grant Harvey, A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY gets some serious mileage out of its independent means, making a film that otherwise has the look and pacing of a serious studio affair. Equipped with high concepts from writers James Kee (DARKNET), Sarah Larson (DARKNET), Doug Taylor (SPLICE) and Pascal Trottier (HELLIONS) as well as impressive SFX from Ben Borean, the trifecta of directors weave together these sinister stories with the slightest of ease, offering confident and chilling tales that pack as much ambition as they do bloodletting. And, of course, no Christmas icon remains unsullied at the hands of A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY, and even creepier non-X-mas legends find their way into the eerie anthology as well.
The only real gripe this writer finds with A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is, aside from one story in particular, the stories are somewhat predictable in nature. Whether it’s the ghost story (which does pack a ghastly reveal or two) or the Krampus segment, the action on display does entertain some tired tropes of the genre and convey endings that, despite the enjoyable journey, are a bit stale. However, the one truly unpredictable ending that summarily bridges two tales specifically almost completely makes up for the lackluster endings before it, and ends the film on a legitimately shocking note that very few will see coming.
A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY also offers some great performances as well, which certainly helps in terms of keeping the action interesting as we jump from story to story. George Buza is a commanding presence as Santa Claus, and his role has a certainly duality to it that makes it all the more impressive. Meanwhile, Olunike Adeliyi, Adrian Holmes, Rob Archer, Alex Ozerov, Zoe De Grand Maison, Shannon Kook, Michelle Nolden and more all carry their weight, treating the material with committed performances that emphasize the gravity and reality within each fantastic scenario. And, of course, William Shatner is a delight to see in the film, though his DJ character surprisingly goes down a more dramatic route than finding himself buried in the genre elements.
Overall, A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY shouldn’t just appeal to fans of anthology films and Christmas horror, but genre fans plain-and-simple. The segments are fun, creepy and occasionally badass, and the narrative structure makes for something more engaging than the standard anthology format. Hell, this writer won’t be surprised if fans of A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY won’t hope for more yuletide terror in their stocking this time next year.