Oh, man. A Christmas Horror Story. What the hell even is this movie? Like, using words, this movie is a Christmas-themed horror-comedy anthology, but that doesn’t really describe what you’re watching here. A Christmas Horror Story has William Shatner DJ’ing a Christmas radio show with a bottle of bourbon and a quart of egg nog. A Christmas Horror Story has a Rick and Morty-style take on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. A Christmas Horror Story finds Santa slaying his way through a zombie elf outbreak to save Christmas. A Christmas Horror Story is (mostly) a well-paced, tense, thrill-a-minute style horror flick. Rather than hide glimpses of its monsters or spooks, it gives them to you rapid-fire, which goes a long way towards keeping you reeled in. If you treat the movie like Shatner’s character treats his radio show (drunk and only somewhat involved), then you’re in for a treat. Unfortunately, the movie overstays its 97-minute running time by a good twenty minutes, but the final reveal is so hilariously worth it that you forget those final dragging moments. But ultimately, Shatner is worth the price of admission here. His drunk, depressed radio host is the perfect stocking stuffer to go along with this movie’s Christmas gifts.
First off, the movie’s title is a misnomer, since there are actually several Christmas horror stories going on here, and they’re all cleverly intertwined. There’s the requisite teens-going-to-the-place-of-last-year’s-tragedy bit, in which three kids break into their school to shoot a news broadcast commemorating the anniversary of their peers’ mysterious slaying the previous Christmas. Of course, this segment is shot partly in the found-footage style, but the movie doesn’t use this as a gag at all, which feels like a missed opportunity. There are lots of jump scares to be had in this segment, but, overall, the teens’ portion of the film relates to the Christmas theme the least and has the least humor in it, making it the weakest portion.
Next, there’s the family who goes off the beaten path to find the perfect Christmas tree and brings home something more than they bargained for. The father of this family is one of the cops who found the teens’ dead friends the previous Christmas, which lends the movie a weird sense of dramatic thoroughness (Shatner’s DJ character is the dead teens’ grandfather, as well). There’s less humor in this segment, too, but it’s a classic horror trope done reasonably well, although its “happy ending” feels really hollow because, y’know, the trauma horror movie characters have to go through is life-ravaging. But I digress. On to the good shit.
The skit that lampoons National Lampoon is a pretty masterful exploration of a lesser-known Christmas tradition that’s ripe for horror: Krampus, the evil Santa that punishes wicked children with whips and chains. (Note to self: throw a Krampus-themed kink party for Christmas this year.) The segment pulls a pretty hilarious trick towards its end, revealing some truths about this supposedly white-bread family that reminds me of the best show on TV right now.
The best part of the movie, besides Shatner’s bits, is Santa’s zombie-elf massacre, which is hilarious because of some small world-building touches like “But you told us elves are immortal, Santa!” and, well, the awesome execution of the ludicrous premise. When the movie gives you this segment’s twist, though, it’s great, and you’ll want to finish your drink and probably another.
In short, A Christmas Horror Story has enough confidence in itself and the right sense of humor to pull off its best moments with aplomb, but is unfortunately weighed down with some chaff. To say the least, it should be memorable for all horror fans that there’s another great addition to the pantheon of non-Halloween holiday horror flicks. A Christmas Horror Story is right up there with Thankskilling 3 in terms of batshit silliness. Throw this on next to a roaring fire, your friends, and some stiff-ass egg nog, and you’re in for a helluva Christmas sweater party.
A Christmas Horror Story [Review]
A Very Scary Christmas
Despite a few pacing issues later in the film, A Christmas Horror Story is having so much fun with itself you might not even notice.