In the realms of horror, Halloween is always the golden holiday, the one that entirely belongs to the spectacle of the macabre. As such, horror cinema often returns to this seasonal treat for a reliably perfect setting to create nightmarish tales where men in masks stalk and slash, or creatures of the night come out to play. Thusly, when a Christmas horror film appears it is always something of a novelty, twisting the usually overwhelming good cheer into something abstractly dark and gleefully grim. This year’s addition to the annuls of festive frights is the aptly named, A Christmas Horror Story, and it’s a real ho-ho-horror comedy treat (I’m definitely getting coal for Christmas for that one) that could become a cult Christmas classic.

The film is structured around a series of three stories all linked by the fictional town of Bailey Downs, each story playing with a different aspect of horror, from teenagers trapped in a school with a vengeful spirit, to a family attempting to survive the onslaught of a creature who acts as the anti-Santa Claus. And speaking of Santa, a fourth story set in the North Pole sees Saint Nick going into survival mode to fend off an attack from…well, I won’t spoil the surprise.

The structure of the film works with remarkable success. It could have been easy for the films to be too light and forgettable if they had been presented individually, but the filmmakers have events happening concurrently, and cuts between them, creating both dramatic effect and always keeping the audience active and engaged. While each of the main three stories are relatively simple and play close to genre tropes, the Christmas slant applied to them keeps them just fresh enough, and their simplicity creates space to add both more humour and an almost mythic sensibility revolving around the legends of Christmas. However, it’s the fourth tale focused around Santa’s battle in the North Pole that steals the whole film. I want to describe it in all it’s hilarity and genius, but I just can’t do it…to spoil it would be a crime. It’s filled with quotable dialogue, ridiculously excessive violence and a sudden revelation that is as surprisingly brilliant as it is laugh out loud funny.

Speaking of laugh out loud funny, special mention must go to the casting of William Shatner as the local radio DJ who acts as a force outside of all the stories and yet connecting them. He is absolutely perfect for the film; he fits the irreverent tone and love of the ridiculous at the heart of the film, each moment he is on screen is an absolute joy, playing up to his excessive image with abundant glee.

A Christmas Horror Story is a refreshingly fun slice of festive horror, which uses the anthology style to bring together a selection of varied stories that never overstay their welcome and always have their tongue firmly in cheek, while still delivering thrills and shocks. All I can tell you is that A Christmas Horror Story will be a firm annual fixture in this viewer’s yule-tide viewing!

 

DVD Review: A Christmas Horror Story
4.0Overall Score
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About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980’s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul61@o2.co.uk