04th Sep2015

Frightfest 2015: ‘A Christmas Horror Story’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Zoe de Grand’Maison, Amy Forsyth, Adrian Holmes, George Buza, William Shatner | Written by Doug Taylor, Sarah Larsen, James Kee, Pascal Trottier | Directed by Grant Harvey, Brett Sullivan, Steven Hoban

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Anthologies have made something of a comeback in recent years, at least in the horror genre, with films likes of V/H/S and its sequels, the low-budget Theatre of the Deranged and P.O.E.franchises, or films like The Theatre Bizarre and Trick r Treat, which both played at Frightfest events in the past, finding fans acros the globe. However despite this rebirth, the 80s are still the heyday of the horror anthology. Maybe that’s all about to change.

It started with Trick r Treat. For many Michael Dougherty’s film is the standard-bearer of the modern anthology. He did set the bar high, very high, but it seems at this years Frightfest that bar has been met by a little Christmas-themed horror movie…

Helmed by the crew behind the Ginger Snaps trilogy – Grant Harvey, Brett Sullivan and Steven Hoban – A Christmas Horror Story is a Yuletide anthology set in the small town of Bailey Downs – the same town that appears in Ginger Snaps – a semi-Tales From the Crypt shocker featuring four distinct, yet interconnected stories… Stories which are tied together by William Shatner(!), who plays a radio DJ working the Xmas shift at the local radio station, slowly getting more and more sozzled as the film goes on, drowning his sorrows at the memory of a fatal incident that took place in Bailey Downs a year ago, when two teens were found slaughtered in the basement of a school that once housed a home for unmarried pregnant teens.

That tragedy inspires not one but TWO of the new tales here. The first sees three high school students investigate the mysterious year-old homicide that occurred in their school; the second tells the story of the cop investigating the murders, off the force since the incident, who takes his son and wife on a snowy forest trip to cut down a traditional tree. Only their son briefly goes missing and doesn’t quite seem himself afterwards.

Whilst the first two tales are well-told, well-developed fear fables, it’s left to the other two stories to really put the fear back into the festive season! The third story sees a family stalked through a winter wonderland by Krampus, the Xmas demon, after a visit to their Grandmas. But, as the saying goes, Sullivan and co. really saved the best for last… It’s a wild and crazy tale that sees Santa is fending off zombie elves, his possessed wife, and an evil Krampus at the North Pole!

Interestingly, Harvey, Sullivan and Hoban choose to alternate their stories rather than present them, as with the case with many an anthology film, in four distinct chapters. It’s a choice that was obviously informed by Trick r Treat, which intertwined it’s tales in a similar way (but not to the same extent), and it’s one that actually allows each story to stretch out its tale in a way that heightens the tension without ever feeling piecemeal. Of course the big pay off for A Christmas Horror Story is the films final tale… the madcap, insane, gloriously over the top North Pole story that closes the movie with a stunning, hilarious twist that you won’t see coming, yet feels totally expected.

This is one [A] Christmas Horror Story that will certainly be a seasonal tradition in many a horror fans household. Mine included.

****½  4.5/5

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