Quadruple terror in a town called Baily Downs on Christmas Eve
To cap off my list for this year’s “Cult-Christmas” November warm up is a recent entry in the genre. “A Christmas Horror Story” (2015) takes the anthology route with four stories playing out simultaneously.
In the town of Bailey Downs terror reigns on Christmas Eve.
A trio of students head to school after it closes for the holidays hoping to make a documentary of a horrific event that took place there a year before but, once accidentally locked inside, discover something evil is still lurking about.
A disgruntled family heads to the husband’s aunt hoping to salvage their financial situation but find themselves in snowbound terror as something evil is accidentally let loose.
Father, mother and son head to the woods to bring home the perfect Christmas tree. For a few moments the son goes missing but is found inside a tree. Once home the mother discovers her son is anything but himself.
Old Santa is preparing for a night of gift giving when suddenly his elves turn into homicidal disfigured creatures and Santa has to fend for himself. All this culminates with a showdown with Krampus himself.
And then there’s William Shatner playing a radio host while everything is going down.
With a trio of directors (Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban and Brett Sullivan), a relatively low-budget, no-name actors (mostly) and four stories crammed into a feature; I wasn’t expecting much when I gave this a chance, but I was pleasantly surprised. The stories range from OK to good and it was a good choice to play them out at the same time since the feature never slows down too much as a result. The Santa story is chock full of pace, action and gore while the others go for atmosphere and jump shocks and the result, while somewhat uneven, is pretty impressive.
Visually the feature is quite stunning at times and the CGI looks even better than in many big budget productions. The actors all do a decent job; most impressive is character actor George Buza as a no-nonsense Santa who doesn’t hesitate ripping into the elves once they go berserk. That segment is my favourite as it lets loose on the gore and is quite suspenseful to boot.
The others reach a fair amount of suspense; especially the one concerning the child who isn’t at all like himself when the family returns home from Christmas tree hunting. It’s very well acted by Adrian Holmes, Olunike Adeliyi and especially young Orion John and there is something very unnerving about the sight of the child stalking his father and terrorising his mother. The ending is fairly lacklustre, sad to say, but the build up is very good.
The one about the students inside a haunted school builds a decent amount of spooky atmosphere but runs out of steam towards the end and the one concerning the disgruntled family is well acted and has a neat conclusion.
All of the stories have some sort of combining thread (apart from taking place in Baily Downs) and Shatner’s segment plays out wonderfully in the end as there is a delicious twist that I didn’t see coming that puts a whole other spin on the feature.
“A Christmas Horror Story” has been spinning in my Blu-ray player for four Novembers in a row and I don’t see that tradition changing.