MOVIE REVIEW: ‘A Christmas Horror Story’ Is A Lot Of Fun

Film: A Christmas Horror Story
Starring: William Shatner, George Buza
Directed by: Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan

There has been a resurgence in anthology filmmaking over the last half decade, and as the wave has begun to crest the results have become increasingly mixed. A Christmas Horror Story–perhaps the least likely title to prove successful–is actually a beacon of hope for the livelihood of horror anthologies.

Set in both the North Pole and an unassuming small town on Christmas Eve, A Christmas Horror Story weaves several tales around a radio announcer (William Shatner) doing his best to keep spirits high around the holidays. There is a family on the run from a creature in the woods, a family in search of the perfect tree, a group of students filming a murder documentary in an abandoned school basement, and–the true reason to buy a ticket–Santa (George Buza) fighting to save Christmas from none other than Krampus himself (Rob Archer, in a really impressive suit). There is full-on fighting, and it is everything you are probably imagining right now, only with a deliciously wicked twist or two no one can see coming.

Though one or two stories stand out in particular, it’s clear the shorts are best experienced when presented here as an interwoven tapestry as none offer significant depth or lasting impact (aside from Santa, which is the clear main attraction). The cast performs admirably, but outside Buza and Shatner no one delivers a turn that lingers in the mind; what does are the stories and the way they manage to find new avenues to terror out of familiar beginnings. The students in the school are particularly interesting, as I think everyone has seen their fair share of found footage-tinged basement horror over the last decade. Still, as the teens find themselves with no obvious way to escape, there is a sense of dread and sustained suspense achieved that is quite impressive.

Shatner is the anchor to the film, and his delivery keeps the energy high as the film transitions between stories, but I believe it’s Buza who comes away as the star of A Christmas Horror Story. Performing as Santa is no easy task, especially when that responsibility comes with a script that demands you battle zombified elves in a serious way, but somehow Buza finds a way to sell you on his hardened take on Saint Nick from the moment he steps on the screen. It’s exhilarating, and as the story continues to unfold, Buza is provided a platform to showcase a wide range of acting talent I am sure will help him find more work in the near future. He probably won’t need to be Santa again, but I wouldn’t complain if he donned the suit for a twisted remake of A Miracle On 34th Street.

One would imagine a theme like Christmas might wear out its welcome during an anthology piece like this, but the five people credited with writing Horror Story were smart to not let the theme play into the majority of their scares. The setting may be winter, but the twisted tales within the film could largely happen at any time of the year under slightly different circumstances. The exception, of course, is the tale of Santa and Krampus. That particular story largely lacks scares, but it more than makes up for it with thrilling action and tongue-in-cheek humor.

I went into A Christmas Horror Story expecting nothing worth writing about and walked away having had an incredibly fun experience. There are reasons to complain, and I am sure there will be some who do, but if you’re willing to take a chance on a Christmas-themed horror anthology the minor complaints I could make probably wouldn’t amount to anything that would deter you from hitting play. And that’s is perfectly fine because it’s exactly what you should do. I don’t like the idea of guilty pleasure cinema, but A Christmas Horror Story fits that description. It’s everything you don’t expect it to be, and it ends with one of the best final moments you will see in horror this year. No spoilers!


James Shotwell
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