In all honesty, Christmas horror movies are about as hit-or-miss as it can get. There are the 1974 Black Christmases of the bunch as icons of the genre, then there are the Silent Night, Deadly Night sequels (which rarely make the so-bad-it’s-good level of film making). Take your pick of the worst.
And somewhere in the middle lies this 2015 Canadian snoozer, A Christmas Horror Story. The film is done in the anthology style, though each story is told intermingled with each other instead of shown as separate segments. It’s heavy-handed, unoriginal, but at least has it’s moments of shining glory.
It’s Christmas Eve in the town of Bailey Downs where everyone is preparing for the holidays. Radio DJ Dangerous Dan (played by William Shatner) is covering the shift before Christmas, reminding everyone to head down to the shopping mall to partake in a holiday charity event.
The Virgin Mary
Three teens, Molly, Ben and Dylan, decide to do their school project together at a local prep school where two teenagers were murdered the year before. Together, they watch a video of the police footage of the officers looking at the crime scene. A boy and a girl were found in the basement, murdered, along with the Bible verse, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”
They get keys to the school from Dylan’s girlfriend, Caprice, so that they can sneak into the school and get their own footage.
As they begin exploring the school, they discover that the principal is also in the school. The teens somehow think this makes the man guilty. Sure. No leap in logic there.
The teens head down into the basement, and Molly explains to the boys that it’s the area that used to be where they kept the unwed mothers that went to the convent. She shares a delightful tale about a young mother who had lost her baby years ago.
After the kids explore the room where the bodies were found, they try to leave and discover that the door back to the school is locked. They, again, believe it’s the principal.
But after waiting hours, the kids become cold and hungry. And Molly begins seeing ghosts.
After the ghost of a young girl appears to Molly, she faints. The boys, unable to help, just keep her next to some creep mannequins wearing nativity clothes.
Later, Molly awakes, and sees that Ben is a sleep. She asks Dylan to go into the room where the other kids were killed with her. She tries to come on to him, but he rejects her because of his girlfriend. She glowers at him as the crucifix on the wall begins to shake.
Ben is later woken by Molly, who tries to come on to him as well, only she’s much more successful with him. After they have sex, Molly wakes up from an apparent trance. She becomes frantic, as she wasn’t completely aware of what she was doing. It’s then that Ben realises that Dylan is missing.
The two begin to look for their friend, and find him murdered in the bedroom. As Ben panics, Molly realises that she’s meant to carry the baby of the ghost girl, who lost her baby. The other teens had been killed because they refused to have the girl’s baby. Ben looks on horrified, but is promptly killed by the ghost, who is now protecting Molly and the baby.
The door unlocks, and Molly is allowed to leave the school.
Police officer Scott and his wife Kim take their son to get a Christmas tree. Dad, being one of those law-breaking cops, goes into a private woods to chop down a tree. While heading back to the car, their son Will disappears.
They eventually find him inside a large hole in the tree. The parents take Will home (unbeknownst to them, being watched by an old man), and begin to notice that he’s behaving strangely. He’s aggressive towards Scott, and really likes pasta. He stabs his dad in the hand when Scott tells Will he’s had enough to eat.
That night, Scott tries to get intimate with Kim, but she tells him no. Angry, Scott goes into the living room and drinks while he looks on the evidence of his unsolved murder case of the two teens at the prep school. Kim, meanwhile, falls asleep and her son – or what ever it is – climbs into her bed and tries to feel her up.
He eventually falls sleep, and wakes up to see that someone got into the gifts, shattering the thing that Scott got Kim for Christmas. Assuming that it’s Will, Scott goes into his son’s room and begins to beat Will with his belt.
Kim sends Scott away, and comforts the clearly-not-Will. She receives a call from a man, who says that he owns the land that they took the tree from. He informs her that her son is not longer her son, but a Changeling. Unbelieving, she hangs up on him. She begins to research Changelings when she hears a strange sound. When she goes into the living room, she finds Scott tied up, missing a hand, and very much dead.
Kim calls the man back, who then explains that she must bring the Changeling back to the woods. And the Changeling can’t feel threatened, but when you’re trying to stuff your kid in a bag – it’s going to be threatening. She bashes the creature with a bat, and manages to get him into a bag and back to the woods.
At the woods, Kim meets the man on the phone. He explains to her that she probably won’t get her son back. He’s the Changelings’ caretaker and they won’t hurt them while he’s around. While brandishing a gun about, Kim accidentally shoots the man, killing him. But the Changeling goes back into the tree, and out comes Will, good as new.
Caprice’s family are driving together to visit her father’s elderly, wealthy relative, Aunt Etta. When the family arrive, they receive a cold welcome from Etta and Gerhardt, Etta’s caretaker. Before the father goes away with Etta to discuss money, she tells them about the legend of Krampus as it is Krampusnacht. Caprice’s brother then decides stirs up trouble by breaking a Krampus figure.
Gerhardt immediately become upset, and Aunt Etta, upon hearing the ruckus, demands that the family leave. The family drive off, but get into an accident when something jumps in front of their car (they’re Canadians – you’d think they’d know not to break hard in the snow).
The family resort to walking through the woods, back towards Aunt Etta’s house. As night falls, and Krampusnacht begins, the father is attacked by something on a chain. The chain then wraps itself around the brother, dragging him away into the night.
Mom, Dad and Caprice manage to get themselves into a nearby chapel in the woods where they seek refuge. But it isn’t long before Ma and Pa get picked off as well by the beast, which is revealed to be the Krampus.
Caprice runs into the night, trying to escape the Krampus. When she gets to Aunt Etta, she finds that no one will let her in. The girl then decides to face the Krampus herself, and kills him off with a pipe through the neck. As the Krampus dies, she realises that it was actually Gerhardt.
After the death of the Krampus, Aunt Etta allows Caprice in and tells her about Gerhardt. She explains that anyone can become the Krampus if there is anger in their hearts. Then Caprice realises that her Great-Aunt had planned for the family to get murderd by the Krampus all along. She then begins to take on the Krampus form herself.
Santa and his Christmas Elves
At the North Pole, Santa and his elves are preparing for Christmas deliveries when the elves start to become infected by a virus and become zombies. It’s up to Santa to killed them all off for good. He eventually kills Mrs Claus. That’s about it.
But as Santa is about to hitch up his sleigh to leave for the night, he hears someone arrive. The new arrival is the Krampus, who engages in battle with Santa. This is meant to be epic, I guess, but is incredibly cringe-y. Before Santa can kill Krampus, the beast turns into a man who is begging for his life.
It’s then revealed that Santa is in fact DJ Dangerous Dan’s weatherman, who hasn’t been heard from all night during the massacre in the shopping mall. The man had imagined himself as Santa, needing to kill off all the elves – or rather, the mall employees and shoppers.
Before the weatherman can get away, he is shot by the police and everyone probably has a nice Christmas.
Let’s be honest. I haven’t been this irritated by a movie in a long time. But I feel like I’m in the minority with this one, as it has actually received average ratings. Admittedly, this is a style of contemporary horror that really doesn’t work for me. Nothing is stylish, it isn’t nuanced. It’s ugly as hell. The death and gore is boring and derivative.
And yet, a lot of people here are people I like. Julian Richings and Zoé De Grand Maison both of Orphan Black fame are here. Ginger Snaps producer Steve Hoban was on board. Freaking William Shatner is here!
But all that talent is wasted on a basic, uninspiring, muddled mess of stores. Since the stories are interwoven, the tonal shifts don’t work. The Santa story could have been a hilarious horror comedy if I wasn’t meant to take the scenes around it seriously.
Blame it on my Scrooge-like demeanor this week, but this movie really didn’t work for me.