Every Christmas, while others are watching White Christmas or Elf, I settle in for my annual viewing of Die Hard. I also make a point of trying to find a new holiday-themed genre movie to watch. What I've learned through this experience is there's no shortage of Christmas movies and/or Christmas horror movies. And if I were to make my own naughty and nice list of holiday horror movies, the bad films would outnumber the good.
This year, I'm pleased to add a new movie to the good list: A Christmas Horror Story. As director Steven Hoban explains, he and others were disappointed with their remake of Black Christmas so they set about righting that wrong. The result is an Xmas anthology that touches on themes of family, togetherness, and holiday spirit.
A Christmas Horror Story isn't an anthology in the traditional sense, the stories aren't woven together (there is some overlap because they take place in the same town, but that's it), but they do take place simultaneously and the film cuts back and forth between them. I didn't know this was an anthology, so I spent a fair amount to time wondering what the kids in the school basement had to do with the family in the woods. When I realized the stories weren't related, it was easier to relax into the film and enjoy the narratives.
On Christmas eve, while everyone else in town is at the mall, two families are celebrating in their own fashion. Scott and Kim head into the woods with their son Will to find a tree, while Taylor and his family drive out to visit Aunt Edda. Meanwhile, Molly and two friends explore an old crime scene, and Santa battles evil elves. Each story occupies its own space in the movie, and each one uses the Christmastime setting in its own unique way.
When a new Christmas movie was in the works, filmmakers only had a few months to prepare a script. Knowing that wasn't enough time for a feature, they went with four short scripts instead, with a local DJ as a common denominator. As a Christmas bonus, William Shatner was cast as the DJ, and he kills it as Dangerous Dan.
Equally impressive is this movie's Krampus. Rob Archer is a big dude and his Krampus is a menacing beast. He won't be the only Krampus to appear on screen this year, but he sets a high bar for the other Krampus movies to come. And, as the audience learned during the Q&A, Rob's hardcore Krampus had to deal with some pretty hardcore shooting conditions, “So there I was in my man-skirt, in minus 25, and they're throwing water on me.”
A Christmas Horror Story can also be filed under what I like to call “new Canadian horror.” Coming out of a decades-long slump that proceeded the tax shelter years, Canadian horror has languished in the shadow of American and UK horror cinema (with a few exceptions, of course). Only recently has Canadian cinema in general undergone a huge transition, and horror has been enjoying a lot of support in the form of government and corporate financing.
A Christmas Horror Story looks good, sounds goods, and lacks that weird Canadianess that is both distinctive and alienating. In short, it's a Christmas horror movie for everyone, full of magic and wonder and a lot of dead elves.
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