Christmas is traditionally considered a time for good cheer and good will among all. However, in the past, it was also known as a time for ghost stories and creepier fare, such as the European legend of Krampus. This cloven-hooved and horned entity ran amok terrorizing naughty children at Christmas. He has fast become a staple in popular culture these days with movies like Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale reviving the myth. Now Canadian directors Grant Harvey, Steve Hoban and Brett Sullivan (of Ginger Snaps fame) give us another holiday horror with a Krampus kick in A Christmas Horror Story.
In the town of Bailey Downs (which was also home to the characters in Ginger Snaps), several intertwined tales of woe are presented. It is Christmas Eve, one family heads out to visit a rich aunt in the hopes of a hand-out, another family trespasses in order to get the perfect Christmas tree, and three teens investigate a gruesome murder scene in a local high school. All of these situations occur while Santa (George Buza), who looks like an ex-biker, finds out his elves have all become evil. Our host throughout the action is Dangerous Dan (William Shatner), a radio D.J. who tries to instill Christmas cheer with his loopy broadcasts across the town. As each story unfolds, we learn that no one is safe as Krampus (Rob Archer) and a cast of creeps make Christmas the worst holiday ever.
Watching horror movies at Christmas should be mandatory and the cheesier the better. A Christmas Horror Story has plenty of fun to serve, along with a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour. It is a throwback to the campy anthology horrors of the 60’s and 70’s, and tries to keep up the tradition. Don’t expect high-brow drama, instead, you’ll get lots of gore, zombie elves and a really creepy kid.
There are a couple of uneven tonal shifts, but one great feature to this film is its diverse casting. It is a relief to see other races represented with a bit more dimension, especially in the horror genre. Shatner’s commentary is fun, but I would have liked Krampus, aside from the haunted high school arc which seemed like a different movie altogether, to have had a stronger link to the other stories. The film also has a twist, that you won’t see coming, which is morbidly funny, but doesn’t wrap everything up with a pretty bow.
A Christmas Horror Story is an over-the-top grisly fairy tale that offers plenty of storytelling amidst a mixed bag of horror.
Saturday, October 17, 9:30 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Tickets can be purchased at the Toronto After Dark website.