Considering this movie was released in October tells you all you need to know about how much faith producers had in this Little Sleigh that Couldn’t.
I love anthology movies. Fun greats like The Theatre Bizarre (2011), Campfire Tales (1997), Tales of Terror (1962), and of course Trick r Treat (2007), give us punchy scares in a quarter of the time. With the Internet and websites “articles” that focus solely on lists and capsules, one might think anthology movies would be more popular.
However when you watch a movie like A Christmas Horror Story (2015) you completely understand why people are wary.
A surly and increasingly drunk radio DJ whose producer suddenly walks out of the studio are all the set up one gets before the movie starts – we have teens investigating a mysterious murder in the abandoned basement of a holiday-empty school, a young family poaches a Christmas tree from private property and brings back more than piney goodness, a dysfunctional family trip unleashes the wrath of Krampus (Rob Archer) – oh, and Santa (George Buza) takes on a workshop of zombified elves. All of the stories are connected – the murder of the teen was originally investigated by the trespassing and tree-stealing cop, the DJ is an uncle to the Krampus-unleashing family hands over the keys to the teens breaking into the school, and I’ll save the bad-ass Santa for you, because it was the only segment worth watching and it really was the best one.
Which is unfortunate, because it had the least amount of setup, yet had the greatest punch.
So in most anthology movies, the stories are told as separate segments, broken up by the wrap-around story. In Creepshow (1982) it was comic books, in The Twilight Zone (1985), it was a trucker telling tales to pass the miles. Tales From the Darkside (1990) had a kid reading fairy tales to stall a cannibal witch. In A Christmas Horror Story, it’s DJ Dangerous Dan (William Shatner), waxing poetic on the radio in what can only be a marathon shift spanning 12 hours (seriously). The tales are told in linear time, so they’re broken up as the day passes: morning, daytime, evening. Logic says they will meet somewhere at the ¾ mark and end together. They don’t. They end one after the other and it’s jarring and disjointed, and a little disappointing.
Until the Santa one ends, because that one was pretty cool.
I don’t think a conventional construction would have made a difference, all things considered, but I think I’d rather have my hopes of a decent segment ending with a splash dashed individually, rather than all at once like poorly placed dominoes. I wouldn’t call the movie tasteless or pandering to gore fans needing a fix, but I will say it’s the least imaginative holiday entry I’ve seen in a while. The story of the teens trapped in the school didn’t even have anything to do with Christmas, other than a random Bible verse and could have been any entry in any straight to VOD collection. The others has padded setups likely designed to shoehorn them into one cohesive narrative.
The most telling part of this movie would be the credits, as no one takes responsibility for the individual movies. All of the writers (James Kee, Sarah Larsen, Doug Taylor, Pascal Trotter) and directors (Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan) are mixed together so everyone simultaneously takes and deflects the blame. It’s a shame, because I’d love to see more from whoever who came up with Badass Santa.
A Christmas Horror Story is currently available on the VOD platform of your choice and is rated NR.