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A Christmas Horror Story (2015)
Blu-ray Disc: 11/24/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/30/2015
In the past, we've discussed what Hollywood playfully refers to as "synergy" when two movies with very similar plots are both released within a very small time frame. This should not be confused with flat-out copycats. Since the dawn of film, Anyone with a camera would scramble to create a knock-off of a box-office blockbuster. In fact, Asylum is a company which specializes in this...and they are proud of it. This holiday season, a film called Krampus will be hitting theaters. Not to be outdone, something entitled Krampus: The Reckoning has suddenly popped-up at Redbox. In addition, A Christmas Horror Story arrives with a decidedly Krampus-like monster on the cover. Is this just another rip-off?
Before we go any further, there's something which must be discussed. Despite the title, which implies one story, A Christmas Horror Story is actually an anthology which focuses on five different stories. You see, I didn't know that going in and it took a while for me to realize that the various characters and stories may all be linked to the same town, Bailey Downs, but they weren't going to truly overlap.
It's Christmas time in the small town of Bailey Downs. Local DJ Dangerous Dan (William Shatner) dares to actually say "Merry Christmas" on the radio and attempts to keep the festivities going. Local high school students Molly (Zoe De Grand Maison), Dylan (Shannon Kook), and Ben (Alex Ozerov) decide to venture into the basement of their school to investigate the scene where two students were found dead the year before. They soon find that this wasn't the first crime to occur in this setting. Their friend Caprice (Amy Forsyth) travels with her family -- Dad (Jeff Clarke), Mom (Michelle Nolden), and brother Duncan (Percy Hynes-White) -- to visit her aunt (Corinne Conley), but an evil force is accidentally unleashed. Scott (Adrian Holmes), a cop who investigated the deaths in the school, and his wife, Kim (Olunike Adeliyi), take their son, Will (Orion John) into the forest to get a Christmas tree. But, Will gets lost in the woods. Scott and Kim eventually find him and return home. However, Will went through a change during that time which he was missing. Meanwhile, Santa Claus (George Buza) is dealing with a huge problem at the North Pole, as something has turned the elves into demented killers.
It would be very easy to accuse A Christmas Horror Story of not being very original. As noted above, the ancient legend of Krampus, which has been around since at least the 17th Century, has suddenly become a very hot property and featuring the character isn't as unique as it could have once been. (Krampus also appears in a 2013 episode of American Dad!.) Also, while we haven't seen many of them lately, the horror anthology movie is a tried-and-true medium. With classics such as Dead of Night (1945) and Creepshow (1982) buoying the sub-genre (and outliers such as After Midnight (1989) and Nightmares (1983) being somewhat more obscure), anthologies have been a go-to for those who maybe don't have enough for a full movie.
As one would imagine, the problem with anthologies is that you rarely (if ever) get one where all of the stories are winners. This certainly goes for A Christmas Horror Story. While all of the stories have their good points, I would have to say that the one with little Will being left in the woods is the weakest, as it is too shallow. Next up is the story of the family visiting the Aunt, as it becomes redundant (although, it's wrap up is good). The story involving the three kids going into the basement has some interesting visuals, some nice jump scares, and a scene which ceased me wondering is A Christmas Horror Story had been made for TV. The Santa Claus story is were A Christmas Horror Story gets really interesting. The entire thing is way too over the top and campy -- it feels as it belongs in another movie. However, it's ending packs a wallop.
And it's this ending which earns A Christmas Horror Story a positive review. Up until the finale, the movie had proven itself to be a surprisingly entertaining watch and certainly a cut above most direct-to-video fare. However, the final twist really sets the movie apart and should shock most viewers. It's not that it's a Fight Club-caliber twist, it's simply that the movie fakes you out with the Santa Claus story and the reveal will satisfy most viewers. I'm sure that there are those who find the idea of a Christmas horror story as despicable, but A Christmas Horror Story shows that small movies can succeed with some well-timed scares and a clever ending that will have you nodding in approval.
A Christmas Horror Story is the best William Shatner movie in...as long as I can remember...on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of RLJ Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The image is a bit dark, but the colors look fine and the snow-covered daytime scene shows no grain. The level of detail is notable and the depth is on par with other Blu-rays of this type. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects work nicely and we are treated to sounds coming from off-screen. The surround sound effects also work well, and we get some distinct sounds from the rear, most notably during the basement scenes. The subwoofer kicks in during the horror sequences.
The lone extra on the A Christmas Horror Story Blu-ray Disc is a "Behind the Scenes" (15 minutes) featurette. Producer/Director Steve Hoban talks about the initial idea for the movie (where we learn that the movie was shot in 2014). We also hear from Producer Mark Smith, who comments on the production. From there, we get a nice amount of on-set footage, and some comments from the cast. The piece touches on all of the stories and we get a glimpse of the special effects makeup being applied.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long