I have always been a sucker for short story collections, so it only makes sense that I also love anthology movies. No genre does the anthology better than horror, but these films can be so hit and miss sometimes. I always go into a horror shorts collection cautiously optimistic because I love the idea, but sometimes the delivery is not all that great. A Christmas Horror Story doesn’t only deliver, but they give you a big box with a bright red bow.
Apart from the incomparable William Shatner, there are not many recognizable faces to see here. Still, the acting is solid in every single one of the stories. Even though this was a straight to video release, the production quality is outstanding. They did everything right from makeup to scenery, and there are even a few lighting effects that set the tones of each scene in simple ways. It is obvious that, though it only saw the big screen in limited release, it had money behind it.
What I love about A Christmas Horror Story, and what makes it an instant Christmas classic, is the originality of the ideas. Though none of the content is something completely new to horror audiences, they tell stories that are fresh with new perspectives and interesting twists. For example, Krampus is featured in two of the chapters, but they give the Christmas beast more depth than just a generic holiday monster out for murder. Each story is unique to the others but they are intertwined, which is always an impressive feat when filmmakers can pull it off. The stories are loosely segued through Shatner’s character, Dangerous Dan, hosting a late-night radio talk show while reporting on an off-screen incident that eventually plays an important role.
With only four stories (five if you count Shatner’s overarching storyline) and an hour and forty-minute run-time, there is plenty of time for each story to flesh out. Instead of cramming too many shorts into the movie to “give the people what they want,” or extending scenes out further than they need to go just to add to the film’s run-time, each of these shorts are the perfect length with just the right amount of detail.
In the era of Krampus, where every lazy filmmaker thinks that throwing the half goat Christmas antagonist into a movie somehow makes it good, it is hard to find a decent contemporary horror flick for the holidays. Of course, there are plenty of great Christmas horror films from days gone by, but it is always nice to have a little something new for the palate. A Christmas Horror Story is a winner because it doesn’t just offer something new, it offers something that you are going to want to watch again and again. At the time of writing this, my only issue with this picture is that there is not a sequel in the works yet. If you are a horror fan like myself, I can’t recommend watching this contemporary masterpiece enough, and I can all but guarantee that it will become one of your holiday favorites.