Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Christmas Horror Story

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Why isn't Shutter playing this for 24 hours on Christmas?

A Christmas Horror Story – 4 out of 5

I heard about this film when it came out in 2015 and was prepared to hunt down a copy until a bunch of hardcore horror fans in a Facebook movie discussion group I’m in started raving about it.  Usually, when I hear people expressing heaping helpings of love for a film I become more invested in seeing the product but (and I don’t mean this as a dig on them) horror fans can be pretty forgiving of scary films while I am very critical of them.  Where they let things like bad makeup effects, clumsy editing, bad acting and a terrible story go, I find myself focusing entirely on these things and can’t get into it just because of its existence in a certain genre.  So, I let this movie slide but found myself ready to check it out for this holiday season.  Serendipity smiled at this because, at the same time, a friend of mine was telling me all about it and how she liked it.  Well, I went into A Christmas Horror Story expecting to hate it and see something cheap and bottom of the barrel (something The Asylum would make) but found myself actually pleasantly surprised.

This movie has Santa's little helpers turning into zombies.  That alone makes it
worth the watch.

We’ve seen horror anthology films before but never ones that were Christmas themed.  In one, some young teens break into their school in order to investigate some murders that took place years prior and to see if ghosts haunt the halls.  In our second story, a married couple and their son take a Christmas tree from some private land and discover that something happened to their child.  What was once a bright-eyed boy has become something far darker and more sinister.  The third story revolves around a family being hunted in the woods after their vehicle goes off the road.  They soon learn that it is Krampus himself after them.  In the final story, we take a trip to the North Pole where a zombie virus has infected all the elves and now Santa (George Buza) is fighting for his life.

I'll be honest, I'm happy that Krampus has made such a big return in the last
several years.  We need that darkness to balance out the light of the holiday.

Geez kid, we get it.  You like the band Creed.
My expectation for A Christmas Horror Story was a feature that had terrible acting, awful makeup effects, a low budget presentation and a collection of predictable jump scares.  I was completely wrong.  There are some low budget elements in the film—for example, Santa’s home looks a little cheesy—but the overall experience was a surprisingly competent film.  This wasn’t just some people throwing together a horror film because they had access to a camera and editing software—something a lot of horror films feel like sometimes.  Overall, the movie’s lighting, editing and the way the plot flowed and moved from one story to the next was excellent.  Stories were able to capture the perfect tone and atmosphere needed and none of the stories every felt like they were similar in any way.  Santa’s tale didn’t have the same vibe as the married couple and the kids breaking into their school didn’t have the same feel as the family being hunted by Krampus.  Very talented people worked on this one and crafted an anthology film that gelled and blended together but had stories that each felt unique with its own vibe and pacing and that wasn’t lost as it was put side-by-side with the other tales.

Kids, they'll never not be creepy.  I'm glad I'm not attractive enough for a
woman to want to have children with me.

I'll be honest, I can only stand this man for seconds
at a time.
I also really enjoyed the cast of this film.  Everyone is doing a great job bringing their characters to life.  I will admit that some members aren’t as commanding or attention-grabbing as others but, unlike most low budget horror films, this feature isn’t filled with wooden players or individuals that you swear have dirt on the director and forced their way onto set.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of William Shatner—who plays a disc jockey character; Dangerous Dan, who acts as a character who exists outside of the stories (but yet is not really the “host” of the anthology either).  Shatner isn’t terrible (by Shatner standards anyway) but he felt like he was trying to be “too funny” and his moments of levity felt forced.  Still, he wasn’t an entertainment-killer.  Finally, I have to make special mention of George Buza as Santa.  I really enjoyed his performance and found it to be the most memorable of the film but, additionally, he just looked like a cool Santa.

A very badass Santa.  Seconded only to the Santa in Rise of the Guardians.

Finally, one thing I really enjoyed about this movie is the fact it offers up a nice little twist ending that connects one of its tales with the segments involving Dangerous Dan.  With each tale, you can find little moments where each story interconnects in one way or another but the way the end comes about and unexpectedly redefines how one of the stories was playing out was pretty fun and made for a very memorable ending.  I didn’t go into this film expecting to see a twist ending but its inclusion was a very nice surprise.

Get these two in a Hell in the Cell pronto!

Concerning anything that might be holding this film back, the only thing that came to mind is the replay value.  Like any holiday specific film, I can’t see myself sitting down and watching it at any time out of the year that isn’t within a few weeks of the holiday it is about.  I’m not going to watch A Christmas Horror Story in the middle of April.  That aside, I still found the film to be a fun, albeit slightly cheesy at times, low budget horror film.  It was produced way better than I anticipated and its twist ending was just a delight.  Overall, not too shabby of a Christmas-themed horror anthology.

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