It's Christmas Eve and Santa Claus (George Buza) is in the stables tending to the reindeer, but how did he get that big wound across his face? And what is approaching the doors and rattling at the handles? To answer that question we must return to a few hours before, and a small Canadian town that has been snowbound this holiday season, where the popular local disc jockey Dangerous Dan (William Shatner) is on the air and promising to stay there till midnight, all to welcome in the festivities. He is genuinely looking forward to it - or maybe simply looking forward to the amount of booze he can consume - but he is finding trouble raising support from his small staff, such as the weatherman Stormin' Norman who makes his feelings known in no uncertain terms...
By the point A Christmas Horror Story was released, the trend for indie Yuletide chillers was almost as popular as the trend for Halloween shockers, at least with the filmmakers themselves. This was yet another to utilise the festive monster of Krampus, though was not as high profile as the actual movie called Krampus which was released around the same time, and while here it was implemented with some degree of restraint until it really counted, it was surprising how quickly the concept had become a cliché to rival the killer Santa Claus that more than a few examples leant on for their frights and suspense. As the supernatural figure moved from fairly recent tradition to the pop culture, it seemed to be taking hold on the wider Western consciousness.
Away from Middle Europe, at least, but there was more to this than just the Krampus menace, as it was one of those indie horror anthologies, disguised as such because the stories were neatly edited together to create one continuous experience, though that did offer the impression they would all merge come the end of the film, which you may be disappointed was not quite the case as they remained largely discrete and their own entities. What would normally be the linking thread was the DJ, with Shatner offering an enthusiastic reading of the role and delivering the personality that was frankly lacking in the other characters, who came across as drawn from stock rather than quirky enough to latch onto.
This might have been a letdown for those who had enjoyed some of this team's most celebrated work, the cult horror Ginger Snaps, a proud moment in Canadian genre cinema as it got so much right about revitalising a hoary (and hairy) old trope, in that case werewolves. This did not quite do the same for the Christmas fright flick, as much of it was just too straightforward, though the most eccentric story was the one where Santa was beset by his elves who had become infected with a virus that turned them evil (shades of another Canadian horror, David Cronenberg's Rabid, also set at this time of year). Although that section was lacking conviction towards the grotesque, relying on the novelty and not doing much more with it, there was a neat twist it sprang on the audience that raised the overall impression a welcome notch.
The other tales took the form of something closer to the slasher movie format, as a family visited an elderly relative in her rambling country pile only for the children to misbehave and a demand came for them to leave, whereupon they were set upon by that darn Krampus as they fled through the wintry night, their car predictably stuck in the snow. Another saw a group of three teenage students try to investigate a murder that occurred at their school in the previous year and make an amateur documentary about it (don't worry, it wasn't found footage), except that some spirit or other was feeling in a possessive mood and sabotaged their good intentions, if good they were. Lastly, a variation on the old changeling myth as a family venture out to the woods to fetch a Christmas tree, but their young son goes missing and when they find him inside an old oak, well, let's just say he's not himself. All a bit much of a muchness with regard to what you may or may not have seen before, but it was intermittently stylish and nice to see Shatner lifting the proceedings, in a role he didn't need to stand up for. Music by Alex Khaskin.