The 12 days of Christmas, despite most celebrations of such, actually begin on Christmas… but that’s not what we’re doing here. As with any good American tradition, we will forget the truth of it and make up our own rules. And with that, we’ll kick off our 12 Slays of Christmas today and continue through the Christmas day. And we will begin by taking a huge SHAT all over the holiday season.
With William Shatner as the voice of the film’s wraparound tale, this holiday horror anthology is easily among one of my absolute favorite Christmas films, horror or otherwise. With a few different styles and tones of horror film blended together, this is an anthology of the highest order. Even the strongest horror anthologies have some lesser quality segments, but it’s hard to identify any truly disappointing segments in this yuletide gem.
As the film begins, we meet Dangerous Dan, the local public radio DJ. He’s in the studio, getting crunk on nog, spinning Christmas tunes for the fine townsfolk of Bailey Downs. He sees off the grumpy weatherman, who is set to play Santa down at the mall for the station’s Christmas food drive. From there, we’re treated to four interwoven seasonal horror stories that introduce the viewers to everything from ghostly forces that kill and quote Biblical scripture to zombie elves to Krampus to a changeling and more.
In one of our stories, three school kids break into their school, a former convent, to investigate murders. The trio originally was supposed to have a fourth, but their friend Caprice has to do some family stuff instead (which we’ll revisit in another story later). The sole girl in the group, Molly (Zoé De Grand Maison), take the role of investigative reporter as the 3 film their expose in the dark, empty school. What comes next is a series of bloody discoveries, demonic possessions, and some truly twisted nuns. Tonally, this one gets pretty dark, but the trio of kids does a stellar job keeping the story rolling and never losing the audience’s attention.
While there’s another story introduced in between the school investigation and this next one, it seems fitting to first discuss Caprice and her family, since she’s connected directly to the kids in the first story. Caprice (Amy Forsyth) and her younger brother visit their elderly aunt with their parents. After her brother intentionally destroys a Krampus figurine, all Hell breaks loose. Soon the family are running for their lives from the deadly Christmas folk monster. Just when you think its over, there’s a great little twist that spawns a new deadly threat.
Few things are scarier than creepy kids, as far as this horror nerd is concerned. And when you aren’t even sure is that the kid being creepy is a kid at all, that takes it to a whole different level. In this story, the focus is on a family: a police officer, his wife, and their son. They out to get a Christmas tree and the father ends up cutting one down on property marked “Keep Out”. Of course, he thinks its just because the land owner – “Big Earl” – doesn’t want folks on his property. However, as we’ll all soon find out, there are other reasons to stay away from those trees. It doesn’t take long before the son starts acting weird and it becomes apparent that it may not be their son at all.
The fourth story revolves around Santa, of course. No Christmas anthology would be complete without a Santa tale. This time, however, it’s not your standard killer Santa. Instead, this tale revolves around a zombie plague taking hold of the elves. Santa is forced to fight to survive… and before it’s all over, he’s head to head with Krampus for a final battle.
The culmination of this story occurs when the Santa story and the wraparound collide and a heavy dose of reality sets in. This final twist and the interwoven radio bits with Shatner’s DJ Dangerous Dan are what elevates this already strong anthology to something more. Like other great anthologies that tie everything together – Trick ‘r Treat comes to mind – A Christmas Horror Story is a stellar anthology, a stellar horror film, and a truly great holiday film that honors the spirit of the season.
And with that, we welcome you to our 12 Slays of Christmas!