Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

Sometimes, having interconnected stories can work.  Usually, this involves having a single narrative with several different aspects.  It tends to work best when it’s done subtly.  A Christmas Horror Story isn’t such a movie.  I’m not saying that it’s not entertaining.  It’s just that you have four stories that probably started out having nothing to do with each other.  Someone apparently got the idea to put them together when they probably would have worked better as four short films.

In one story, you have Santa Claus battling undead elves.  There’s no explanation where the infection came from, but one elf dies and reanimates.  Elves aren’t supposed to die.  They’re cheerful and immortal and they definitely don’t refuse Mrs. Claus’s cookies, at least not in such a vulgar fashion.  Yet, Mr. Claus has to rid his workshop of his undead helpers.

In a second story, a family of four is going to visit the father’s Aunt Edda.  The wife, son and daughter see it for what it is: a chance for dear old Dad to hit her up for an investment in his company.  After promptly being kicked out, the car gets stuck.  This makes it easier for Krampus to pick them off one at a time.

In the third story, three filmmakers go to a school’s basement to make a documentary.  Two girls were murdered in a gruesome manner.  One of the police officers had to go on medical leave because of it.  (The daughter from the second story would be joining them if not for her father’s dragging her along to Aunt Edda’s.)  They get locked in and have to hope that someone finds them in time.

In the fourth story, a father decides to take his wife and son along to steal a tree from private property.  (It just so happens that the father is the police officer that’s on medical leave.)  The son disappears, but is found again hiding in a tree.  It isn’t until they get home that the parents realize that something is off.  The landowner contacts the wife, telling her to bring the kid back.  She hangs up on him, but eventually comes around.

Tying it all together is Dangerous Dan, played by William Shatner.  He’s a DJ who is pulling a double shift Christmas eve to bring everyone some Christmas music.  He’s not too happy about being there, as evidenced by his consumption of spiked egg nog.  In the studio with him is Norman.  When Dan asks Norman about his impending trip to the mall’s food drive, Norman holds up a nasty note for Dan to see.

The four stories are told intertwined as Dangerous Dan plays his songs.  The result is something that’s not quite coherent.  Each story probably could have done well as a short film.  The Student Filmmaker story was what you’d expect of those teenager horror movies that are heavy on the scares and maybe even the sex appeal.  Similarly, the family trip to see Aunt Edda was your basic awkward outing movies where everyone has an epiphany and grows.  The thing is that no one really has a chance to learn from their revelation.  They admit something they did wrong and are promptly dispatched with.  In fact, the son is taken away rather quickly.

The Santa Slayer and Tree Poacher stories were at least entertaining.   Santa having to kill undead elves has the makings of a great feature-length slasher film.  There were even a few good lines, to boot.  I also got the sense that the father that stole the tree had some issues.  This also could have possibly been made into a feature-length film, or at least maybe an episode of an anthology series.  I think the only hindrance that either story had was the time constraints.

I had had this on my list of movies to watch on Netflix for a while.  After seeing Rare Exports, I thought that a movie like this could have been done well.  Instead, A Christmas Horror story wound up on the other end of the spectrum.  It’s somewhat entertaining, assuming you’re into that sort of thing.  However, it doesn’t really stand out for me.

The movie was only 99 minutes.  Had the Santa Slayer and Tree Poacher stories been developed more, the movie could have made it to two hours, but it would have been a very lopsided movie.  I think that’s the weakness of the movie as a whole.  You have four ideas that could have been contenders, but were merged into one film that wasn’t really that great.  In fact, the only character I really felt any connection to was Dangerous Dan.  I absolutely don’t blame him for drinking.

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