Rating: Not Rated
Stars: William Shatner, George Buza, Rob Archer, Zoe De Grand Maison, Alex Ozerov, Shannon Kook, Amy Forsyth, Adrian Holmes, Olunike Adeliyi, Orion John
Writers: James Kee, Sarah Larsen, Doug Taylor, Pascal Trottier
Directors: Grant Harvey, Steve Hoban, Brett Sullivan
Distributor: RLJ Entertainment
Release Date (theatrical, VoD, iTunes): October 2, 2015

George Buza as Santa in A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY | © 2015 RLJ Entertainment

George Buza as Santa in A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY | © 2015 RLJ Entertainment

A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is actually several horror stories all set on Christmas Eve in the picturesque small town of Bailey Downs. For fannish folk, Bailey Downs is the name of settings in both the werewolf movie GINGER SNAPS and the TV sci-fi drama ORPHAN BLACK. Neither are referenced directly here, but Bailey Downs would seem to be the site of some regular holiday catastrophes, judging by the lament of local dj Dangerous Dan (William Shatner).

A number of incidents seem to be either overlapping or happening simultaneously. A happy couple (Adrian Holmes and Olunike Adeliyi) take their little boy (Orion John) to the woods to get a Christmas tree and come back with trouble; a far less happy family of four journey to see a distant relative and run afoul of Krampus; three teens investigating a mysterious double murder that happened a year earlier at their high school stumble into something unholy; at the North Pole, Santa (George Buza) battles zombie elves.

This last one doesn’t quite fit with the other three, as it combines high fantasy and slapstick gore. It does eventually provide quite a twist, but by then, viewers may be a little tired from trying to figure out which dots are meant to be connected and which are simple narrative threads that aren’t meant to be examined too closely.

Young actor John and Zoe De Grand Maison (like Bailey Downs, another ORPHAN BLACK connection – she plays Gracie) are both commendable handling the specific demands of their roles and Buza is a comically classic Santa.

With three credited directors and four credited screenwriters, A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is actually a lot more cohesive in look and feel that might be expected. The individual tales work well, with some actual horror, tension and solid jump scares, along with decent gore and Christmas-related mythology.

However, we’re primed to look for more of a through-line than we wind up receiving. The woods that appear in two of the tales don’t provide connection and Dan’s function is puzzling, apart from giving Shatner the opportunity to do a good job playing a character who wants to project optimism through his visible alcoholic depression.

A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is made with craft and it has a properly unsettling effect. However, it seems like there should be more connective tissue between its disparate events than what we ultimately get; it’s like a Christmas morning where there are some nice surprises, but something crucial is missing under the tree.

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