A Christmas Horror Story

I was going to let A Midwinter's Tale stand as my Holiday post for the season, but what the hay, here's one more. Merry Christmas, everybody! Today I'm looking a new release: the succinctly titled A Christmas Horror Story. You know, I don't find a lot of horror movies I really like being produced these days. I'm discovering more 70s and 80s horror movies I dig - and that's the era I grew up in! - than new ones. I mean, sure, there are plenty I find to be okay and worth the watch. But one where I'm really excited by it and feel like I have to get the blu-ray in my collection immediately? Very rare. But I finally hit on one with A Christmas Horror Story.

Update 2/21/20: Nothing major; just added the DVD edition for a comparison.
A Christmas Horror Story is similar in style to Trick 'R Treat, the 2007 Halloween-themed horror anthology where the stories are linked and taking place more or less concurrently. But make no mistake, Krampus is the Krampus-featuring 2015 horror film made by the same guy as Trick 'R Treat (not even counting the two low budget knock-offs that went straight to DVD this year). This is actually made by a trio of other directors who came together and managed to make one of the most polished, clever and impressive horror films of the decade.

There aren't really any big names in this except for William Shatner, who essentially acts as the host of the "wrap around," or as close as this film gets to having one. And he's actually quite good in this. I was expecting a Campfest '89, but actually the performances in this film are consistently one of the strongest elements this film has going for it. Although, honestly, you could add stylish cinematography, convincing special effects (only one shot struck me as disappointing CGI) and smart writing to that list as well. It's an anthology, so of course one story's going to stand out as less compelling than the rest. In this case it's about a group of teenagers who sneak into their high school basement over Christmas break because a murder happened there last year. But even that one is so well made that it never feels like it's letting the rest of the team down.
But the other stories are more exciting. You've got the Krampus one, and it's a great monster with a simple yet effective story, like a Yuletide Pumpkinhead. No wonder three other movie studios rushed out Krampus movies this year. Then there's a story about a broken family that steals a Christmas tree from private property and gets a difficult comeuppance that feels like it should be the most boring of the lot. But everyone does such an excellent job on it, it turns out to possibly be the best of them all. And most audaciously, the last story is a zombie virus breakout that happens at Santa's workshop in the North Pole. If you're thinking to yourself, there's no way that awesome scene on the box actually actually happens in the movie, you're wrong, it does! On paper, it should be a disaster, on par with something from Scy-Fy or Asylum studios at best (Troma at worst), but amazingly it all works, leading up to a terrific twist ending I never saw coming!
2015 RLJ DVD top; 2015 RLJ BD bottom.
So this is a brand new release of a brand new film that was shot in 2k and delivered digitally, so there's no reason this shouldn't look great on blu, and it does. It's slightly letterboxed to 1.85:1 and looks beautiful in 1080p. The DVD is naturally the same transfer, just more compressed, but you really see the difference toggling between screenshots.  Besides the softness you'd expect to find, it's like all the little highlights blink out every time you click on the SD version.  And apparently this was a DVD-only release in the UK and other parts of the world, so you might want to think about importing from the US if you're overseas, and if you're local, enjoy getting this cheap and easy at your local big box store.

And speaking of getting this at big box stores, be warned if you're thinking of buying this at Walmart, as the slipcover has its title changed to A Holiday Horror Story (the DVD cover underneath retains the original Christmas title). That's either something to steer far clear of or an amusing collector's item depending on your state of mind. And the slip is a really great looking embossed image - I've scanned it, but that doesn't fully do it justice.

Regardless, the audio's a bold 5.1 mix, in DTS-HD on the blu; and both editions include optional English subtitles.
I was a little disappointed this wasn't a more packed special edition, but the one extra it does have turned out to be surprisingly good. It's a 15 minute featurette, but it's not the standard clip-heavy narration fare that plays like an extended trailer. It's a great little mini-doc that tells the story of the film's inception and production, interviewing all three directors, a lot of the cast on-set (though not Shatner), and includes some nifty behind-the-scenes shots. So maybe it would've just been bloated with a commentary and other features. What we've got was at least fully engaging, if brief. Still, you'd think they could've at least thrown in the trailer. Instead there's just a couple bonus trailers that play on start-up.
I wasn't expecting much from this film, especially after being disappointed by more promising 2015 horror films like Cooties, Deathgasm and We Are Still Here (SHOTS FIRED!!). I started out just casually streaming it, but was so impressed I stopped watching it and ran out to buy the blu the next day. That's pretty rare for me, and especially with modern horror. And now it's already held up to repeated watches, so I give this a great big recommendation, even if you've read the description and felt a little wary. That's how I felt, too; and look how much I'm gushing now. Give it a shot.

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