Want to hear something really scary? It's the beginning of fall and I've already heard my first Christmas carol. Yet the timing is the least of the terrors in A Christmas Horror Story, an anthology from directors Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, and Brett Sullivan. The tones of its four braided stories range from the grim tension of kids trapped at the site of a gory double murder to the silly splatter of Santa bashing away at foul-mouthed undead elves.
Mixed in are an unnerving tale of a young boy replaced by an evil changeling and a panicked chase as a bickering family is pursued by the holiday devil Krampus, vividly imagined here punishing the naughty with a barbed whip. Veering from pole to pole makes the film's overall timbre absolutely bananas, even when the scenes are buffered by framing material featuring William Shatner as a despondent holiday DJ. The anthology is a mixed stocking; if you reach inside, something's likely to grab you. The doppelgänger sequences nicely turn the screws of paranoia, and there's something oddly fortifying about a bloody viking Saint Nick. We might just make it through another holiday season after all.