How has nobody ever thought of this before? A horror anthology composed of shorts set on the calendar’s major holidays. It’s a no-brainer.
And, much like Southbound, a pretty pleasant surprise.
Written and directed by the team behind Starry Eyes, the first segment follows a teenage outcast named Maxine (unfortunately nicknamed Maxi Pad) as she nurses an intense crush on her gym teacher while her classmates brutally tease her. There's nothing overly revolutionary about the story or execution, but it's a well-told tale that's perfectly satisfying in its brief running time.
St Patrick's Day
Set in Ireland, this one follows a pleasant schoolteacher who tries to welcome a mysteriously moody new student into her class, only to have, well, a very unpleasant but somewhat welcomed surprise pregnancy via a Danny Zuko-esque snake worshipper. Directed by Gary Hore (Dracula Untold), this is a grotesquely funny and weirdly sweet horror comedy of sorts. Lead Ruth Bradley (wonderful in Grabbers) plays it perfectly, and the final reveal is one of the most adorably weird things I’ve seen in a while.
Easily my favorite, Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact) spins a bizarre little yarn about how a curious young girl (the delightful Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Ava Acres)’s questions about the specifics the Easter Bunny and Jesus’s resurrection leads to meeting a truly inspired and gross monster creation. The writing is on point here, as the little girl’s conversation with her exasperated mother is funny, smart, and wonderfully disturbing. That’s not even mentioning the odd background decision to decorate the home with an impressive collection of creepy clown art.
Kate has a problem: every time she has sex, no matter how many preventative measures she takes, she ends up pregnant. After two dozen abortions, she agrees to visit her gynecologist’s off-the-beaten-path spiritual retreat where a batch of infertile baby-hungry women see Kate as something very, very important. Directed by The Midnight Swim’s Sarah Adina Smith, this is probably the story that most felt like it should have been a full feature. There’s plenty of potential in exploring what it means for a woman to have or not want to have a baby, and while the ending has a nice kick, the story feels almost trapped in the short format.
A young woman named Carol (House of the Devil’s Jocelin Donahue) receives a cassette tape with a recording made by her presumed dead father with instructions on how she can see him again. Carol smacks on her headphones and follows his lead, walking through a beach as she listens to her dad’s intensifying guide recorded on the last day she ever saw him. Newcomer Anthony Scott Burns builds tension with incredible skill, making this, for me, the scariest of all the stories. It doesn’t quite make good on its promise, but it still manages to be a unique spin on the typical anthology tale.
Kevin Smith--yes, that Kevin Smith--tells this revenge tale of a trio of webcam performers who finally take control over their gross and abusive boss. This will probably be the most polarizing of the bunch (as Kevin Smith fare tends to do to an audience) but I enjoyed it well enough. There’s a nice girl power vibe and a satisfying comeuppance, and perhaps most importantly, a short running time that doesn’t let anything out live its entertainment value.
Legion’s Scott Stewart directs Seth Green as Pete, a nice, but unexceptional dad trying to get the latest new technology toy for his son on Christmas Eve. When the customer who snagged the last one has a heart attack on an otherwise unoccupied street, Pete grabs the gadget and guiltily leaves the man to die alone. Naturally, this decision haunts him, especially when the gift in question (a pair of virtual reality goggles designed to show each wearer his or her own personal fantasies) keeps reminding him of his crime. This is a fun segment, aided a lot by Green’s take on a schlubby dad and some genuine surprises along the way. The ending is a bit abrupt, but again: this is an anthology. We don’t need codas.
New Year’s Eve
An awkward and dentally challenged killer meets women online, kidnaps them, and murders them when he loses patience with their inability to love him. On New Year’s Eve, he scores a date with an attractive younger lady with her own crappy dating history and, well, twists ensue. Made by Adam Egypt Mortimer, this is a fun tale and appropriate way to end the film, as the tone is somehow both lighthearted and appropriately violent. Mortimer also deserves credit for staging a wonderfully realistic, painfully uncomfortable first date.
Vets don't get things wrong
Jesus and ET do indeed have a lot in common
If a man doesn’t think you’re worth brand name candy, that is not a man for you
I had heard mixed reactions to Holidays, so my expectations were fairly low going in, but man...I kind of loved this movie. Some stories were certainly stronger than others, but none wore out their welcome (the kiss of death for many a short film). The fairly organic mix of offbeat comedy and genuine horror made for a refreshingly diverse mix of tone that kept me invested throughout. Like any good multi-filmmaker anthology, all the stories have their own identity but never seem to clash. Not to always bring up my favorite punching bag, but I’d take the weakest installment here (probably Halloween) over all of the first V/H/S, and most of the other segments in the more decent sequels. The film is streaming on Netflix and can make a satisfying watch for any season.