Welcome to our Hallow-vent Calendar; a horror-film-filled daily countdown to our favourite spooky celebration, Hallowe'en. For Day 24 and, with only a week to go, David Ames prepares for Holidays...
I dove into today’s movie with the utmost confidence. Although a lot of reviewers have given today’s movie poor reviews, I have to say that my experience was the exact opposite. There may have been moments when I was not as happy as I could have been but overall, I am thrilled with the experience of today’s movie: 2016’s Holidays.
Reviewing this film is more difficult than a regular movie as it isn’t so much a linear story as it is a collection of horror vignettes, directed by known indie filmmakers, which are focused on eight major holidays: Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. Instead of one giant review, I think I am going to write small blurbs about each of the vignettes.
This section, written and directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmeyer (Starry Eyes, Absence), is a perfect throwback to something from the 80’s. It is sad but at the same time darkly funny. The story follows Maxine, a bullied, unpopular girl who is fixated on her swim coach. Another girl, Heidi, is the queen bee and she makes Maxine’s life hell in over-the-top fashion. The ending of the film feels just like a nice throwback to Carrie but with a lot more humor. I don’t want to give too much away but the dream sequences where everything glows warmly and music directly from a John Hughes movie begins to play are my favorite and may actually be my favorite aspect of the entire film.
St. Patrick’s Day:
This section, written and directed by Gary Shore (Dracula Untold), follows an Irish teacher who is desperate to have a child. She gets a new eerily creepy student who leaves her messages about getting everything she ever wanted. We are introduced to both characters as the class learns about St. Patrick and his mythological banishing of the snakes from Ireland. The story progresses into some great, subtle body horror and ends with a nice little homage to Rosemary’s Baby.
This section is easily the most disturbing of the entire film, at least for me. Written and directed by Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact, At the Devil’s Door), the vignette follows a young girl who is scared and confused by the conflicted stories about both Jesus and the Easter Bunny which she has heard. The film is simply her encounter with the real Easter bunny which, when we meet it, is more disturbing than I could have originally thought. Definitely effective although this section felt a little lacking. There seems to be a much larger story at work here and in the section we are given it feels a little empty. I will say that the shooting and character design are genius though and the acting is great as well.
This section was probably the worst for my taste. It was still pretty good but it suffered from attempting to be too artsy and in that respect it loses the focus of the vignette. Written and directed by Sarah Adina Smith (The Midnight Swim, Goodbye World), the story follows a woman who is suffering from getting pregnant literally every time she has sex. She is sent to a “fertility retreat” which turns out to be a coven of witches. They drug her and force her to be raped by what I can only describe as a devil-like character. The rest of the section just follows her as she gives birth and then the story abruptly ends. I feel like the vignette wants to be a commentary on forcing women to go through with birth even though they may not want to but it is lost so heavily in the lack of plot that the section suffers. It is still pretty good but, for my money, the worst of this collection.
In the basic sense of filmmaking, this section is far and above the most successful. Written and directed by Anthony Scott Burns (The Last Exorcism Part II), it is shot beautifully and the tension and dread build to an almost palpable terror right before it ends, a little too abruptly for my taste, but still effectively. A young woman receives a tape from her long-estranged and believed to be dead father which takes her on a journey through her past and to her future. It is so good and so cinematic that I simply want to see more. It left me hoping against hope that there will be a full length piece out of this short sometime.
This section appears to be receiving the most hate by far out of all the vignettes but I have always been a huge fan of all of writer and director Kevin Smith’s films (Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma)so this was no different. I even enjoyed his most recent fare, Tusk and Yoga Hosers so this movie hit well with me. It is nothing incredible: a jerk who keeps a stable of cam girls is eventually taken down and tortured by them. The women finally assume and exercise control over an abusive, authoritative patriarchal figure. It is full of all things Smith: Cursing, sexual humor, a love of Canada. Regardless of what others say, I loved this section because it gives the film a nice comedic break in the midst of creepy and unsettling.
This next section, by writer and director Scott Stewart (Dark Skies, Priest, Legion), utilizes the first real recognizable face, Seth Green, in a story about a father who does what he has to in order to get the perfect present for his son. After the present is given, we get to see what really is going on in the lives of the husband, wife, and boy. The section is both funny and somewhat creepy but it rests firmly in the area of camp and holds that position beautifully.
New Year’s Eve:
The film ends with a genre favorite, the slasher. Writers and directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmeyer bookend the movie and deliver a story which starts out great from the beginning and, although it becomes predictable, I didn’t care because I wanted to watch it happen. A man is in search of a perfect date for New Year’s Eve but has had to kill the last few who haven’t worked out. When he finally meets one online, he goes back to her place to take her as well but realizes he has found someone of the same ilk. The ending is brilliant and so much fun.
As you can tell, I absolutely loved this film. It may flounder at certain points but overall it is simply a fun movie. It may not reach the complete success of the masterpiece that is 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat but it is a great addition to that genre of films. It is available on Netflix now so if you like what you have heard so far, check it out!
Images - IMDb