HorrorMovie reviewsMovies

Holidays – Movie Review

21 July, 2016 — by Christopher Ratcliff0

Holidays is a new horror anthology film, over-stuffed with too many half-cooked ideas that will ultimately leave you feeling empty inside. Other comparisons with Christmas Day are perhaps less easy to make.

holidays movie poster

Despite there being no consistently brilliant horror anthology film in existence, I still love them, and it’s easy to see why horror filmmakers are routinely drawn to the format. They offer a chance to experiment without committing to an entire feature length shoot and may give life to material that would otherwise remain sketched in a notebook.

The best examples of horror anthologies lean towards the blackly comic – Stephen King and George A Romero’s Creepshow, 2007’s criminally underrated Trick ‘r Treat, and Mario Bava’s hugely influential gaudy trilogy of gore, Black Sabbath. But even these classics contain the odd misfire.

Creepshow’s ‘The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill’ is hampered by an unwatchable performance from Stephen King himself, but it’s more than made up for by the terrifically gripping ‘Something to Tide You Over’, which features a winningly deadpan Leslie Neilsen in full trash TV-Movie mode.

At the other end of the good-to-bad spectrum is V/H/S/2, which contains the insanely amazing ‘Safe Haven’ directed by Gareth Evans. This section is just as good as his two Raid movies, but 20 times more terrifying and gruesome. Unfortunately the rest of the tales in V/H/S/2 are total horseshit. There may be safety in numbers, but a filmmaker’s segment is only as strong as the whole.

Which brings us to Holidays, an anthology movie released earlier in 2016, which has just popped up for the first time in the UK on Netflix. It contains eight short films from 10 different filmmakers, each taking a different holiday as its theme.

holidays-2016-valentine's day-movie still

So you get Kevin Smith, having cut his horror teeth (ahem) on Tusk, tackling Halloween. Dark Skies director Scott Stewart taking on Christmas Day, visual effects artist Anthony Scott Burns dealing with Father’s Day, and there’s also room for Mother’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Easter and Valentine’s Day.

It’s a neat idea. Like a concise version of all those generic holiday themed romcoms that were so popular a few years ago, but with added beheadings and genital mutilation.

Sadly, too many of the segments are merely half-formed. Each feeling like a one sentence-long pitch but with no further development. Perhaps it’s down to the length of the film itself. At less than 90 minutes, each chapter doesn’t have room to be any longer than 10 minutes tops. But then there are thousands of thoroughly coherent and satisfying short films that barely break the five minute mark.

The Mother’s Day, Easter and Christmas segments all feel oddly truncated, like a quick shock or jump scare is enough to make you think each segment is more interesting and complete than it really is.

I adore Starry Eyes, the little seen independent horror that The Neon Demon clearly wanted to be, and despite its writer/director team of Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer writing two of the stories here, they are both thematically identical and say little new or interesting.

holidays movie 2016

On the plus-side, every filmmaker brings a high level of inventiveness and visual polish to their work. Yes even Kevin Smith. The performances are all note-perfect, and I appreciate that by just letting them all play out in chronological order it subtly ties the stories together with little effort.

Two of which definitely stand out from the rest…

St Patrick’s Day, by Dracula Untold’s Gary Shore, is thankfully far, far better than Dracula Untold and is also quite the most bonkers thing I’ve ever seen on screen – and therefore sadly belongs in another movie entirely. In Shore’s tale, a lonely school-teacher inexplicably becomes pregnant with a… well, I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say it’s full of wit and sicko humour, and is probably the clearest example of something that a filmmaker could only get away with in an anthology format. It might also be a bit too stupid for some people.

Perhaps the only truly satisfying tale here is Father’s Day, by Anthony Scott Burns, in which a young woman receives a cassette message from her long-lost father, containing audio instructions on where they can be reunited.

We follow her tear-filled journey to an isolated and abandoned beach resort and walk along side her as she listens to the cassette player relaying her father’s message from the past. It’s clever, original, provokes genuine and consistent terror, and is rather quite touching for the most part.

Is it worth sitting through the whole anthology to get to? Yeah, it’s that damn good. Will I bother watching another horror anthology film ever again? Absolutely. Just like any good horror short-story collection, there always good for dipping in for a quick chill.

Check out the rest of the latest cinema and streaming releases in our new movie reviews section, including the deeply disturbing and nail-biting thriller The Ones Below.

Holidays (2016)

Leave a Reply