A couple of months ago I watched the horror anthology film Southbound and really enjoyed it. The film featured connected stories of terror and horror and was a really successful film as a whole that really worked. Anthology films can work if the stories are cohesive and all those involved deliver an excellent final product, an example of this is Paris, je t’aime, a film that really doesn’t have a bum story among the 18 short films that make it up. Other times an anthology film can be disastrous, a really bad collection of uneven and unrelated films that are only tangentially connected by theme or location, and sometimes not even that. Films like Movie 43, New York, I Love You, or, unfortunately, Holidays, become cautionary tales and cases against the portmanteau film.
Holidays, unlike Southbound, features no connective thread between one segment and the next, story-wise. The only narrative connection is that each short is a tale of horror/suspense centered around a major American holiday. Most of these are not scary and quite altogether awful. The directors are for the most part capable or successful, which makes the crappy outcome all the more dismaying and disappointing. Only one segment is really good, but it’s just not enough to raise the awful factor that afflicts the rest. It’s a shame, because it had potential… Anyways, this is the breakdown of the various stories that make up this mess of a film.
Writers & Directors: Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer
The story is not the worst but the acting surely is, causing this segment to be so unintentionally funny for all the wrong reasons. A young girl on a diving team is made fun of by her fellow red-swimsuit-clad tweens. Said girl nurses a major crush for the coach, who sees her more as a sad charity case worthy of pity. An act of kindness on his part leads the wretched girl to commit a heinous act. Love can make girls do crazy things, amiright?
“St. Patrick’s Day”
Writer & Director: Gary Shore
This one takes place in Ireland. The beginning of this one actually had me hoping that it would be good, but the ending is so cartoonish and the props and effects worse than those on Who’s Line Is It Anyway? that it just ruined the entire thing for me. A young teacher has a new student in school, a young redheaded girl (doing nothing for the stereotypes that redheads are the spawns of Satan), who creeps her out and yet awakens some motherly instinct within her. The teacher just wants the young girl to smile, but only when the teacher ends up pregnant does the girl take to her. Maybe it has something to do with what is growing inside the teacher’s belly?
Writer & Director: Nicholas McCarthy
No child has ever seen the Easter Bunny. Also Jesus is scary to children, apparently, because he is a zombie who came back to life after dying. At least this is what happens in what is maybe the worst of the segments. A young girl is being tucked into bed by her mother on the Easter eve (because apparently kids give a shit about Easter and this is a thing… who knew?), and she expresses concern over the Easter Bunny skipping her home and in the same breath expresses her fear of Jesus Christ. So what happens? Terrifying Zombie Jesus Bunny appears. Yeah. Moving on.
Writer & Director: Sarah Adina Smith
The only segment in the film directed by a woman (and also not starring a single male actor), and clearly a huge fan of Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. The premise was interesting: a young woman is in the doctor’s office expressing a very singular problem, namely that she has had dozens of abortions because she ends up pregnant every single time she has intercourse with a man, even if he is wearing protection. The doctor tells the woman to visit the physician’s sister, who runs a retreat in the desert for women with fertility problems. The young women goes, does desert drugs, gets raped, ends up pregnant. Any guesses if the baby is normal?
Writer & Director: Anthony Scott Burns
By far the best segment in this entire film. Really really good, suspenseful, excellently paced, great acting, a resounding success – great even as a standalone short film. A young woman receives a gift at her home. Inside she finds a cassette tape. When she presses play she discovers the voice of her father, a man who had walked out of her life many years before, when she was just a little child. The father provides an explanation as to why he had left all those years before and asks her to drive to a location where they had been to once before, many years prior. Once she arrives she listens to the recording as her father, with a soothing and reassuring tone, guides her and talks to her along the way. While listening it becomes clear that he recorded the cassette with his daughter, as the woman’s younger self can be heard intermittently. The ending is perfect and ends without disclosing too much, leaving the most terrifying possibilities for the viewer to ponder. As I said, so good!
Writer & Director: Kevin Smith
Cast: Ashely Greene
Yes, that Kevin Smith. Halloween is a modern horror tale of revenge, and yet still sexualizes and victimizes women and fetishizes them. The end result makes Smith out to be somewhat of a misogynistic feminist-esque perv, the same feelings I had after watching Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch. In this segment, the one least connected to the holiday assigned other than it taking place on said date, a group of cam girls who perform sex acts for money turn on their pimp/captor. The women are portrayed as vapid, entitled, and vindictive, the pimp is bizarre, hipster-y, and is not monstrous enough to warrant what happens to him. A complete misfire, compounded by the ick factor that one of the cam girls is played by Smith’s own daughter. And this is coming from a sometimes fan of Smith’s.
Writer & Director: Scott Stewart
Cast: Seth Green
I would be kinder to this segment if it weren’t a complete ripoff of the amazing British television series Black Mirror, it’s like Scott Stewart didn’t expect anyone to see that he completely plagiarized the show for the purposes of a 10 minute film. Seth Green plays a desperate father on Christmas Eve trying to get his hands on the new must-have toy, a type of virtual reality view master that shows you a world based on your online browsing history. Unfortunately the last toy is bought by an entitled businessman (so cliche it actually hurts). Outside the store, though, the businessman has a stroke and Green’s character takes the toy instead of helping. His home life is not happy, but his son is thrilled with the toy. At first it seems innocent enough, for when the father puts the device on he is treated to a sexual fantasy. Soon it becomes a nightmare as it shows the events that transpired the previous night from the point of view of the man in need of help. Things get worse and more boring.
“New Year’s Eve”
Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer
Writers: Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer
The only segment not written by its director. This is a classic story of a cat and mouse, but with the mouse turning out to be a dragon in disguise. Two lonely-hearts meet up on the last day of the year on a blind date after meeting online. The man has just murdered his previous victim and is looking for fresh blood. They hook up and head back to the girl’s apartment. And what do you know? The girl is crazier than the dude. Isn’t it great when two psychopaths find each other? So sweet.