Holidays is the latest in the line of horror anthology films that have been surfacing on online streaming sites in recent years. The conceit of this particular film is to take eight short films from eight different creative teams. Each film focuses on subject matter related to a different holiday of the calendar year. For this review, let’s dive into each short separately before making final judgments on the film as a whole.
High dives are scary. It combines the fear of heights with the fear of drowning. Bullies are scary, too, I guess. As is unrequited young love. With this combination, we get the opening shots of “Valentine’s Day,” a very Carrie-inspired short. The bully character is both silly and sinister, albeit, sorely done before.
The short uses quaint inserts and simple tracking shots that give it a light atmosphere in spite of its violent unspooling plot. A mild attempt at foreshadowing and this anachronistic light tone are interesting but also impeding on the film’s attempt at tension, leaving much to be desired with this opening short.
St. Patrick’s Day
Quick edits in montage is the defining stylistic characteristic of “St. Patrick’s Day,” a short about a wanted yet strange pregnancy. This style quirk moves the plot along, but it is also somewhat grating.
The narrative itself, enhanced by some strange and golden ratio-like imagery, is intriguing. The humor in allusion, too, is commendable. The more grotesque imagery and the use of a smiling child comes across like an offbeat Tim and Eric sketch in one pivotal scene, for better or worse. Overall, the short is strangely entrancing in this absurd imagery, even if it doesn’t come across with the intended tone.
Religion can be a confusing, scary thing for children. Jesus died for our sins and promises to return…like a zombie!? Or…like a mutant, stigmata-plagued Easter bunny. Now we know where all of those colorful eggs come from. It’s not pretty.
“Easter’s” effectiveness relies almost entirely on the reveal and appearance of the creature. It is great prosthetic/makeup work, yes. It is initially quite unsettling, yes. But that’s about it: a visual conceit. The brief nature of this short and its one trick pony gag begs for something more substantial.
Imagine constantly being pregnant. I can’t.
In “Mother’s Day,” Kate (Sophie Traub) gets pregnant every time she has sex, regardless of the circumstances. This is to say using three condoms doesn’t even do the trick.
To mend her hyper-fertile womb she goes to a ritualistic fertility clinic (for some reason). It’s pretty weird. And that’s about it. I mean, it also solidifies that Holidays is obsessed with female reproduction, but, yeah, that’s all there is to this short. The final punch is fun and interesting, but the short cuts away seemingly when the plot is getting good.
A tape is left for Carol (Jocelin Donahue) from her father explaining why he left the family, a revelation that comes as a shock to her, as she grew up being told he was dead.
The short is simple, following rote direction while still intensifying as it goes. It is intriguing, inviting the viewer to guess at what the final reveal will be. In a way, it is also quite heartfelt in its abandonment narrative. But the final push at the end for narrative closure lacks the same emotional weight of the set-up.
Kevin Smith, perhaps the most high profile name behind this film, directs this short about an incubation tank for cam girls led by Ian (Epic Meal Time’s Harley Morenstein). It is as if Smith watched Hot Girls Wanted and decided to make a horror film out of it starring his daughter (Harley Quinn Smith, who plays one of the cam girls).
The short, while well-acted, lacks the punchy dialogue that Smith is known for. It also devolves into torture porn (quite literally) fast. So, it is more like Smith watched Hot Girls Wanted and one too many I Spit on Your Grave remakes for his own good. Given his track record, “Halloween” is rather disappointing.
It is the classic holiday movie predicament: it’s Christmas Eve and Dad (Seth Green) didn’t get the gift for his son. So…he steals the last one off of a dying man. Uvu is the virtual reality device of the future, showing you exactly what you want to see. Except, of course, when you steal it from a dead man.
Green is adequately frightened in this short that extends just short of being interesting. Given a novel premise, “Christmas” could have been the best short in the film. Instead, it doesn’t progress far enough to be a completed piece.
New Year’s Eve
A sadistic online dater (Andrew Bowen) picks out a new date. He is perfectly unsettling, awkwardly making idle conversation. Lorenza Izzo, too, is convincing as the seemingly desperate other half.
The short is just that: short and to the point. But it does the job well. The turn, while predictable, plays out in a fun way, and its blend of splatter and dark comedy is the best tonal mixture in the entire film.
Holidays does not fall as hard into the tonal pitfalls of many horror anthologies (*cough* ABCs of Death *cough*), but it certainly isn’t horror gold. Each short has its moments and its promise, but none have the narrative strength to stand on their own. When put together, they are mere mediocre parts in a fledgling whole.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)