Holidays Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment
Directed by Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Smith, Kevin Kolsch, Adam Egypt Mortimer et al
Written by Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Kolsch, Nicholas McCarthy et al
2016, 100 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 10th October 2016
Lorenza Izzo as Jean
Seth Green as Pete Gunderson
Mark Steger as Bunny Man
Harley Quinn Smith as Holly
A student develops a crush on her swimming coach. A lonely teacher becomes pregnant after a night on the tiles. A young girl wakes up late the night before Easter, catching the Easter Bunny leaving his wares. A woman just can’t stop getting pregnant, so travels to a deserted retreat in an attempt to cure her problem. A young woman goes on a scavenger hunt in search of her missing father. Kevin Smith wants to fuck his own daughter or, at the very least, thinks you should. Seth Green picks up a creepy new bit of Christmas tech. Two people date on New Year’s Eve, but one of them might be a serial killer.
As horror anthologies go, Holidays has a great hook; a short story for every major holiday of the year. Its roster of directorial talent isn’t to be sniffed at either, taking in such names as Adam Egypt Mortimer (Some Kind of Hate), Kevin Smith (Red State, Tusk, and some genuinely good films too, once upon a time), Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes), Anthony Scott Burns (Dark Skies), Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact), Ellen Reid (um, nothing), Sarah Adina Smith (some short films), Scott Stewart (Legion and Priest) and Gary Shore (Dracula Untold…). Okay, maybe the usual horror heavy hitters were all busy with Tales of Halloween or an ABCs of Death sequel, but the turnout here is certainly worth a look.
As with any portmanteau piece, there’s both something for everyone and also the opposite of that; a segment of the horror chocolate orange guaranteed to utterly piss you off (it’s probably the one by Kevin Smith). The general hope, going in, is that the ratio of holiday cheer to upset skews more towards the former than the latter. Which thankfully, for this writer at least, Holidays succeeds in achieving.
It starts off smoothly, with Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Valentine’s Day setting the dark, blackly humorous tone which connects each piece. It’s one of the most predictable of the stories told here, but its conventionality helps ease us in, not being as out there or off-puttingly weird as anything left to come. Like a little taster dish before the Valentines’ Surf & Turf main course, it’s perfectly palatable but not even nearly fulfilling enough on its own.
Worry not though; Holidays gets weird fast, with Gary Shore’s St. Patrick’s Day and its complete shift into Irish madness. To say much more would be to spoil my absolute favourite piece in the collection, which is where Holidays is at its funniest (despite being less overtly comedic than later entries) and most bizarre. That this should come from the director of Dracula Untold – one of the blandest movies ever made – is particularly amusing, and hopefully bodes well for his future career.
Easter continues the weirdness, with its Krampus-esque Easter Bunny and pitch black resolution, while Ellen Reid and Sarah Adina Smith’s Mother’s Day go a little more surreal and creepy in their joint effort. It looks good and has a neat idea at its heart, but it’s the most forgettable of all the entries here. Unlike Anthony Scott Burns’ Father’s Day, which is easily the best of the bunch, and the one which audiences will remember the most, long after the film has finished. A spooky scavenger hunt with a recorded narration by its protagonist’s missing father, it’s haunting, touching and beautifully dream-like. It fluffs the ending a little and may be too obtuse for some, but is a great showcase for what can be achieved through the medium of short film.
Until the nadir, that is. In quick succession, Kevin Smith’s Halloween is a disgusting, creepy (not in a good way) bit about a group of online strippers getting the upper hand on their gross boss. It’s set during Halloween, but to no narrative impact – Smith being more interested in his own daughter and the sweary-but-not-clever script, no doubt written while as baked as he was when he came up with Tusk and Yoga Hosers. At least Johnny Depp and his stupid fake nose isn't in it, though. As it always tends to, Christmas comes next – a Black Mirror style sci-fi tinged tale by Scott Stewart about high-tech glasses which let the user see a little too much… Seth Green is in this one, so it gets a pass from me, even if it is one of the most predictable entries under the tree.
Finally, New Year’s Eve, by Adam Egypt Mortimer. In it, two loners go for a date on New Year’s Eve, before ending up back at the girl’s apartment. Like Seth Green, I’ll generally forgive Lorenza Izzo anything (even the horrible Knock Knock), and that extends to this one; so predictable that it finishes on a ‘twist’ which many short story magazines will tell you to not even bother submitting these days. This, like the preceding two, is a disappointment and a surprise, Halloween and Christmas/New Year’s being the most fertile breeding grounds for good horror. It’ll make you relieved that they didn’t bother with Thanksgiving, St. George’s Day (okay, not really a holiday) or Independence Day (Resurgence was bad enough).
Ultimately, and in spite of the best efforts of Kevin Smith, and the half-assing of at least two others, Holidays is a horror collection in which the good just about outweighs the bad.