Holidays (2016)

holidaysposterStarring Kevin Smith, Lorenza Izzo, Seth Green, Clare Grant, Michael Gross

Directed by Kevin Smith, Gary Shore, Scott Stewart, Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, Sarah Adina Smith, Nicholas McCarthy, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Anthony Scott Burns


Trick or Treat, Ho-Ho-Ho, and Happy April Fools’ Day! Yes, it’s time again for another horror anthology film that explores the seamy dark underbelly of America’s most beloved holidays.

While I’ll admit I’m fairly fed up with this trend, Holidays is actually one of the better themed omnibus offerings, thanks in no small part to its cinematic feel and better-than-average casts. In the negative column is a forced artiness present in many of the stories, along with a too-cool-for school hipster sensibility from several of the directors. (Still, I’d rather watch cinematic nouvelle vague wannabes doing horror than the sloppily slapped together lowbrow stab-n-slab meets creaky comedy I’m usually subjected to.)

Holidays‘ directors are a collective of some of Hollywood’s most dastardly darlings, including Kevin Smith (Tusk), Gary Shore (Dracula Untold), Scott Stewart (Dark Skies), Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes), Sarah Adina Smith (The Midnight Swim), Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact), Adam Egypt Mortimer (Some Kind of Hate) and Anthony Scott Burns (Darknet). Let’s break down the segments individually:

VALENTINE’S DAY
– Written and Directed by Dennis Widmyer & Kevin Kölsch
– Starring Madeline Coghlan, Savannah Kennick, and Rick Peters

When high school outcast (think: Carrie White, sans dialogue and pig’s blood) receives an encouraging gesture from her dive team coach on Valentine’s Day, she sets out to get him the perfect gift in return… no matter what the cost. Predictable, but well-made.

ST. PATRICK’S DAY
– Written and Directed by Gary Shore
– Starring Ruth Bradley, Isolt McCaffrey, and Peter Campion

After accepting a tormented trinket from a student, teacher Elizabeth discovers she is pregnant with a something not human. Despite her initial horror, Elizabeth decides to give birth, even if it kills her. Taking place in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day focuses on the Paganist aspects of the legend of the Saint, making him sinister and spooky for the intent and purpose of this tiny tale of terror. The acting is excellent; the story isn’t.

EASTER
– Written and Directed by Nicholas McCarthy
– Starring Ava Acres, Petra Wright, and Mark Steger

A little girl questions the meaning of Easter while being put to bed by her mother with yet another fairy tale. Struggling to explain the celebratory notion of the holiday, mother only adds to daughter’s confusion. That evening as the holiday looms, the girl’s worst fears are realized when a horrifying hybrid of Jesus and the Easter Bunny comes to visit.

MOTHER’S DAY
– Written and Directed by Sarah Adina Smith
– Starring Sophie Traub, Aleksa Palladino, Sheila Vand, Jennifer Lafleur, and Sonja Kinski

A freaky fertility story, Mother’s Day tells the tale of Kate, a cursed young lady who gets pregnant every time she has sex. Every time. Birth control is useless, and abortion is her only course. No doctor or specialist has been able to figure out why this happens, until she attends a fertility ceremony in the high desert, led by a shaman. This is one of those high-minded parables that paints itself into a high concept corner and goes nowhere.

FATHER’S DAY
– Written and Directed by Anthony Scott Burns
– Starring Jocelin Donahue and Michael Gross

After the two weakest stories back-to-back, comes one of the strongest. Holidays thankfully redeems itself with Father’s Day. Meet Carol, a young lady who grew up without a father. According to her mother, her dad passed away when she was very little. But is that the truth? It’s Father’s Day now, and a mysterious package has been dropped off on Carol’s doorstep. Inside, she finds a tape recorder from the early 80s. After replacing aged batteries, she presses the PLAY button… and hears a message from her “daddy” that he recorded many years ago. Unable to quell her curiosity, Carol embarks on a journey down memory lane that results in a reunion that is equally frightening and thought-provoking.

HALLOWEEN
– Written and Directed by Kevin Smith
– Starring Ashley Greene, Olivia Roush, Harley Quinn Smith, Harley Morenstein, and Shelby Kemper

When three webcam girls living under the roof and iron fist of their employer, Ian, have finally had enough with the demoralizing conditions in which they’ve been forced to live, they decide to take control of the house. However, their method of revenge borders on insanity. Here’s another one that starts off with an interesting premise but devolves into a disappointing mess. Also, it’s not really Halloween-themed at all.

CHRISTMAS
– Written and Directed by Scott Stewart
– Starring Seth Green and Clare Grant

Pete is tasked with buying the year’s hottest toy for his son’s Christmas present – the uVu, a virtual reality gadget. When Pete misses the chance to buy the last available uVu in town by seconds, he makes a questionable choice to acquire it. When Christmas arrives, Pete finds the uVu haunting him with visions of his misdeeds but, in his attempts to hide them, discovers that his wife, Sara, has even darker secrets of her own. Fans of “Black Mirror” will love Christmas. While it’s very good – and Seth Green is great – it’s hardly revelatory.

NEW YEAR’S EVE
– Written by Dennis Widmyer & Kevin Kölsch
– Directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer
– Starring Lorenza Izzo and Andrew Bowen

New Year’s Eve turns into the worst first date ever when lonely girl Jean accepts a dinner invitation from an awkward (and, oops!, psychotic) sad sack whose last relationship ended in murder. This is one of the best of the bunch, ending the Holidays anthology on a high – and gory – note.

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Staci Layne Wilson

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