Not only has the anthology format made a huge comeback in the horror genre, but the holiday-themed anthology has become the go-to anthology topic. Think about it; it is a great idea to have a short film about each holiday. This is a great way to flex some creative muscle on some of the lesser known holidays. Sometimes this format works. There was 2015’s A Christmas Horror Story and 2007’s Trick R’ Treat. These are both successful films, but they only really focused on one holiday. The new film, Holidays, though, attempts to tackle a few more of the lesser known holidays. Let’s see if it succeeds.
Holidays has a total of eight stories, each on a different holiday, written and directed by ten different filmmakers. The anthology starts on a holiday that comes early in the year, “Valentine’s Day.” We then visit other holidays in succession: “St. Patrick’s Day,” “Easter,” “Mother’s Day,” and “Father’s Day,” and then we go to the better known holidays, “Halloween,” “Christmas,” and “New Year’s.” Most of the stories plots’ themes revolve around the holiday they are honoring. For example, in the “Valentine’s Day” short, we have the story of an awkward teen, Maxine (Madeleine Coghlan) who is in love with/obsessed with her swim coach (Rick Peters). The coach has a bad heart and we learn he is on the donor recipient list for a new one. Maxi pad, as Maxine’s cruel classmates call her, bully and tease her, but Max keeps it together up until the coach gives her a Valentine’s Day card. You can probably tell where all this goes with just the few plot elements I mentioned. Yeah, it was a predictable story, but it was fun.
The anthology’s middle stories just didn’t work for me at all. “St. Patrick’s Day” could have been a fun little snake cult-inspired story, but it was a little too unfocused and couldn’t seem to decide if it wanted to be like The Wicker Man or The Lair of the White Worm–that is, more psychedelic.
“Easter,” “Mother’s Day,” and “Father’s Day,” just didn’t do it for me at all. The stories, again, felt unfocused and just weren’t that strong. There were elements in each short that were solid, but the overall stories just didn’t work.
Then we finally get to “Halloween,” written and directed by Kevin Smith. Smith is the kind of filmmaker people seem to either love or hate. I’m in the former camp. Smith’s story here is dark, twisted, and easily the best one to this point. The story focuses on Ian (Harley Morenstein), a sleazy guy who runs a sex chat room business. He makes his girls a lot of big promises, but he treats them like shit and uses them for his own personal pleasure. Finally, on Halloween night, the three girls get together and take some overdue revenger on Ian. It is fantastic and without giving it away, involves a vibrator hooked up to a car battery. Yikes!! Really fun story.
“Christmas” is also one of the better shorts. This short, written and directed by Scott Stewart, explores greed, guilt, and untapped passions. Seth Green stars as Pete Gunderson, a man who is out on Christmas Eve desperate to find and buy his kid the hottest toy of the season, the Uvu–a virtual reality set of glasses. Pete’s wife, Sara (played by Seth’s real life wife, Clare Grant) is a shrew of a woman. She never misses a moment to emasculate Pete, but when she finds out what he did to get the last pair of Uvu, she changes her tone. “Christmas” plays out like a typical Twilight Zone episode and even though it has some dark elements to it, it never really feels like it has any edge to it.
The anthology ends on a fun note. “New Year’s” isn’t the most original short you’ll see, but the premise is fun and the cast brings some good energy to the project. A lonely girl reaches out on an online dating site for a date for New Year’s Eve. Only one problem–the guy she hooks up with is a serial killer. The girl is so desperate for human contact and to make a connection with another human being that she overlooks the guy’s obvious, um, issues. We’ll call them issues. There’s a fun twist at the end that you’ll see coming, but this doesn’t make the twist any less fun.
Holidays is an overall fun anthology that, although is uneven and suffers from poor writing in more than a few stories, has a few strong entries that make this one worth checking out.
Directors: Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Kolsch, Nicholas McCarthy, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Ellen Reid, Gary Shore, Kevin Smith, Sarah Adina Smith, Scott Stewart, and Dennis Widmyer.
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars (for the overall anthology)
Gore: 5 out of 10 skulls (for the overall anthology)
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains (for the overall anthology)
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer