We’ve been enjoying sort of a indie horror anthology renaissance over the last few years, and personally I think it’s been pretty great. Your own mileage my vary on the specific titles, but films like V/H/S, The ABCs of Death, A Christmas Horror Story, Tales of Halloween, and Southbound provide a very valuable service for both horror filmmakers and horror film watchers. While most of these recent anthologies are low-budget, non-flashy, nuts-and-bolts movies, the simple truth is that one often finds a lot of creativity and cleverness tucked into these productions.
Or maybe I was just raised on flicks like Asylum, Creepshow, and Tales from the Darkside: The Movie and have grown to love anthology horror films. Not only do they add some mainstream legitimacy to “shorts” (which is always nice) but they also add a nice diversion from traditional feature films in that you’re getting a variety pack. If one segment doesn’t thrill you, the next one might. Also there’s the mystery of where each new story is headed, how freaky it may be (tonally speaking), and how long it might be.
And that brings us to the latest entry in the indie horror anthology catalog, which is called Holidays (yep, because each of its eight tales centers on a different holiday) and boasts a pretty eclectic mix of filmmakers.
Valentine’s Day — A simple, straightforward, and gruesomely satisfying story about teenage crushes, horrible bullies, and unexpected gifts. Co-directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer (of the very solid Starry Eyes) present a revenge story that’s just a bit predictable but still delivers a fast-paced, well-performed, and nicely-shot little terror tale.
St. Patrick’s Day — Director Gary Shore (Dracula Untold) presents a wild, weird, and consistently unnerving spin on the ol’ St. Patrick legend. A young schoolteacher discovers she’s pregnant (which is good news) with a snake (that’s the bad news). Vaguely reminiscent of The Wicker Man (or that could be just in my head), this freaky short goes from simple narrative to unchained strangeness at a very brisk clip. It’s weird and I dig it.
Easter — A young girl meets a very unpleasant version of the Easter Bunny in this calmly disturbing entry from Nicholas McCarthy (director of The Pact and the highly underrated At the Devil’s Door), and while not a whole lot actually happens in this chapter, it does set an ominous tone… and that rabbit monster is pretty much nightmare fuel.
Mother’s Day — Sarah Adina Smith (director of little-seen but impressive feature The Midnight Swim) spins a yarn about a troubled young woman who gets pregnant every time she has sex. (Literally every time.) If that prospect doesn’t sound scary enough, the poor gal decides to attend a creepy fertility ritual in the middle of the desert. And that’s when things get even weirder. This is a strangely fascinating tale, and one I wouldn’t mind seeing expanded to feature length.
Father’s Day — A young woman follows a very strange series of clues in an effort to “locate” her dead father. Anthony Scott Burns (of the very cool Darknet series) cooks up a creepy premise and then (rather intensely) follows it to a suitably scary conclusion.
Halloween — Longtime geek-friendly filmmaker Kevin Smith chimes in with a gross, immature, and nastily amusing story about three young women, one awful man, a webcam, a car battery, and a… let’s say sex toy. Offers a few foul-mouthed laughs and a gruesome conclusion, and it ends precisely when it should, so we can forgive the mini-flick for not having all that much to do with Halloween.
Christmas — Seth Green stars as a desperate dad who acquires the hot new virtual reality toy through very unseemly means… and then lives to regret it once the true power of the “UvU” headset is revealed. Scott Stewart (Legion, Priest) brings a playful tone to this humorously morbid short — it plays a lot like an episode of HBO’s old Tales from the Crypt series, truth be told — and closes with on a naughty/nice beat.
New Year’s Eve — Adam Egypt Mortimer (director of Some Kind of Hate, which is worth checking out) presents a simple story of a lunatic who plans to kill his date… only she has some plans of her own. It’s OK if you’ve already halfway predicted how this story ends, because there are a few twists this time, and the two leads are pretty great. It all plays out like some horrific live-action Tom & Jerry cartoon, and that’s meant to be a compliment.
As is (almost) always the case with anthology films, Holidays is best described as a “mixed bag.” And yet it’s the wildly different collection of tones, attitudes, and storytelling styles that makes the collection so interesting. It runs from dark humor to bleak horror, and from traditional short-form narrative to outright avant garde arthouse weirdness. All in all, nothing that exactly transcends the established anthology format, but still, worth checking out if you’re a fan of all those other movies I mentioned in paragraph one.
3.5 miniature yet monstrous burritos out of 5
Holidays opens this weekend in limited release and will also be available on the VOD pipes.
Photo credit: Vertical Entertainment and XYZ Films