HOLIDAYS (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Holidays poster

Directed by: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer, Gary Shore, Nicholas McCarthy, Sarah Adina Smith, Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Smith & Scott Stewart

Written by: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer, Gary Shore, Nicholas McCarthy, Sarah Adina Smith, Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Smith & Scott Stewart

Starring: Madeleine Coghlan, Savannah Kennick, Rick Peters, Ruth Bradley, Peter Campion, Ava Acres, Petra Wright, Sophie Traub, Jocelin Donahue, Michael Gross, Ashley Greene, Harley Quinn Smith, Seth Green, Clare Grant, Lorenza Izzo & Andrew Bowen

It seems like horror anthologies are becoming more frequent these days. We’ve had two massive horror anthologies revolving around the alphabet (THE ABC’S OF DEATH series), cursed video tapes (the V/H/S trilogy), and short stories around a single holiday (A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY, TALES OF HALLOWEEN). The premise for HOLIDAYS is exactly what the title suggests: various directors took on a major holiday and based a short horror film around that celebration. This ingenious concept sounds like it would open the floor to limitless possibilities, but only a few creative ideas actually make it to the surface in this mixed bag anthology.

1. V Day

VALENTINE’S DAY: We kick off in February with Valentine’s Day (a.k.a. Singles Awareness Day). This brief, to-the-point short follows a teenage swimmer who’s relentlessly picked on by the rest of her team. However, the coach shows this bullied outcast a bit of kindness by giving her a Valentine’s Day card, which serves as an inspiration for something violent. This segment’s stylistic visuals elevate it slightly above the predictable plot. While a gruesome punch line makes this short worth watching, I felt the 10-minute segment was okay. Nothing more, nothing less. B-

2. SP Day

ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Surprisingly, there are no drunken shenanigans or leprechauns to be found in this March 17th story. Director/writer Gary Shore (DRACULA UNTOLD) opts for a bit of Irish folklore instead. A teacher, who desperately wants a child, becomes mysteriously pregnant…and her baby might not be human. While this story’s initial set-up promised some freakish body horror, the execution was deliberately wacky. I have no problem with horror-comedies, but these jokes and absurd visuals seem weird for the sake of being weird. The cringe-inducingly awkward finale cemented this as second-worst segment in the film. D-

3. Easter

EASTER: This seems like the most forgivable holiday to screw up. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of potential for a creepy Easter tale. However, director/writer Nicholas McCarthy had something truly frightening in mind when he penned this short. A little girl finds herself scared by the concept of both the Easter Bunny and Jesus. Her fears come to life when she gets a glass of water…right as the Easter Bunny arrives at her home. This segment is genuinely freaky and had a legitimately effective jump scare. While the ending seems familiar, I really dug the hellish nature of this second-best holiday! B+

4. M Day

MOTHER’S DAY: And the title of worst segment goes to…this crapfest. A young woman finds herself pregnant every time she has sex (even when extreme protective measures are taken) and has gone through countless abortions as a result. Her latest pregnancy takes her to a creepy retreat where the women are less than enthusiastic that one among their ranks wishes to get rid of her unborn child. What follow is a slow, tedious crawl to a finish line that seems laughably bad. This segment slightly resembles ST. PATRICK’S DAY, but doesn’t even give us a brief glimmer of potential in its opening. Awful. F

5. F Day

FATHER’S DAY: We jump from the film’s worst segment straight to the best holiday of the bunch. A young woman receives an audio tape from her long-dead father. Using this long-lost sound recording, she retraces the steps of where her father disappeared. Director/writer Anthony Scott Burns builds serious suspense with very little at his disposal, as this short mainly consists of long shots of this woman walking through a spooky location with audio that becomes more disturbing as it continues to play. It’s enough to send a few chills up your spine and it certainly did so for me. Even though the ending is a tad rushed, this short still stands head and shoulders above the rest of this anthology! A-

6. Halloween

HALLOWEEN: Of all the holidays in this anthology, you’d probably think that Halloween would be the easiest segment to create. Too bad that Kevin Smith doesn’t do anything remotely Halloween related (all we get are a few decorations, a bag of candy, and nothing else) with his short and instead decides to whip out an overly crude torture-porn sequence. Three girls decide to get revenge on their abusive pimp through some grisly means. This feels like Kevin Smith watched bits of A SERBIAN FILM and SAW and thought to himself “Hey, I can do that, but with my patented quirky sense of humor!” It simply doesn’t work in a five-minute short that’s supposed to be centered around Halloween. This wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but still seems obnoxious and forced. D+

7. Christmas

CHRISTMAS: This potentially great segment is short-ended by an underdeveloped conclusion. A desperate father picks up a virtual reality headset for his child’s Christmas present and gets more than he bargained for. This short has its moments and I did like where things seemed to be heading in the finale, but the conclusion is so rushed and stinted that it cut off any momentum that this story had going for it. At least, Seth Green seems to be having fun as the father. C

8. New Years Eve

NEW YEAR’S EVE: A serial killer, who bases his murders around various holidays, picks up a potential new victim on New Year’s Eve. However, things are more complicated than they appear. From that synopsis alone, you probably have a good idea about where this short is heading. The plot basically gives itself up within the first minute. It’s still a lot of fun to watch though, as this segment’s humor really worked and a couple of solid gore gags make their way into the mix too. It’s nice to see the uneven HOLIDAYS end on a high note. B

9. Overall

HOLIDAYS reminds me a lot of the first ABC’S OF DEATH. The premise seems to be brimming with creativity, but half of the filmmakers don’t seem interested in delivering something scary or original. As a result, this horror-anthology is the perfect example of a mixed bag. Half of the segments are good and the other half fall flat. It’s almost worth recommending the film for FATHER’S DAY and EASTER by themselves. NEW YEAR’S EVE and VALENTINE’S DAY are fun, but nothing special. CHRISTMAS feels like it could have been one of the best segments, if it weren’t for the lackluster ending. HALLOWEEN feels like another Kevin Smith mistake as he tries to navigate his way through the horror-comedy genre. ST. PATRICK’S DAY and MOTHER’S DAY are inexcusably bad. If you’re in the mood for a horror-anthology and have completely run out of options, then you might want to check this out on Netflix or cable. Otherwise, you’re not missing much.

Grade: C

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