HOLIDAYS is the latest in the welcome trend of horror anthologies and (for some) has been one of the most highly anticipated horror releases of the year. With names like Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer (STARRY EYES), Kevin Smith (you know who Kevin Smith is), Nicholas McCarthy (THE PACT, AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR), Sarah Adina Smith (THE MIDNIGHT SWIM), Adam Egypt Mortimer (SOME KIND OF HATE), Scott Stewart (DARK SKIES), Gary Shore (DRACULA UNTOLD), and Anthony Scott Burns (DARKNET) helming a total of eight segments, each based on a different holiday, it’s easy to understand why there’s so much excitement sound this one.
As with any horror anthology, HOLIDAYS is a “mixed bag”. I know that’s a cliché thing to say, and almost a given with an anthology, but I’m not sure there’s really any other way to say it. Segment quality ranges from fantastic to super-dull with most falling somewhere in between. With anthologies, however, there’s always going to be a different favorite segment depending on who you ask (though I suspect an overwhelming majority of horror fans will gravitate toward one in particular in this case).
I’ll just cut right to it. The Easter-themed segment (from Nicholas McCarthy) is by far the stand-out of HOLIDAYS. The horror genre has needed an iconic Easter movie for a long time, and while the recently released BUNNY THE KILLER THING will no doubt get plenty of annual viewings, I’ve definitely found my candidate with this portion of HOLIDAYS. I’m not going to say much about what happens in it, but let’s just say it involves both of the major components of this holiday – the Easter Bunny and Christ. Ok, there’s eggs and chicks too, but that’s seriously all I’m saying about it.
On the other end of the spectrum is Kevin Smith’s Halloween portion, which mostly feels like a squandered opportunity. Beyond being set on Halloween, the short has little to do with the holiday, and there are certainly no plot components that required it to be set on that day. Sure, there are some witch references, but there’s really not much of a connection. That’s not the main problem though. It’s more that the segment just isn’t very entertaining and feels rather juvenile (but not in the usual, fun Kevin Smith way). The acting leaves a bit to be desired, and the dialogue (where Smith has historically excelled) just doesn’t land well. To be clear, I’m not one to hate on Smith. I’m well aware of how divisive he is. I’ve generally loved most of his films. With his contribution being one of the theoretical highlights of a horror anthology, it’s hard not to dismiss this one as the biggest disappointment of the lot. It’s not entirely unlike the feeling I (and many others) got from Ti West’s ABCS OF DEATH segment, though I suppose Smith’s short at least had its heart in the right place with the plot. It just could’ve been executed a lot better.
I won’t let Smith carry the complete burden of disappointment though, as the Valentine’s Day segment from Kolsch and Widmyer was a huge step backward from their acclaimed STARRY EYES. The segment involving a bullied young girl with a crush on her swimming coach just doesn’t go anywhere particularly interesting enough to make up for the unrelenting annoyance of one of the character. Thisis the segment that starts the film, and it’s not a great note to start on. That said, the directors didn’t write this one (they did write the far more entertaining New Year’s segment) and on a visual level, this short is actually pretty good.
Most of the remaining segments have interesting elements (some more than others), but don’t quite hit the mark. There are two types of “what the fuck?” moments – the good “Wow, that’s incredible” kind and the bad “Uh, that’s it?” kind. There are quite a few “What the fuck?” moments peppered throughout these segments, but unfortunately they’re usually of the latter variety. The Father’s Day segment, which features Jocelin Donahue (HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) is pretty engaging throughout, but peters out by the time it’s over. Donahue does well with the material (which funnily enough involves her walking around with headphones on again – no dancing this time).
The New Year’s segment from Adam Egypt Mortimer starring Lorezna Izzo (THE GREEN INFERNO) is one of the stronger of the bunch, though there’s really not a lot to it. If the preceding segments had delivered more, I’m not sure it would have stood out as much. Either way, it was a reasonably satisfying conclusion to a mostly lackluster anthology.
Beyond the issues with HOLIDAYS‘ various segments (which are mostly in the writing and occasionally with performances), the package as a whole feels relatively disjointed. There’s no wraparound or anything that really connects any of the segments together. It’s more like an ABCs OF DEATH than a TRICK ‘R TREAT in that way. And there’s no Thanksgiving segment! But hey, at least there’s no found footage.
HOLIDAYS hits VOD on April 15. Despite all the negative I’ve spouted off here, I still strongly recommend giving it a watch if for no other reason than to see the amazing Easter segment.
Holidays’ eight segments range from great to pretty bad with the majority falling in the mediocre category. Overall, the anthology is disjointed and could have benefited from some more polished writing. Easter kicks ass though!