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Friday, August 19, 2016

Holidays (2016) Horror Anthology

Holidays (2016) - Anyone who regularly checks in on this blog will know that I love horror anthologies. There is always the promise of that distinct clear piece of horror that the short format is made for. Some writer and director work in unison with a small crew to create the perfect little shock, dread, surprise making the viewer remember that story above all the others. So many times one or two parts are the cliche cream that rises to the top. Then of course there are segments that do not get the raves, sometimes by very established writers and directors. It's okay though in this format. Not everything connects with everyone and the great thing about an anthology is that the discussions that come out of this tidbit about personal taste can be just as entertaining. Where I can love the creeping dread of one story, someone else can see it as a plodding road to nowhere. Where the 80's kitsch of one piece is not appreciated by some twenty something it is relished by an older person. There is usually something for everyone though so I will keep reviewing them and welcome feedback about what connected with you.
 Dennis Widmyer and directed by Kevin Kolsch who did the wonderfully creepy Starry Eyes (2014) about how far one can go to find fame. The style is very different in this segment about a picked on dreamer who has a crush on her gym teacher. Written (I'm guessing) to play on the mean teen movies of the eighties and nineties it at first seems the characters are overly stereotyped and acted. Then we shift and see the surreal fantasy of the main character Maxine (Madeleine Coghlan) as she daydreams and realize that this is all very much an aesthetic choice. Her crush on her gym teacher and  her abuse at the hands of the mean girls lead by Heidi (Savannah Kennick) put the viewer in one headset only to have it shift a bit later into a more sinister scene. Still playing the line of being a lost segment from a Creepshow film it goes from a cheesy story of a picked on girl to a wonderfully threatening stalking sequence and back to that fanciful if somewhat expected ending.
 Holidays is a collection based on a set of holidays, Valentine's day, St. Patrick's day, Easter, Mother's day, Father's Day, Halloween, Christmas, and New Year's Eve. Chronologically may be the way to present this review so let's start with Valentine's Day written by
  St. Patrick's Day by Gary Shore plays first on that disturbing child motif where the smiling child just creeps the shit out of you. Shore who directed the recent Dracula Untold (2014) has written a piece that centers around the myth of St. Patrick who drove the pagans from Ireland but is said to have driven the snakes from the Island the more commonly known metaphor. In this little tale a teacher Elizabeth (Ruth Bradley) desperate for a child in her life teaches at primary school with a strange new student. A girl GrĂ¡inne (Isolt McCaffrey) who is isolated too being new to the school. Efforts by the teacher to engage are met with a gift, a straw snake with the sentence, "Only your deepest wish can make me smile." Using quick and sometimes off putting editing to move the timeline along the film plays out a story of dark desire and the unexpected consequences a wish can have. Built in to that those is some really creepy child smiling and a continuation of the snake pagan of Ireland myth setup in the first scene. What I like about this film is the sharing of the knowledge of the the baby inside Elizabeth is not quite right and still her insistence that she carry it to term. The strange birthing scene in the tub that shifts to the pagan ritual in the next it all plays out in a cool little crazy journey.
  The simple but dark tale for Easter is about a small girl who is told that little kids have to go to bed the night before Easter and not get up. That they are not allowed to see the Easter Bunny.  The opening scene with her Mother reminded me of putting my daughter to bed and how sometimes it takes a lot to get them to settle and for the parent to get out of the room. To connect the Easter story to Jesus this is a family morning the death of the Father so the kid has questions about death and Jesus coming back from the dead. Now its been a while so I am not totally sure how age appropriate those question by little girl (Ava Acres) but it does setup the late night encounter well. Writer Director Nicholas McCarthy (At the Devil's Door) , (The Pact) does the scary house scene well hitting all the right notes and the effects for the man in the bunny suit (Mark Steger) are wonderful. The dread felt for the little girl is palpable throughout their encounter. Weird but very enjoyable!
  Mother's Day is a twist of a tale where we have a woman with a fertility problem instead of a infertility one. Kate (Sophie Traub) has the problem of getting pregnant every time she has sex. The pain of multiple abortions has her at her wits end. Dr. Harding (Jennifer Lafleur) suggest she go to a women's group centered around fertility. A bit unusual but maybe she can find some solace there. Here is where writer, director Sarah Adina Smith twist things. We all think that the women there are there because they can't get pregnant and that is true; but there is a more sinister meaning to why they want Kate there to be in their fertility ritual. The most adult of the stories in the collection the appropriate nudity is insignificant to the more mature ideas of rape under the influence and kidnapping. The shocking if a bit unrealistic visually, ending does not do justice to what is a serious story in my opinion.
  Father's Day written and directed by Anthony Scott Burns takes a more cerebral approach telling the story of Carol (Jocelin Donahue) a teacher who years before lost her Father. In this present she receives a box that includes a cassette tape. On it is a message from her Father. He apologizes for leaving her but at the same time takes her on a present day journey where they can be reunited. The film covers her struggle with his message and then the suggestion that she could now join him where he is. We watch Carol take the journey. The tape as it plays and guides her melds the past with the present is a very original way. Scary as it draws to its conclusion we relive Carol's childhood trauma while anticipating her future one. A really nice complete story about one woman's desire to see her Father again and the horrific consequences of the desire.
  My least favorite story of the collection was Kevin Smith's Halloween. The unlikable lead character Ian (Harley Morenstein) was just too much to overcome even if he gets his comeuppance. He is a man that lures young woman to Hollywood to be Cam girls, woman who perform on webcams. Taking advantage of young women he is a sweet talking on the phone until he has them at the apartment and then he is a real dick to them. We see this in two scenes one where he is sweet talking girls on the phone to get them to move to his pace, and then his other side as he verbally abuses his current girls because they want a night off to celebrate Halloween. Really the only connection to the holiday is, it is when the events take place. Even the ridiculous monologue about the witches coven does little to add an atmosphere captured more readily by the other stories. I am saying it is a wonderful little torture the three women end up afflicting on Ian making him the star of his own webcam show. The story is vulgar and not really in the spirit of horror more than a revenge story.
  The Christmas centered story is about trying to get the hottest toy on the Market for his kid. uVu is the latest in virtual reality with the slogan uVu shows you you! It's Christmas eve and Pete Gunderson (Seth Green) thinks he has landed the sought after item but after rushing down to the store he finds the last one is walking out the door not held for him as he thought he had an agreement for. Pete tries his best to get the guy who scored the head wear to sell it to him but to no avail. When an unexpected occurrence happens Pete has a morally challenging decision to make. Does he step in to help or take advantage of the situation for his own gain. His wife is thrilled that they got the device and when Pete tries it for the first time he is so surprised at the mental connection and how it shows a surprising fantasy hiding in his mind. Of course these things have a way of flipping and soon the guilt feeling from his decision show him a nightmare that leave him reeling. When his wife Sara (Clare Grant) confronts him later looking at his images since he forgot to log out things shift. Writer Director Scott Stewart, (Legion, Dark Skies) has the story asks questions about the secrets that couples keep from each other and challenges the idea of being completely open in a relationship. Well turned the story is a creepy little tale of unexpected behavior.
  The final story by Adam Egypt Mortimor, written by Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes) was quite enjoyable, establishing a sick serial killer who preys on date site victims and then turning it all on its head was really great. Andrew Bowen is the creepy serial killer Reggie who on New Year's Eve get more than he can handle from his internet date Jean (Lorenza Izzo) the last story is tight and taut with tension before exploding into violence and murder. It is a very good capping piece to what is a very good collection. This one is good and recommended so get it and see it.
  As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 186 people while the followers is only 31 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :)

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