Why focus on just one holiday when you can have eight? In Holidays (2016), we are presented with eight different short films focusing on one holiday each, each by a different director, and not all of them work – but the ones that do are guaranteed home runs.
It’s an interesting premise, one that I’m surprised took so long to become realized. There’ve been countless Halloween anthologies, but one that focuses on eight separate holidays? Now that’s an idea. It holds the potential to create something infinitely more interesting than your standard anthology film, especially given the nine different directors on board that have contributed segments for the film, including Kevin Smith – who, unfortunately gives the least entertaining segment out of the whole bunch in “Halloween,” a mean-spirited and just plain unpleasant tale of literal torture porn. But I digress – while I’m still largely upset about the Halloween segment being wasted on such a throwaway effort, there’s still loads of fun to be had in Holidays.
The greatest part about the anthology is that it’s a lot more bizarre than it is scary; the first five segments, most notably “St. Patrick’s Day”, mostly put their weight behind being strange. The bizarre and the campy, when it comes to anthology films, always seem to work wonders, and the weirder segments make the lackluster parts seem that much staler. Dracula Untold’s Gary Shore’s Irish holiday story concerns a woman who becomes pregnant on St. Patrick’s Day with a snake…and it only gets weirder from there. The cinematography in this segment is of top-quality, a veritable piece of eye candy for any viewer, whether or not the strange story is appealing to your personal tastes or not.
Still, that’s just child’s play when compared to Nicholas McCarthy’s “Easter”, a twisted tale about a little girl (Ava Acres, who played a role in the outstanding At the Devil’s Door) who, confused about what Jesus Christ has to do with the Easter Bunny giving treats, awakens in the middle of the night to find a nearly hairless bunny Jesus humanoid bearing the stigmata before taking her away (typing that out makes it feel all the more insane). It’s equal parts terrifying and strange and is undoubtedly the most bizarre out of the bunch, with excellent creature effects and an unsettling atmosphere to top it all off.
But the one-two punch of absurdity found in “St. Patrick’s Day” and “Easter” quickly shifts to flat-out horror in “Mother’s Day”, another strange tale of pregnancy gone wrong directed by Sarah Adina Smith. Here, a young woman is cursed with becoming pregnant every time she has sex, which has given way to over twenty abortions. Her doctor prescribes a visit to a desert-hippie maternity clinic to “cure” her, but things certainly don’t go as planned…after all, this is a horror film, is it not? There’s quite a shock to be found in this one and leads in perfectly to “Father’s Day”, starring The House of the Devil’s Jocelin Donahue and directed by Anthony Scott Burns. It differs from the rest by being beautifully atmospheric and creepy while also retaining a sense of real emotion, something the other segments disregard in favor of either utter strangeness or strong violence.
Holidays starts off strong with “Valentine’s Day” by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer of 2014’s sleeper hit Starry Eyes and gets stronger with each segment until “Halloween”, which, as mentioned before, is absolutely the worst of the bunch. It picks up a bit with “Christmas”, starring Seth Green, but ultimately feels a slight bit uninspired, and ends on a mediocre note with “New Year’s Eve”, featuring a boring plotline and a predictable twist. Still, the first five segments are so overwhelmingly great and bizarre that it is most definitely worth your time – but if you turned it off after the gem that is “Father’s Day”, you wouldn’t be missing much.
Holidays is available now on most VOD services.