Holidays (2016)

Holidays is a 2016 horror anthology movie about, well, holidays. What'd you think it was about huh? The movie is an amalgamation of 8 different short films, each about a different holiday. How'd they all come together? Well, check out the trailer and then head further south for our review. Unless you're worried about spoilers, because you'll find those too.

 
 

Mark: Holidays. Here we go, Jake. Here. We. Go. Holidays. That’s what we’re talking about this week. Yup. Holidays. Bang.

Jake: The hell is wrong with you, dude?

Mark: Nothing. Why? Did somebody tell you otherwise? They were wrong. I’m fine, dude. Nothing is wrong with me. How are you? Let’s talk about Holidays. Holidays the film. We touched on this one briefly a while back when it was coming out at the Tribeca Film Festival and we all seemed to be pretty high on it. I, for one, still love that trailer music. That alone would’ve bumped up the overall experience a notch or two. Going back and watching the trailer again, they did a pretty good job of setting the tone for this thing: dark, moody, and with a hint of camp.

Jake: I agree. The trailer had me excited, and as I mentioned waaaay back in our Nightmare Before Christmas review, a holiday themed horror anthology is a total no brainer. It’s something that needed to be made. Low hanging fruit. Ripe for a deep dive. All the jargon. I will add, however, that I didn’t expect the level of camp to be quite as high as it was in the movie based on the trailer. Not a bad thing at all; just an observation.

Mark: One thing we’re going to implement for this review is a set of two ratings for each short: overall quality and a so-called “holiday score” based on how well it adheres to the target holiday. The whole point of an anthology movie is that there are a bunch of riffs on a common theme or setting. As such, these movies deserve to get rated on how well they actually belong in this anthology.

Jake: Makes sense. I’m in.

Mark: The whole thing starts off with Valentine’s Day. Honestly, spoiler alert, this was my favorite of the whole shebang. In short, it’s the ballad of a girl who gets bullied a lot on her diving team. She’s in love with the coach. Hilarity ensues. Except that it’s not hilarity. It’s terror. The whole thing is shot brilliantly, lots of vertical angles, great use of color and lighting… all that jazz. This segment was brought to us by the same folks that did Starry Eyes back in 2014, Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer. Truthfully, I haven’t actually seen that one, but I might have to go back and give it a shot after seeing Valentine’s Day.

 

And we know what you're thinking . . . this segment was not just 2002's critically acclaimed Swimfan. Although do we see a crossover in the future?

 

Jake: I’ve heard wildly varying opinions on Starry Eyes, but haven't seen it either. As for Valentine’s Day, it was not my favorite segment. I thought there were some interesting elements at play (as Mark noted) with the lighting and color palette,and I really liked the turn it presented by going from an over-the-top camp-fest to just plain unsettling without missing a beat.

Mark: As an overall score I gave this one a 7.5, and as a holiday score I gave this one a 6. Like I said before this one was one of my favorites, and I think that it actually did a great job of incorporating the theme of Valentine’s Day. The only thing that brought it down a bit was the purposefully-over-the-top dialog. I get what they were going for, and I actually think it was executed well, but it does end up distracting a bit at the same time.

Jake: I gave this one a 4, and my holiday score would probably be fairly close as well. I get the punchline of the heart and Valentine’s Day, but aside from the swim coach mentioning it is Valentine’s Day and giving our main character a card out of pity because of what the other girls do to her (which actually sets her off like a nuclear bomb), this could have happened on pretty much any day of the year. And that’s an indictment that carries forward to much of the rest of the film.

Mark: And that brings us to the Day of Saint Patrick, or St. Paddy’s Day as it is known colloquially. I would say as a whole, this is the holiday we understand least on this blog, but that’s probably because every time we learn about it we immediately go out to bars and get loaded on green beers. I’m not sure, but I think those two things are correlated. I just don’t think there’s enough science behind it to really understand the linkage there.

Jake: That was a lot of words to get to a joke about getting drunk on St Paddy’s Day. Also, my Irish heritage is telling you to go fuck yourself. Overgeneralization. The beers are not always green. And there’s some real lore about St. Patrick banishing the snakes from Ireland to explain why there are no snakes on the island. In all fairness, I’m sure the Irish were drunk when that tale was first told. And every time it’s been told since. And right now.

Mark: Turns out, I just really really don’t want to talk about this actual film. It was just boring. Something something snakes. Something something pregnancy. Also, this one covered more than a full year for some reason. Literally the only scary thing about this one is the tiny little ginger girl, Granya. She smiles a lot, which is creepy due to her lack of soul.

Jake: Mark, you fucking racist. It’s Gráinne. How dare you misspell it. Just because she’s soulless doesn’t mean you can keep insulting the Irish. No more green beers man… Also, I think I enjoyed this one more than you because I didn’t take it at face value. It’s not a bit about a woman getting impregnated by some pagan demon snake. Well, it is, but not really. It’s all in her mind, man. She’s a woman with fertility issues who just goes off the deep end.

Mark: I’m not willing to give this one that level of benefit of the doubt. I would like the movie more if it were that, but it’s not so I don’t like it more. I like it less. Logic. I’m giving this one 2 overall, and about a 4 on holiday. I guess they sort of incorporate Irishness into the narrative a bit, and the plot more or less revolves around getting blackout drunk and waking up in the backseat of your own car. Too bad the story itself was boring and dumb and tacky and I hate you.

 
 

Jake: I gave this segment a 4 because I sort of liked the utter insanity of the ending and because Gráinne is creepy. Holiday adherence? 4. I don’t feel like it did the optimal thing for St. Patrick’s Day but I’ve got to commend director Gary Shore on actually selecting something related to the patron saint the holiday is named for. It was unique, so there’s that.

Mark: We then find ourselves hopping along to Easter Town. Population: At least two horrifying monstrosities fingerbanging each others’ stab wounds. This one was legit incredible. It was everything a short film should be, which is to say it was absurd and disconcerting. This thing made me hella unsettled.

Jake: Man oh man, this one really helped bring me back into things from an immersion standpoint. I loved it. It takes what Easter actually is, and what Easter’s Hallmark card popularized, bastard stepchild is, and it smushes them together into this fucking amazing looking, practical effect loaded mother fucker. So good. Bonus points for the little girl actually asking relevant questions about Jesus’ reincarnation and the Easter Bunny’s ability to sneak into their home.  

Mark: Easter was a great, but also terribly uncomfortable experience. It was high-concept and executed well on said concept. It gets a 10 on holiday score and a 9 overall. Note that if all of these movies were made into feature length films I wouldn’t be surprised if this one ended up being the worst.

 
 

Jake: I gave this segment a 4 because I sort of liked the utter insanity of the ending and because Gráinne is creepy. Holiday adherence? 4. I don’t feel like it did the optimal thing for St. Patrick’s Day but I’ve got to commend director Gary Shore on actually selecting something related to the patron saint the holiday is named for. It was unique, so there’s that.

Mark: We then find ourselves hopping along to Easter Town. Population: At least two horrifying monstrosities fingerbanging each others’ stab wounds. This one was legit incredible. It was everything a short film should be, which is to say it was absurd and disconcerting. This thing made me hella unsettled.

Jake: Man oh man, this one really helped bring me back into things from an immersion standpoint. I loved it. It takes what Easter actually is, and what Easter’s Hallmark card popularized, bastard stepchild is, and it smushes them together into this fucking amazing looking, practical effect loaded mother fucker. So good. Bonus points for the little girl actually asking relevant questions about Jesus’ reincarnation and the Easter Bunny’s ability to sneak into their home.  

Mark: Easter was a great, but also terribly uncomfortable experience. It was high-concept and executed well on said concept. It gets a 10 on holiday score and a 9 overall. Note that if all of these movies were made into feature length films I wouldn’t be surprised if this one ended up being the worst.

Jake: I don’t really get why that would be. I think it would just slow the burn and go with its creature reveal over a longer period of time. I thought it did a great job of following the same steps of effective creature reveal as a feature film, but in a condensed manner to match the format. Holiday score is a 9 because I’d have liked a bit of backstory on how Jesus and a mystical bunny can and do exist as one. Just a bit. Overall this one gets a 9 from me as well.

Mark: I just think that the best thing about short films, and what makes many of them so effective, is that they aren’t constrained by traditional narrative structure. They get in, set up the premise as quickly as possible, deliver the punchline, and peace right on out of there. If you were to throw this one into 90 minutes or more you’d have some stupid background exposition on how the Easter Bunny is actually a severely burned madman who escaped from a mental institution and is seeking revenge on the people who experimented on him or some other bullshit about how he is a demon summoned via the ritualistic boiling of eggs symbolizing sacrificing youth. That was a long sentence but totally worth it. Can’t you see them utterly dismantling this thing?

Jake: Oh I totally can. And they probably would, you’re right. What I’m saying is that there is a feature in there, and in the event that it were done correctly, it would be awesome. For the record, done correctly in this case would be a movie, much like this one, but simply focused on the creature reveal. I could see it being similar to Dark Was the Night, actually.

Mark: Let’s move along to Mother’s Day, which gets lumped into the same category as St Paddy’s Day. Just bland and boring. There’s a fertility cult and Khal Drogo… and that’s just about it. Actually, I think I just made it seem way more interesting than it actually was. Do we really even need to talk about this one? This is essentially the bathroom break of the movie. Feel free to get up and relieve yourself, you aren’t missing anything.

Jake: Spoiler alert. This was my least favorite. Seriously, fuck this one. I do have to comment about something because I take issue with one thing in particular. It’s about a woman who gets pregnant every time she has sex. She’s had like 23 abortions and she’s pretty torn up about it. So what does she do? I’ll tell you what she doesn’t do. She doesn’t practice abstinence. She doesn’t have a hysterectomy. What she does do is take some wackadoo doctor’s advice to go to a bananas cult in the desert and birth a demon. It sucked.

Mark: Yeah, whatever. Overall it gets a 3 and it gets a 0 on holiday score. Moving along. Nothing to see here.

Jake: Overall 3. Holiday 1. Fuck it. Hard.

Mark: Going off of what I said earlier, if all of these movies were made into feature length movies, Father’s Day is far and away the one I would be most excited about. In part because I have no fucking clue what actually happened. This movie was basically all flash and no substance, and somehow it was totally awesome. Also of note: the tape recorder and headphones combo is one of the best props I’ve seen in any movie for quite some time. That shit perfectly set the tone for a time travelling sentimental journey into what seems like a haunted city hall.

Jake: This was my favorite film in the anthology. I’m not sure if it’s scoring any bonus points because of how bad Mother’s Day was, but this really played the hero and saved the whole movie for me because I was getting ready to tap out. I’m in total agreement with Mark on all the points above, and I’ll add that they (they being director Anthony Scott Burns) did an unbelievable job of building tension. I was hooked, and I loved the setting. It honestly felt like this one could have been inserted into Southbound and not only would have felt at home, but would have made the movie much stronger for it as well.

Mark: Look, this one get’s an 8 overall. It’s real good. The only issue is it really doesn’t belong in a holidays anthology, and has essentially nothing to do with Father’s Day. I mean, yeah, it’s based around the relationship between a father and his daughter, but that’s not what Father’s Day is about. Father’s Day is about making your kids mow the lawn while you drink an Arnold Palmer and make bad puns. I saw none of those things in this short.

Jake: It’s a great point, man. And it’s funny because like I said, this is my favorite film in the anthology. I’m giving it a 9 (like Easter but with tilt factor), but it has essentially nothing to do with the holiday. Holiday score is a 1 for me because of the points you mentioned. It’s part of my indictment of the movie as a whole. For a movie to be called Holidays, and deal with short films about individual holidays, I really expected and wanted more direct associations to be made.

Mark: Oh good, Halloween. Surely this one will live up to the nature of the holiday and really underpin the fear and gluttony and mischief that drives the holiday. Noooooope. Kevin Smith (Silent Bob) made this one and apparently insisted that he get to make Halloween. Okay, fine, fair. Well, Kevin, why the hell didn’t you make a movie about Halloween then? This could’ve been set on literally any holiday and still been the exact same. That aside, the contraption device that is key to the plot of this one makes no sense. Also, why would you use a car battery instead of just pulling current from the house wiring? Also, why wouldn’t you just cut the cord with the knife they gave you? Also, why would you cast EpicMealTime guy and then not have epic food of some variety in the background at all? Also, why would you cast EpicMealTime guy? Fuck this shit, I haven’t been this annoyed by a story since We Are Still Here. So that’s what, like a month or so? Shits getting my head all borked.

Jake: Look, I didn’t like it either, and I have the same complaints. Aside from Harley. That shit was funny, and really set the tone for the short. I mean, if you’ve watched Epic Meal Time, is his character really any different? No. He’s the Sauce Boss, it worked.

 
 

Jake: So yeah, the tone was clearly “who gives a fuck?”. But the problem is if that is the approach, then why in the holy fuck is it wasted on the holiday that has the most possibilities for a horror movie? Fuck that.

Mark: Overall, 2. Holiday score, 0. Kevin Smith should not be trusted to pick holidays or design electronic equipment.

Jake: Holiday score is a 1 for the candy and plastic jack-o-lanterns at the start. Overall, I’m giving it a 3 strictly because of Harley. Without him, it’s the worst one by far.

Mark: Christmas Eve. Seth Green. VR Pornstravaganza. This one is basically just another riff on the classic nice-guy-who-is-tired-of-finishing-last-allows-somebody-to-die-and-then-steals-from-them-and-then-finds-out-his-wife-is-a-murderer-through-a-poorly-conceived-technology-of-some-kind trope. You know the one. You’ve seen it hundreds of times. Hey at least Seth Green is decent in it.

Jake: I have almost nothing to add other than this worthless sentence. I guess I liked the concept that the VR headset shows people truths about themselves in a Twilight Zone-style sort of way. There’s really not much to say. You know what? Why don’t i just go eat some hay? I can make things out of clay and lay by the bay. I just may. What do you say?

 
 

Mark: Christmas Eve was right down the middle. It gets a 5 for both holiday score and overall score. I would’ve probably had more to say about this one if it didn’t just sorta... end...

Jake: I gave it a 6 for both scores and at this point I think it’s primarily because mediocrity appears just a bit more appealing than it would outside the confines of this anthology.

Mark: New Year's Eve is the last film in the anthology and it’s basically a home invasion/slasher type movie. Short story even shorter this one turns into a serial killer vs serial killer hilarious mixup. Cue the Benny Hill music. If this is the type of thing that floats your boat check out Pretty Little Miss on youtube.

 
 

Jake: Whoa whoa whoa. It’s neither of those fucking things. I’m not prepared to begin an argument with you over how insane that is at the end of a review, but just know that I hate you. Dude uses dating websites but is a demented individual and ends up killing all the girls he dates when things don’t work out. Thing is, the girl on this particular night has a trick up her sleeve. And by sleeve, I mean an axe, a bathtub full of rotting corpses, and a medicine cabinet full of name-labeled jars of eyeballs. Auld lang fuckin’ syne.

Mark: Wait, she has a trick up her axe? That doesn’t make any sense, Jake. This one came down on the slightly better than average side if for no other reason than the guy’s janked up teeth. It gets a 6. It also fits into the holiday better than most with the countdown at midnight syncing up with the two killers fighting each other so it gets a 6 on that front as well. At least it had some solid gore effects.

Jake: Hey, despite your bullshit from earlier, we agree! Not a terrible note to end on. 6’s from me.

Mark: Wonderful, we end in agreement that the slasher home-invasion bit gets a six. Super. Let’s rate this thing. But like, overall. Not like what we’ve already done. That was different.

RATINGS (1-10):

For 1, think of how Frank Costanza would rate his love for his friends and family during Festivus:

 
 

For 10, think of how much you want a bird in a bird in a bird in a bird in a bird in a pig:

 
 

STORY:

Mark: 3 - But Mark, you gave Southbound an 8 for story? We thought you liked anthologies? Well, nameless voice, I do. They allow filmmakers to take creative chances without much recourse, but there are rules dammit. You can’t just make whatever willy nilly film you want and shoehorn it into some bucket for the purposes of it getting along with its new anthological friends. With a few exceptions, 3 to be specific, these movies just generally failed to unite under a common theme.

Jake: 3 - As I said earlier, an extremely important part of an anthology centered around holidays is that the fucking movie actually covers the holidays. Almost all of these shorts touched on just enough of the subject matter to technically tie into a story, but almost none of them actually depended on the respective holidays enough to matter. It almost seemed like an afterthought for many of them, which is too bad.

WORLD-BUILDING / IMMERSION:

Mark: 3 - This is almost always a weak category for anthology movies. It’s just hard to get immersed in even the best short film because you’re only given a few minutes to do so. They usually make it up by being able to explore great concepts that don’t lend themselves to full length movies, but in this case the movie tried to juggle two balls and dropped both.

Jake: 4 - Believe it or not, the transition cards helped my immersion a non-zero amount. Even though I think it did a pretty bad job of actually depicting holidays, the idea of holidays kept me involved just enough throughout. It got hairy at times though. There were a few times where I was really disengaged.

SCARE-FACTOR:

Mark: 6 - Easter, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, and to a lesser extent New Years Eve all had their moments. Many of the others were just middling, while St Paddy’s Day and Mother’s Day balanced it out by being horseshit. Easter is one of the most legitimately unsettling things I’ve seen in awhile.

Jake: 3 - Easter bunny zombie Jesus was a great, creepy use of practical effects. The creeping dread of Father’s Day was cool. The unsettling ending of Valentine’s day was well done. Other than that, not much to see here.

EFFECTS (OR JUDICIOUS LACK THEREOF):

Mark: 6 - I don’t have a ton to say for this category. There were some pretty solid effects, though generally they were fairly simple. The truly exceptional aspects including basically all of Easter and Father’s Day were the highlights in this one. Unfortunately that’s only 25% of the movie. Unlike Jake, I didn't much care for the transition cards.

Jake: 7 - I thought the effects, while they varied greatly, were better than average. Easter was master-class. I also don’t think that many of these shorts got too big for their britches and fucked anything up, helping the judicious lack thereof part of this score a bit

OVERALL:

Mark: 4.5 - It seems like anthologies generally end up being either better or worse than the sum of their parts, but never equal to. I think it’s because as a result of jamming all of these short films together you’re expecting there to be some type of synergy between all of the pieces. Otherwise what the hell is the point? Well this one definitely lacks the synergy. It would’ve been alright that none of the movies cross-communicated if they had stuck to their themes. Unfortunately, as we already discussed, the vast majority fell well short of that mark.

Jake: 4.5 - This just didn’t hit the spot it needed to hit for an anthology that is holidays related for me. There are some bright spots and I’d recommend watching a few of these, but no need to subject yourself to all of them as there is no real thread tying them all together. I could see a Holidays 2 being made, and I’m optimistic (for some fucking reason) that they will work out a few of the kinks and improve for the next go.