'Holidays': Film Review

Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
An uneven collection.

Kevin Smith is among the many directors contributing short films to this holiday-themed horror anthology.

Horror anthology films tend to live or die by their thematic conceits, and Holidays, at least, has a good one. Featuring eight short films — each one relating to a different holiday — by nine mostly up-and-coming directors (with a few ringers thrown in), the uneven collection is guaranteed to permanently tarnish at least one of your favorite days.

The highlights of the bunch are genuinely imaginative and creepy in ways recalling the best episodes of Night Gallery and Tales From the Crypt (unlike those two, there's no connecting narrator or host here, not that one was needed). In Anthony Scott Burns' Father's Day, a young woman who believes her father died a long time ago receives a vintage cassette recording in which he tells her that he's very much alive and instructs her on how to find him. With his eerie voice guiding her on a journey that might as well be to Hades, she represents everyone desperate to reconnect with a lost loved one. The haunting segment is marred only by its unsatisfying shock ending.

Scott Stewart's Christmas is another winner. A desperate father, Pete (Seth Green), attempts to procure a coveted gift of a virtual reality headset for his young son, only to find the last one bought up by another man, who promptly suffers a heart attack on the street. Leaving the man to die and taking the priceless package for himself, Pete tries it on at home and discovers to his horror that it allows him to see things he very much doesn't want to.

The influence of Rosemary's Baby is distinctly apparent in two of the films. In Sarah Adina Smith's Mother's Day, a young woman is plagued by a condition in which she gets pregnant after every sexual encounter. Her female doctor sends her to the desert to take part in a ritualistic fertility ceremony, where she gives birth to … well, no spoilers here. Gary Shore's St. Patrick's Day concerns a teacher who gets pregnant, with her doctor warning her, "We're not certain with what." It turns out to be, in a riff on the legend of St. Patrick expelling snakes from Ireland, a reptile. But maternal love has no limits.

The most baroque entry is Nicholas McCarthy's Easter, in which a mother tries to explain to her confused little girl what Jesus has to do with the Easter Bunny. The poor moppet soon finds out, when she's visited during the night by a horrific figure sporting bunny ears, a crown of thorns and stigmata that it asks her to touch … ewww.

The other segments are either too derivative or too nasty. Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Koslch's Valentine's Day riffs on Carrie with its tale of a bullied high school student and her sympathetic swimming coach, in desperate need of a heart transplant, who gives her a Valentine's Day card. Her twisted way of paying him back gives new meaning to killing two birds with one stone. In Adam Egypt Mortimer's New Year's Eve, a homicidal maniac goes out on a first date with a woman who turns out to be more of a match for him than he could ever have imagined.

The nadir comes via Kevin Smith's Halloween, with the director's imprint evident from the first few minutes featuring a slew of F-bombs. A trio of webcam sex workers, inspired by the idea of a witch's coven, take revenge on their abusive boss by knocking him unconscious and super-gluing his buttocks shut, although not before inserting a large vibrator hooked up to a car battery. What, they couldn't find a way to attach him to a human centipede?

Distributor: Vertical Entertainment, XYZ Films
Production: Distant Corners Entertainment
Cast: Madeline Coghlan, Savannah Kennick, Rick Peters, Ruth Bradley, Isolt McCafrey, Peter Campion, Ava Acres, Petra Wright, Mark Steger, Sophie Traub, Aleksa Palladino, Sheila Vand, Jennifer Lafleur, Sonja Kinski, Jocelin Donahue, Michael Gross, Ashley Greene, Olivia Roush, Harley Quinn Smith, Harley Morenstein, Shelby Kemper, Seth Green, Clare Grant, Lorenza Izzo, Andrew Bowen
Director-screenwriters: Dennis Widmyer, Kevin Kolsch, Gary Shore, Nicholas McCarthy, Sarah Adina Smith, Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Smith, Scott Stewart, Adam Egypt Mortimer
Producers: Aram Tertzakian, Kyle Franke, Tim Connors, John Hegeman, Dennis Widmyer, Kevin Kolsch, Gary Shore, Nicholas McCarthy, Sarah Adina Smith, Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Smith, Scott Stewart, Adam Egypt Mortimer
Executive producers: Roger Coleman, Blue Elephant Partners, James Avery, Andrew Barrer, Gabe Ferrari, Nate Bolotin, Nick Spicer

Rated R, 101 minutes