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Tribeca ’16: Holidays Review

Holidays review: Screening at Tribeca Film Festival as part of the Midnight programme we review new horror anthology Holidays.

Ever since V/H/S snuck its way onto the scene there has been a resurgence of anthology movies within the horror genre. We’ve had another two V/H/S movies as well as two A, B, C’s of Death, a Christmas themed one – A Christmas Horror Story, and Tales of Halloween. Now comes Holidays, a film that builds on the idea of the latter mentioned films, but expands from just Christmas and Halloween to encompass all our favourite holidays. Here’s our Holidays review, straight from Tribeca.

Many other anthology films, right back to the likes of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie and The Twilight Zone Movie, feature an overarching plot that wraps around our series of short films. This decision has been many an anthology’s downfall as these sections tend to be very weak and contrived. Thankfully Holidays forgoes this idea, instead using holiday specific greetings cards to divide the tales. The stories themselves run in holiday chronological order (starting at Valentine’s and running through to New Year’s) and feature a diverse range of ideas and styles.

Holidays starts strong with the Valentine’s segment, directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, the men behind the creepy Hollywood Occult film Starry Eyes. Their tale charts the perils of a teenage crush (i.e. obsession) as bullied swim team teen Maxine does a dark deed to ensure the life of her swim coach and infatuation. The duo again prove that they can write bitches as Maxine’s swim team rival Heidi is instantly abrasive and annoying. Anyone who found Erin too much to take in Starry Eyes should be ready to feel full on rage against Heidi almost immediately, she is utterly detestable. With echoes of the dive scene in The Craft and the Queen Bee hierarchy of Heathers (Heidi wears the sacred red scrunchie) this is the chapter for women who grew-up with those teen horrors to embrace.

Next up is St. Patrick’s Day, a date that works within it’s narrative as a catalyst for the events that follow. Irish primary school teacher Elizabeth finds herself the target of a new and very odd student. Waking up after what appears to be a very boozy St. Patricks Day eve the young teacher finds herself pregnant, and then things get really twisted. I’ll say no more, other than Gary Shore has created one of the strangest entries in the film and goes to some very ‘out there’ places.

If you know your calendar you’ll know that the next important date on the holiday list is Easter. Our heroine of this holiday is a young girl who is more than a little freaked out about the whole Jesus resurrection / Easter Bunny situation. Her mother does her best to calm her daughter, but after waking in the night she finds herself face to face with her worst fears. Nicholas McCarthy’s reveal is so macabre it’ll haunt your dreams.

We then get to the double of Mother’s and Father’s day, directed by Sarah Adina Smith, and Anthony Scott Burns respectively. The former sees young (and exceptionally fertile) woman Kate the victim of a fertility cult, the latter has a bereaved daughter receive a message from her father from beyond the grave. The two tales work well paired next to each other and have some interesting visual contrasts. Mother’s Day is heavily set in the bright setting of the desert, whilst the Father’s Day story takes place at night in some very dark places. Mother’s Day fittingly deals with pregnancy and (a rather bloody) birth, whereas Father’s Day investigates death and what lies beyond. Both are powerful stories and form a strong middle section.

The anthology next arrives at the big horror holiday, Halloween. Such a big holiday should be directed by a suitably big director and Holidays has given this prestige to Kevin Smith. Those that have seen Tusk worry not, his section is much more cohesive and not quite as stomach-churning. Halloween sees a trio of web-cam performers (one of them Smith’s actual daughter Harley Quinn Smith) turn the tables on their despicable boss. Male audiences be warned, this one will have you squirming in your seats.

A Christmas Horror Story featured a series of Christmas themed holiday horrors, but rather than create a story saturated in Christmas director Scott Stewart merely uses it as a backdrop. Seth Green tracks down the must-have Christmas gadget, a set of VR glasses. Unfortunately for Seth there is a ‘fault’ with his glasses and his world starts to unravel. It’s one of the shorter sections, but the message still hits home.

Holidays ends as the year does on New Year’s Eve. Written by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, New Year’s gives Some Kind of Hate director Adam Egypt Mortimer a chance to show what he can do with someone else’s material. It stars rising scream queen Lorenza Izzo as one half of a 96% matched blind date. The night spins out of control and ends the film with a massive bang.

My one main negative with Holidays is that several chapters finish earlier than I would like. I’d like to see what the Coach in Valentine’s Day does with his ‘gift’, hear what mum’s voicemail in Father’s Day said, and the Mother’s Day section could do with just an extra ten seconds to really hammer home its dramatic conclusion.

Given some of the directions that Holidays veers off into, this is not really a film for the mindless masses. An understanding and appreciation of the horror genre is vital to make it through the 100 minute run time without melting into a puddle.

Holidays is a delightfully dark, traumatically twisted jaunt through our favourite calendar dates.

Holidays screens at Tribeca ’16 as part from 15th April and will be available on digital platforms worldwide from 16th April.

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