Words by Scott Murphy
Directors: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Gary Shore, Nicholas McCarthy, Sarah Adina Smith, Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Smith, Scott Stewart
Cast: Madeleine Coghlan, Ruth Bradley, Ava Acres, Sophie Traub, Jocelin Donahue, Harley Quinn Smith, Seth Green, Clare Grant, Lorenza Izzo, Andrew Bowen
Running Time: 105mins
Anthology movies have long history in horror but since the 1980’s they had really fallen out of fashion. The success of V/H/S Trilogy and the ABC’s of Death’s movies have brought horror film anthologies back into vogue. Holidays, much like in the case of the ABC’s of Death, does not try to tie the stories together with a wraparound story bookending the movie but makes the connection purely conceptual with each story taking place on a different holiday following them chronologically throughout the year.
The opening segment is “Valentine’s Day” which centres around a bullied girl who has a crush on her swimming coach. Due to the bullying and, for the most part, a locker room setting it can’t help but feel reminiscent of “Carrie”. It has cool Carpenter-esque score and has a pleasingly gory punch line to the tale but in the end feels slight and rather throwaway.
This segment is not the only one of the stories to nod to a horror classic as both the second and fourth segments, Gary Shore’s “St Patrick’s Day” and Sarah Adina Smith’s “Mother’s Day”, pay homage to “Rosemary’s Baby”. The latter has an initially intriguing concept about a woman who gets pregnant every time she has sex and running out of hope with conventional medicine to remedy this goes on a spiritual retreat in order to stop this happening but things do not go as planned. While this has a cool SoCal setting and a trippy Manson-eque vibe ultimately it felt like a miss due to being overlong and derivative of stuff most horror fans will have seen before. The former however is a beautifully loopy tale that involves a teacher (Ruth Bradley) who becomes pregnant with a snake. To give too much else away would spoil it but it mixes in body horror, comedy and pagan myths to good effect. It is also has a hilarious film within a film as Bradley’s character is showing the children an educational video about the origins of St Patrick’s where we see him literally slinging snakes out of Ireland.
The third segment “Easter” is both the most visually imaginative and possibly most demented. It start with a conversation between a mother and daughter (Ava Acres) about the daughters concerns and fears over the Easter Bunny and Jesus. Later we are presented with the sight of what a cross between the Easter Bunny and Jesus would look like and it is once the coolest, creepiest and most bizarre practical effect creations you are likely to see. It is one of the shorter segment but definitely leaves an impact.
In Anthony Scott Burn’s “Father’s Day” we see a girl receive a mysterious package. It turns out to be a cassette from her father she whom long thought dead which sets her on a strange journey. This section is beautifully filmed and creates an atmosphere of creeping dread but the payoff left this viewer frustrated and felt it sucked the air out of the story. That said it does leaving a lingering impression long after watching it so it must be doing something right.
Unfortunately Kevin Smith’s section “Halloween” is probably one of the weaker ones. The set-up is kind of cool as there is fun to be had in seeing three cam girls (one of which is Harley Quinn Smith)taking their revenge on their creepy pimp/landlord (Epic Meal Times Harley Morenstein) but the goofy opening does not sit well with the torture porn unpleasantness that follows and despite some decent lines it feels a little tossed together.
The end two tales are, of course, “Christmas” and “New Year’s Eve”. “Christmas” is a fun tale which sees Seth Green as a sad-sack father who makes a fateful decision in order to obtain a new VR headset as a Christmas present for his son. It has a neat concept, something of a “Tales of Unexpected” feel to it and a nice twist to boot. It also feels like a good note to end on which makes Adam Egypt Mortimer’s “New Year’s Eve” seem somewhat what tacked on. It is a solid slasher short in which a woman (Lorenza Izzo) goes on a first date with a serial killer but not all is as it seems. It is a tad unoriginal and delivers a blatantly obvious twist but the carnage is presented with an entertaining gleefulness.
Overall: As all of these Anthology movies are this is a mixed bag with some segments being stronger than others but unlike some none of the segments are stinkers. Different people will be drawn to different segments but for me the best were the weirdest those being Gary Shore’s “St Patrick’s Day” and Nicholas McCarthy’s “Easter”.
After the film screening there was another Q&A with Kevin Smith and Harley Quinn Smith:
Well after the Q&A for another Yoga Hosers screening massively overran, meaning Kevin and Harley Quinn could not do an intro for this film as planned, and with the other Q&A’s and events Kevin Smith had done, this final appearance at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival was more short and sweet. Although it was still an entertaining 30mins or so.This time we actually got more input from Harley Quinn, who had previously struggled to get a word in edge-wise at Yoga Hosers, with someone asking what many where thinking i.e. “Was it not a bit weird to be a cam-girl in a movie directed by your dad?” Harley Quinn said it was not that weird as she actually do anything sexual or that on screen. She also mentioned that generally a fun shoot as both mentioned it was something of a Yoga Hosers reunion as many of the same crew who worked on that film also were a part of the 2-day shoot for this.
Kevin was asked if he seen the other shorts that make up the film or just his own. He said that he had and thought the other directors were all very talent at what they more so than him (his words not mine) and was particularly impressed with the guy who did the “Easter” segment whom he called a “fucking genius”.
He also talked a little on how he came up with his segment and admitted he lifted the story of three cam girls living with a creep who employs them from Rashida Jones documentary “Hot Girls Wanted” and wondered what would happen if those girls took their revenge.Like the last Q&A there was some motivational stuff to send us home as Kevin stated that “everyone in this room is a filmmaker…you just have not made a film yet” and that he knew this because otherwise we would not have stayed behind and that anyway as filmmaker he could “smell his own”.
Which could all come off as really corny if not for Smith’s genuineness and wide-eyed enthusiasm he still has after 22 years in the film biz which is pretty cool.
Words by Scott Murphy