Review: HOLIDAY HELL (2019)
Well, it’s the start of October, which means it’s time for guess what? If you said Christmas movies, congratulations! Granted, Holiday Hell is a seasonally themed horror film, but it is set around December festivities. Well maybe with one exception.
Amelia (Meagan Karimi-Naser) is looking for a last-minute gift on Christmas Eve. She wanders into a bizarre curio store with an equally strange shopkeeper Thaddeus Rosemont (Jeffrey Combs, Re-Animator, Feardotcom). As she looks at various items, he tells her the stories attached to them.
Dollface, directed by Jeff Vigil, is a throwback to 80s slasher films. Ironically, given their tendency to be holiday-themed, this is the one segment that isn’t tied to one. A bunch of teens decides to party in a house with an evil past. And of course, a masked killer starts picking them off.
With characters who say things like “OMFG you dyke”, mostly off-screen killings and a twist ending you could see a mile away, it wasn’t a promising start.
The Hand That Rocks The Dreidel is, as you can guess, Hanukkah themed. Kevin (Forrest Campbell) gets a very special doll from his parents for the last day of Hanukkah. Right before they leave on a business trip. His babysitter Lisa (Amber Stonebraker, Between The Trees) is so obviously up to no good you have to ask how she got the job.
She and her equally scummy boyfriend plan to rob the home while they’re gone. I don’t think I have to tell you the doll comes to life. Jeff Ferrell gives the story a couple of neat twists. And the doll, which resembles a Medieval Rabbi, is different and quite creepy looking.
Christmas Carnage gives us a killer in a Santa suit. But rather than a typical Silent Night Deadly Night clone, director David Burns mixes some pathos into the story. Chris (Joel Murray, Bloodsucking Bastards, Hatchet) is down on his luck. He didn’t get the promotion he was up for, it went to Tom (Jeff Bryan Davis) the office douchebag instead. His wife (Alisa Marshall) treats him worse than usual as a result.
Playing Santa at the company Christmas party, he finds out Tom is also the reason his wife hasn’t been giving him any. A few drinks too many and a couple of the company’s untested happy pills later, he’s ready for revenge.
This segment definitely brings the violence and the one-liners you expect from a slasher. “You nailed my wife. Now I’m gonna nail you.” he tells Tom before emptying a nail gun into his crotch. But it still actually makes you feel bad for Chris and how he was driven to this. Joel Murray, brother of Bill and Brian-Doyle Murray, gives a standout performance here as well.
Room To Let is the final story, and Amelia tells it. Anna (McKenna Ralston) is a young girl moving out on her own. She’s taken in by the seemingly kindly Lavinia (Lisa Carswell). This being a horror film, we know she and the townspeople have ulterior motives for their kindness. And their own way of celebrating in December.
Jeremy Berg does what can with it, but it’s all too familiar. I could tell how it was going to end almost from the start. It does, however, feed into the wraparound’s ending and ties things up fairly nicely.
Holiday Hell ends up with two above-average stories, one OK tale, and one dud, The wraparound is an added bonus. It’s actually good, unlike many other anthologies, where it’s usually the weak point of the film.
Uncork’d Entertainment will release Holiday Hell to theatres starting October 11th. You can get a list of theatres and dates on the film’s Facebook page. After that, it will be available exclusively on Tubi 10/15 and Digital and DVD 11/5.