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Holistay (2023) Review

Holistay is the latest in an ever growing list of AirBnB-themed horrors. From Creep Nation and Exit through Superhost and, of course, Barbarian, there’s a plethora of films warning us to get a hotel room if we want to stay alive. Although, considering how many horror films have been set in hotels, maybe we should just stay home,

Opening with a brief scene where two individuals whose faces we don’t see pull up to a house and do some half-assed cleaning then leave, Holistay then introduces us to an Irish couple Finn (Gavin O’Fearraigh, Coast Mafia, The Girl’s Guide to Depravity) and Branna (Erin Gavin, Marilyn & Sinatra, Dread) who are in San Diego, the film was actually shot in Los Vegas, on vacation.

They’ve barely gotten into their rental when Tony (Steven Martini, Murder Syndicate, The Curse of Downers Grove) and Gia (Gabriela Kulaif, Kaka Nirvana) arrive from New York. There’s been a double booking. They can’t reach the owner, but since the house is big enough, they decide to share overnight. But with a lack of hotel rooms due to it being Comic-Con weekend, and the two couples getting along, they decide to just continue the arrangement.

Holistay Branna in Kitchen Nightime

The first narrative film from writer/director Mary Patel-Gallagher, her previous credit was co-director of the documentary Electile Dysfunction: Inside the Business of American Campaigns, Holistay starts slowly and with an annoyingly unsteady camera. It’s not found footage shaky, more like handheld by somebody who can’t quite hold still, just enough to be persistently irritating.

When the plot finally does take a turn, it’s not into the macabre as you might expect. Holistay becomes a crime film, with one of the couples not being who they claim. There’s a matter of some embezzled money and someone having to slip out of the country. In and of itself that’s not a bad thing, plenty of genre films involve criminals getting themselves into situations their guns can’t get them out of.

Holistay Druid Still (Hot Tub)

Unfortunately, Holistay is just about all talk for most of its running time. The couples talk incessantly and do assorted touristy activities, or they talk about things like a safari park and hot air ballooning then we see some stock footage. There’s no sense of tension from the crime angle. Even worse, the one time the supernatural turns up in the first part of the film, we get a couple of glimpses of what looks like a cosplayer who got lost on his way home from Comic-Con.

Finally, in the last half hour, we get some screaming in the night. No, it’s not the neighbors playing Krokus, it seems there’s an infestation of banshees. This leads to the film’s one amusing scene, Tony stalking around the grounds threatening to go all Tony Soprano on the unseen entity. Unfortunately, with ten minutes left in the film, it’s way too late to help things.

Holistay Bailiee Banshee

The idea of banshees and druids manifesting in present-day San Diego certainly had some potential. Banshees anywhere have potential, they’re a creepy and underused spectre that is due a good film. Unfortunately, not only does Holistay barely use them, it wastes them on an ending that’s so obvious even a last name reveal in the end credits can’t make it more obvious.

The elements were all there, and with a bit of work Patel-Gallagher could have had a creepy little film that would have worked even with what appears to have been a nearly non-existant budget. This time, it wasn’t a lack of money that doomed the project. Holistay was killed by the lack of good writing.

Breaking Glass Pictures has released Holistay to Digital Platforms.

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And for those of you young enough not to get the joke

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