It’s smack-dab in the middle of summer, which is scientifically proven to be the farthest point in the year from any holidays that are worth celebrating. Canada Day seems like a distant memory now, and Thanksgiving is basically a lifetime away.
So what better time to watch a movie all about holidays?
I noticed the film simply titled Holidays on Netflix after burning through the first half of the new season of BoJack Horseman the other night, and though I tend to shy away from horror movies a little more now that I live alone (I’m a big scaredy baby), I knew in my heart that I needed to watch this one. And not even in a “put it in the queue” sense. No, I played that sucker right then and there.
Holidays is a horror anthology, a genre that I had never really warmed to until very recently. It is composed of eight short films, each themed around a different holiday, and each by a different writer/director. It’s a lot like The ABCs of Death, but a little more substantial, because you’re not splitting the run time between 26 bite-size shorts. The eight stories here definitely vary in quality just about as much as the vignettes in The ABCs of Death, though. I’ll go through them in order of least to most enjoyable.
Mother’s Day – I thought this was the weakest story of the bunch, but that’s not the most damning criticism, because it’s not really bad. It could definitely be more interesting if fleshed out into a full story, but it just pales in comparison to the rest of the stories featured in Holidays. What bothered me the most is the, uh, “effect” at the end, which… is hard to describe without spoiling it. But I rewound it a couple of times just to check it out, and there’s just some weird spatial issues. It wouldn’t be worth most people’s time to pick at a half-second shot like this, but it bugged me because it was it was just so slightly off. If you’re really curious, but don’t want to watch the movie, the shot in question is like the second result if you type “holidays movie” into Google image search.
St Patrick’s Day – Again, not really a bad tale, but just totally friggin’ weird. Not really that horrifying, either? There’s a disturbing bathtub scene, but that’s the worst of it. Actually, it’s a lot like the Mother’s Day short, but with a slightly different bent. It’s also longer, and the ending is completely bonkers. They’re both stories about women who end up pregnant with non-human babies. Babies is the wrong word entirely for both scenarios, but I am not smart enough to know what the most fitting word would be. Anyway, this one’s got a little more characterization in both the mother and the folks around here, whereas Mother’s Day is more about the events than the people involved in them. I typically prefer stories that are more about the characters.
Halloween – This short was written and directed by Kevin Smith. Which means that I was very excited to see it, but was unsure about where it would land on the quality scale (EDITOR’S NOTE: Ryan, you still need to watch Tusk). This is the story of three camgirls and their abusive boss. When he won’t give them the night off for Halloween and then attempts to rape one of them, the girls knock him out and then get even. Or, I don’t know, maybe a little more than even. Depends on how many times he successfully violated these women. Anyway, it’s pretty gross, and I don’t think it even makes sense? Also, there’s a really cringe-inducingly awful monologue about halfway through that really takes the cake. Like, uuuuugh, I know you can write better than this, Kevin Smith. It’s probably the actual worst short of the bunch, but those other two were just so tepid that I had to rank them lower.
Valentine’s Day – This is the opening short of the collection, and it really only ranks low on my list because it’s totally predictable from the first minute. It is the story of a young girl who has a crush on her swimming coach and is bullied by her classmates. Can you guess what happens yet? Yeah. I do like the way that the main antagonist’s shield breaks down as the story comes to its climax, how it strips away her toughness and shows her vulnerability when there’s nobody around to posture for. Said climax is slow and brutal, and the conclusion wraps it up perfectly. Quite opposite of Mother’s Day, this story definitely works best as a short, and would really lose a lot if it was stretched out any longer.
Easter – You know when you’re a kid, and you start thinking about the holiday mascot stories that your parents tell, and start asking questions? That’s what this story is about. The first half is just a little girl pissing her mom off, asking too many questions about the Easter Bunny and Jesus and if Daddy is ever coming home. She’s unusually terrified by the thought of seeing the Easter Bunny, so of course, that’s what happens. Sort of. The second half is definitely surreal and feels a lot like the kind of thing that you’d see from Guillermo Del Toro. I enjoyed the creative twist they employed here, and the downer ending really stands out from the rest. Easter may only be halfway up the list here, but that’s only because the top four are almost all equally good. It’s all top-notch stuff from this point on.
Christmas – I’d just like to point out that the main character here is played by Seth Green. That’s already got my attention. In this short film, he plays a down-on-his-luck husband and father, who lost out on the year’s hottest toy on Christmas Eve when a shopkeeper sells the last unit to some smug douche. Said douche has a heart attack in the parking lot, and Seth Green proceeds to swipe the VR headset thingy and leave the man to die like a chump. It’s a very Twilight Zone kind of story, where the headset shows you content tailored personally for you, and of course Seth Green gets some very shocking visuals when he tries it out. Also, there are two twists! Both of them good! Great, even! The two shorts couldn’t be any more different, but I cannot for the life of me decide if I prefer Easter of Christmas. They’re both amazing, so let’s call it even.
New Year’s Eve – Scene: A schlubby apartment. A woman is bound and gagged in a chair. A clearly unwell man laments that their relationship is lacking, and has his gun jam on him twice before he successfully blasts her brains all over the wall. Cut to a young woman sitting in her apartment, bored and alone, browsing a dating website. She stumbles across the profile of the man we saw earlier, no way to know about his murderous tendencies. On New Year’s Eve, the two meet for dinner. This can not end well. But it kind of does? At its climax, the story folds in on itself and becomes darkly hilarious. The final shot is so entertaining, and makes for the perfect ending to this anthology. It is bittersweet, however, because I keep thinking about how much my ex-wife would love this short. Oh well.
Father’s Day – I said that the top four shorts were all pretty evenly matched, but that was sort of a lie. Father’s Day really goes above and beyond. It is amazing, and beautiful, and haunting, and I simply cannot stop thinking about it. Partly because it is amazing and beautiful and haunting, and partly because I don’t have the level of understanding necessary to really get what happened. Perhaps it is supposed to be ambiguous, though. All I know for sure is that it hit all the right buttons for me. It told a very affecting story with simplicity and elegance, with the kind of horror that makes you yearn to know more, though its brevity makes it all the more enchanting. I want to watch this short again and again and again. I want to read analyses of it from other enthusiasts. I want to have a service that can direct me to similar content. I loved it, and if a person could marry a short film, I’d be on my knee proposing to this one.
So there you have it. All of your questions about Holidays answered, and probably a lot of answers for questions that you didn’t have. Wait, no. I didn’t really go into the specifics of any of the segments, so you probably have a ton of unanswered questions. Welp, this is a dumb paragraph and we all know it, but that’s become somewhat of a tradition here, so I’m going to keep to it. Professionalism be damned! This is a hobbyist website, and I’ll write stupid conclusions if I damn well want to!