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Did ya miss me? Regardless, I’m back, baby!

HOLIDAYS poster

HOLIDAYS

•             RELEASE DATE: In Theaters Now
•             WRITTEN BY: Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Kolsch, Nicholas McCarthy, Gary Shore, Kevin Smith, Sarah Adina Smith, Scott Stewart, Dennis Widmyer
•             DIRECTED BY: Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Kolsch, Nicholas McCarthy, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Gary Shore, Kevin Smith, Sarah Adina Smith, Scott Stewart, Dennis Widmyer    
•             STARRING: Seth Green and like 100 other people

What’s this? A new horror anthology centered around a myriad of holidays and helmed by some cats I really dig (I mean, c’mon; look at that list of die-rectors up there)? You know, normally I’d make some ridiculous pun alluding to the quality or lack thereof of whatever film was at hand, and this time I think I’ll do that, too. Let’s see if this one is going to be more treats than tricks, or just an overstuffed and overcooked turkey!

Let’s see, how to do this… should I just give a vague overview followed by my priceless opinion of the whole she-bang, or would a series of brief synopsis for each segment be better? And who exactly am I asking? I mean, I wrote this weeks before you’ll even read it… anyway…

HOLIDAYS, as mentioned above, is a fright flick comprised of various and sundry terror tales, each themed around a different holiday. Mayhem ensues.

Well, that kinda sucked. Let’s try the series of synopses approach.

First up is VALENTINE’S DAY (from Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer), a light lil’ revenge romp featuring a swim team, the coach they love (in the creepy way you assume), and a brick. Solid stuff (with a super cool 80s synth score), but it in no way prepares you for the out of this world lunacy that follows.

Next is ST. PATRICK’S DAY (from Gary Shore). This is the tale of a schoolmarm, the baby she always desired, and one truly off-kilter student. What follows is a surreal, slightly absurd, completely F’n awesome tale that manages to become a cross between THE WICKER MAN and ROSEMARY’S BABY with a pinch of PSYCHOMANIA tossed in for s—ts. This is the hands down winner of the whole affair!

EASTER (from Nicholas McCarthy) brings us the tale of a young girl terrified by the notion of all things Easter (including a resurrected Christ). Before you know it, her fears become a living nightmare of outrageously offensive proportions. Needless to say, I loved the hell out of this one as well, and a few of those nagging questions you always had about the symbols of the Holiday will be answered in suitably ludicrous fashion!

MOTHER’S DAY (from Sarah Adina Smith) is the story of a young woman who gets pregnant every time she has sex. This really puts a crimp in her style to say the least, so she seeks a new age treatment for her malady, which puts her in the clutches of a fertility cult. This one was easily the most out and out scary entry, as the ideas presented seemed plausible (minus one scene). Solid stuff for sure, but overall I am a fiend for the bizarre and over-the-top, so this entry wasn’t entirely my bag (again, minus one scene… and oh, what a shocker it is); but for horror biz thrills, it’s rad!

On the distaff side comes FATHER’S DAY (from Anthony Scott Burns). This yarn concerns the adventures of a woman named Carol who goes in search of her missing father. An audio cassette recorded when she was a small girl acts as her guide as she traverses the locations visited on their last day together. This was an excellent entry; I loved the unraveling mystery and the eeriness versus nostalgia factor inherent in revisiting the past, which at times should remain a memory rather than a new reality as the segment ably demonstrates.

Next is HALLOWEEN (from Kevin Smith). Simply put this is another revenge story involving some web cam girls turning the tables on their s—theel of an employer. This one did nothing for me, and was easily the weakest of the tales presented.

CHRISTMAS (from Scott Stewart) is a fun lil’ TALES FROM THE CRYPT-style story of a man that brings home the hottest gift for the holiday season: a VR headset that shows all of the wearer’s deep, dark secrets. As you can imagine, the s—t hits the fan rather hard in this one, my creeps! I absolutely loved the EC comics vibe in this tale, and it was a nice rebound after the Halloween entry.

Last up is NEW YEAR’S (from Adam Egypt Mortimer), an off-the-rails cautionary tale about online dating that ends in a twist that, while expected, was buckets of gore-soaked fun.

All in all, HOLIDAYS is a solid gold winner; it’s packed with mean spirited, often surreal fright flick fun. Minus the Halloween entry, the terror tales are unique, surprising, and 100% their own thing. I would go on record and state that HOLIDAYS is the strongest anthology in the horror biz since the original CREEPSHOW!

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KRAMPUS

•             RELEASE DATE: Available Now on Blu-ray and DVD
•             WRITTEN BY: Todd Casey, Michael Dougherty
•             DIRECTED BY: Michael Dougherty
•             STARRING: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Emjay Anthony

Going into KRAMPUS as late as I am, there are a few elements that will cloud my preconceived notion of the film. Namely, this thing was hyped into oblivion by my horror hound brethren, and ol’ Krampus himself is starting to become waaayyy too prevalent on the pop-culture radar. I mean, I love the guy—hell, I’ve been a fan since childhood (yup, he’s a legend of my people as it were… as gobstopped as you may be to read this, ‘XIII’ may not actually be my honest-to-ghoulness real last name)—and I’m starting to get a tad fatigued. So with that disclaimer, let’s see if this thing left a nice shiny present under my tree or a lump of s—t in my stocking.

Max (Anthony) is havin’ a real stool of a Yule; he gets into a fistfight during the Christmas pageant, his dysfunctional extended family make the scene to spread more misery than a thousand fruitcakes, and his letter to Santa is read aloud at the dinner table by his arse of a cousin… all of which has the cumulative effect of him renouncing the holiday all together. This of course summons up the titular creature, encases the world around Max’s house in a blinding blizzard which knocks out all power, cell phones, and radio, and plunges the family into a hellish world of demonic jack-in-the-boxes, killer gingerbread men, and a whole host of hellish holiday hooligans. Will Max have the jingle balls to save the day?

With a first half that brings to mind such cynical holiday favs as NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION and A CHRISTMAS STORY and a second chunk highly influenced by flicks such as GREMLINS and schlock such as ELVES, KRAMPUS is pound for pound THE best 80s homage flick I’ve e’er seen! Its mean, filled with suspense, and although it is aimed kinda/sorta at kids, it never, ever talks down to them—exactly like so many classics of its ilk (THE GOONIES, THE GATE, and THE MONSTER SQUAD spring to mind).

If I had any negative comments for this film, it’s that while all of the creatures look fantastic, the mask utilized for ol’ Big K himself is pretty immobile. Perhaps it was a mask he was wearing and I just missed that point… come to think of it, that would fit in with the aesthetic of the other creatures in the film.

I haven’t enjoyed a fright flick as much as I enjoyed KRAMPUS in a long ass while. Packed with creepy creatures, arcane atmosphere, and fright-filled fun, KRAMPUS will become a horror drenched yule-time tradition for folks like us that wish that every holiday could be more like Halloween!

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