I’ll start this off by saying that there’s been a trend recently of making short horror films with a similar theme and then sticking them together into a single anthology, The ABCs of Death and V/H/S being the most prominent examples – and both with multiple, full-length films in each series. And while I’m hugely in favor of this trend, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s brought forth a mixed bag. It’s hard to call any of the anthologies good in their own right when the shorts are so radically different from each other. Each story has its own director and production team and despite sharing a general theme, rarely mesh well when shoved into a completed product. Some of the stories are brilliant, a few downright genius, most are decent, and a few are awful. It’s great that filmmakers have the opportunity to explore genre ideas like this – and, for those new to the business, a notch on their belt that doesn’t necessarily carry the financial burden of a feature length project – but again, just because two short films might be brilliant on their own merits doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily mesh when paired in an anthology. For better or worse, anthology films are a difficult beast to conquer and – regardless of the merits of the individual shorts – rarely come together in a cohesive way. It’s an endeavor that’s often undertaken and rarely successful.
Holidays is probably the first one that actually succeeds. Not only are each of its shorts well-made, strongly acted, and shot with a keen eye, as well as an appreciation for the horror genre, they actually fit together – visually, thematically, and tonally – as a cohesive whole. Despite not knowing the process behind its creation, it’s clear to me, as an observer, that the directors of the various shorts were in conversation with each other so that their projects wouldn’t look jarring when put together in the final product. To be sure, each story is self-contained and has its very own visual style – some weird, others conventional, and more than a few recovering a fairytale aesthetic rarely seen these days – the themes in each story complimented each other without creating continuity errors or WTF moments for the audience.
It’s hard for me to pick a favorite out of all the shorts here. Quite honestly, I liked all of them. St. Patrick’s Day blended balls to the wall weirdness with a genuine sense of uncertainty and empathy for its protagonist, Father’s Day ran miles with an incredibly sparse set and lone character, Easter managed to combine some graphic weirdness and seeming contradictions into a surprisingly heartfelt meditation on what it means to interrogate the beliefs and traditions of your culture, and Halloween – one of the more subdued entries – pulled absolutely no punches in getting its story across, accessing age-old tropes and unveiling them in unexpected ways. Even the shorts that stumbled in places – Christmas and Mother’s Day – still had interesting things to say, and fascinating ways of going there.
Holidays is one of those rare anthology films that is a genuinely good movie across the board – each of the shorts stands on its own merit, while still working together as a cohesive whole, and it takes the holiday theme in places that even I, a seasoned horror fan, didn’t expect.
Don’t miss this one. It’s great.
Still, I feel I would be reminisce without giving a shout out to the films that inspired Holidays. I stand by my assertion that on a whole, The ABCS of Death and V/H/S were a mixed bag, but there were a few gems that ought to get their minute in the spotlight. Here are two of my favorites. And though I could go on extensively about them, I will let the films speak for themselves.
First up is the entry for A in The ABC’s of Death. Thankfully, youtube has been kind enough to upload Apocalypse in its entirety.
Next up is a clip from V/H/S. Unfortunately, the entire short is still too long to be uploaded, but you can get an idea of what the story is working with.