Holidays (2016): Anthology Horror With a Twist (Review)

Poster for Holidays

Holidays is the 2016 anthology film to watch for chuckles and the odd disturbing vignette.  There is a twist in a few of the tales which range from blackly comic to darkly disturbing. 10 directors do there best to bring some originality to the screen and pay homage to existing classic horror films and themes.

Kevin Smith is  perhaps the best known of the lot and his Halloween segment stars his “Yoga Hosers” Daughter Harley Quinn Smith. In terms of  “names” Seth Green  appears in the Christmas segment and The House of the Devil star Jocelin Donahue is Carol in Father’s Day. 

Valentine’s Day starts off the proceedings and has clearly been influenced by the 1972 British offering  Tales from the Crypt.  This old anthology film featured a similar short tale starring  horror icon Peter Cushing and also features  a lot of “heart.”  A lovely homage that proves someone knows their horror films.

The Easter story was equal parts disturbing and creepy. A young girl gets Jesus and the Easter Bunny mixed up in her head, the night before Easter.  This felt like a homage to Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth right down to its downbeat ending.  At points the tale was uncomfortable to watch as it seemed dangerously close to a take on pedophelia.

Two of the holidays on offer, St Patrick’s Day and Mother’s Day were seemingly  influenced by Rosemary’s Baby.  In the Irish tale, a doctor even tells the pregnant protagonist to “think of Rosemary’s reptile.”  Set in Ireland this is more of a darkly comic parody of the Roman Polanski film.  Mother’s Day was more serious in intent and was move evocative of the paranoiac nature of RB.

Father’s Day, starring  Jocelin Donahue, was the saddest  of the lot.  Smith’s Halloween was the quirkiest and there was no sign of a  homage anywhere. This was original horror with a  blackly comic edge.  His daughter starred as one of the three “webcam girls.”

Christmas starred Seth Green, with his real life wife Claire Grant,  and featured a virtual reality  type of equipment that bypasses game play and shows the wearer different things.  A dark humorous look at human behavior,  marriage and murder.

Seth Green in Christmas
Seth Green as Pete Gunderson

Saving the best for last, New Years Eve was easily the funniest segment. Watching this could well put viewers off of dating websites forever. This also feels as though it was influenced by a cult film from down-under.  While there was no direct correlation,  this seemed to be a nod and a wink to the Australian horror film,The Loved Ones. The female protagonist also resembled Robin McLeavy;  who played “Princess” in that 2009 movie.

Rather interestingly the film focusses on “universal” holidays like Christmas and leaves out the more regional ones like Independence Day and Thanksgiving. Even though the film is set in the US it seems to cater to world audiences.

These omissions are  not important but Holidays has been done well enough that after the last holiday on offer, one wishes devoutly for more.  The range of styles and mix of darkly comic horror and eclectic storylines  is nigh on perfect.

The directors and their respective segments are:

  • Valentine’s Day  -Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer
  • St Patrick’s Day  – Gary Shore
  • Easter  -Nicholas McCarthy
  • Mother’s Day  – Sarah Adina Smith
  • Father’s Day  – Anthony Scott Burns
  • Halloween  –  Kevin Smith
  • Christmas  –  Scott Stewart
  • New Years Eve  –  Adam Egypt Mortimer

Fans of anthology films will love this offering  of 10 entertaining stories with not one relying on “found footage” to sell these blackly comic scares.

Holidays is a 5 star gem of a film. A pleasant surprise that is streaming on Netflix at the moment. At 105 minutes the movie streaks by and leaves the viewer wanting more.  The film offers horror with a twist and is well worth a look, or two.

Sex Ed (2014): Haley Joel Osment Indie Comedy

promotional still from Sex Ed
Haley Joel Osment has followed up his previous 2014 Independent film outing, Kevin Smith’s superb Tusk, with another Indie movie, this one a comedy titled Sex Ed. Written by Bill Kennedy and directed by Isaac Feder (helming his first feature-length film) the movie is an almost wry look at a virginal teacher’s attempt to teach middle school kids about sex.

Osment may have gotten the world’s cinematic attention after playing the kid, (“I see dead people.”) in M. Night Shyamalan’s brilliant 1999 film The Sixth Sense but to a huge portion of the population he is the English voice of Sora from the epic video game Kingdom Hearts. Anyone watching Haley in Tusk will have noticed that even with very little to do, in that film, those acting chops are alive and well.

Sex Ed proves that the adroit performer can do comedy as easily as other types of roles. It is always a shock to see a grown up Osment, he is now 27 years-old and until Tusk, the last film I saw the actor in was Second Hand Lions. As the young semi-abandoned lad, “I’ve been to the orphan home before, I don’t want to go back,” Walter, he projected the perfect mix of loss, hopefulness and pathos, how he did not get an award for that film is a mystery.

In the start of this film, he plays Ed Cole, unemployed teacher, virgin and all around nerd. His character is uncomfortable around women and is convinced he is not cool enough. Ed is working in a bagel shop and getting rejection letters from every educational institute he applies to. After a motivational chat with his housemate JT (Glen Powell) he goes and demands that he be hired for a teaching job

On his first day, a young teen girl in his class comes back from the restroom crying and between sobs tells Cole that she has cancer and is dying. She has started her menstrual period and does not know that this is normal. The teacher immediately decides to teach the kids during their detention period about sex education.

He also falls in love with a student’s older sister and incurs the wrath of the local minister. During his daily adventures with the kids in his class, Cole desperately wants a girlfriend and to have sex, although not necessarily in that order. Sex Ed may not be blazingly original but the film is entertaining, funny in the right spots and although not “laugh out loud” funny, the film is pretty chuckle worthy.

Love interest Lorenza Izzo (Aftershock, Knock Knock) does a great job at being awkwardly interested in the nerdy Cole. Abby Elliot and Powell make a great couple and play really well off one another.

Kudos to Retta (Parks and Recreation, Fracture) as Sydney, Ed’s landlady and “life coach” as well as the owner of the bar below his apartment. This lady plays her part with a genuine feeling of warmth and caring that is funny and amidst the humor, sincere.

Streaming on US Netflix, Sex Ed is a 3 star film. Enjoyable enough but not so original that your breath will be taken away.

6 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

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