An oddball shopkeeper shows different items to a woman looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for her sister and tells her the creepy story behind each one.
I have always loved horror anthologies and think that it is cool that they have made a comeback in recent years. Some of them have been quite awesome and some of them left a lot to be desired, and I think that Holiday Hell falls somewhere in the middle. While it is much better than the similarly themed Holidays from 2016 (which was a total train wreck of a film with little to no redeeming qualities), it isn’t flawless, and some segments just work a lot better than others. I didn’t think that it was a bad movie by any means, and it did have its moments, but after all was said and done it just felt lacking in a way, I can’t quite put my finger on.
The wraparound does what it is supposed to by introducing each segment and that’s about it. I is connected to one of the other stories but in general I just wasn’t feeling it. I love Jeffery Combs and he does a fantastic job here as usual (as does Meagan Karimi-Naser as their interactions were great and feel natural) but I just thought that the payoff to this segment was a bit of a letdown. Most people will see it coming a mile away and it just wasn’t anything that special or anything that hadn’t been done before. Still, I liked the idea that Combs’ character telling the woman about each item is what led into the segment and while it may not be the most original wraparound idea ever I thought that it worked for the most part and served its purpose.
The first segment is called “Dollface” and could have been quite awesome if more effort had been put into it (but why does it take place on Valentine’s Day when all the other segments take place around Christmas and the like? I dunno.). Basically, we have your typical group of drunken friends that break into an old abandoned house where some bad things happened years earlier and before you know it the title character shows up and starts slicing and dicing everyone. It doesn’t really bring anything new to the table and there is a twist toward the end that isn’t any sort of surprise, so this one ranked low for me as a result. I did love the killer’s look and thought that the segment had promise, but it felt very rushed and was a little too short for my liking which is a shame because it might have been something pretty cool had it been handled the right way (plus the effects are actually quite awesome).
Next up is “The Hand that Rocks the Dreidel” (man, what an awesome title, by the way, a Hanukah-themed story about a little boy who gets a Rabbi doll as a gift from his parents that ends up protecting him from his babysitter and her scuzzy boyfriend who have less than honorable intentions in mind for the family. I thought that this was a fun little segment and was different and original, so as such I thought that it was the second-best segment of the film. I can’t believe no one else has thought of this before and while some people may not be into it and find it corny I for one thought that it rocked.
My favorite segment was “Christmas Carnage.” It deals with a poor guy (wonderfully played by Joel Murray) that is having a rough go of things around the holidays. He’s a recovering alcoholic (that apparently made an ass out of himself the previous year at the office Christmas party as a result), his wife doesn’t respect him and is constantly belittling him, he’s been passed up for yet another promotion, and he is just an unhappy fellow in general.
He’s agreed to play Santa this year at his company’s holiday party but once there he discovers his wife having sex with the guy that got his promotion. So, what does he do? Get drunk, take a bottle of the experimental pills the drug company he works for is manufacturing (that are alleged to have some bizarre side effects), and go on a killing spree, taking out all the people who have wronged him. I thought this segment was awesome and I couldn’t help but root for the main character (even if he is sort of an awful person) as he goes about getting a measure of revenge against the equally horrible people in his life that have hurt him. “Christmas Carnage” is without a doubt the best segment of the film and I had a blast watching it. I have a feeling that there are some viewers out there that will be able to relate to the main character as things play out, but hopefully they won’t handle things the same way that he does.
The final segment, “Room to Let” was my personal least favorite. It centers around a young woman that rents a place to stay from an oddball couple. Before you know it, weird things start to happen, the woman realizes that something isn’t quite right, and the segment comes to a crashing halt before it really gets going. I don’t know if there were budget or time issues or what, but what could have been an interesting segment instead feels rushed and is over right about the time that things get good. The ending is weak and nothing amazing, and I think that much like “Dollface,” this segment could have been something quite awesome had it been handled better.
I liked Holiday Hell for the most part. Some segments are definitely better than others and while I dug the wraparound for what it was, it sort of falls apart in the end. If you are into horror anthologies-especially the ones that are holiday-themed-you will probably enjoy it (or at least some of it), but I just can’t see it ever being considered one of the greatest anthologies of all time up there with the likes of Creepshow, Tales from the Crypt, and the like. Give it a shot if you’re curious, you could do a whole lot worse.