The new horror anthology Holidays is, in the long history of horror anthologies, very uneven. Consisting of eight separate shorts each revolving around a different holiday and written and directed by established and up-and-coming voices in indie horror (and Kevin Smith, whose participation gives the movie its marquee value), the movie boasts many of the same strengths and weaknesses faced by the majority of anthologies that precede it: the quality control is all over the place and there's nothing that really hangs the shorts together save for the overriding gimmick, but hardly any of the segments overstay their welcome. Even those that don't work all that well are pretty short and then it's on to the next segment and a blank slate.
Starry Eyes writing/directing team of Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer and wrapping up with "New Year's Eve," in which The Green Inferno's Lorenza Izzo goes on a blind date for Some Kind of Hate director Adam Egypt Mortimer (with contributions from Gary Shore [Dracula Untold], Sarah Adina Smith [The Midnight Swim] and Nicholas McCarthy [At the Devil's Door], among others in between), Holidays in an anthology almost in the ABCs of Death tradition. The segments are shorter and there are fewer of them, but they're connected only by the hook and each end with a title card announcing which filmmaker was responsible -- though if you're as familiar with current indie horror as I am, you can pretty much tell who made what even before the credit comes up on screen. I don't hold the lack of a wraparound segment against the movie -- Tales of Halloween didn't have one last year and I enjoyed that movie a lot -- but the absence of some sort of connective tissue really does make you realize just how much you miss it when it's not there. Like with ToH, the final short ends and the movie cuts to credits, going out with more of a whimper than a bang.
There are a few segments that more or less work. I like "New Year's Eve," the piece that ends of the film. Smith's "Mother's Day" is unnerving and actually says something, while Anthony Scott Burns' "Father's Day" (in which a young woman played by Jocelin Donahue follows a recording of her dad's voice, trying to find him after many years) is filled with dread and actually manages to create an incredibly sympathetic character in a short amount of time. If there is a drawback to all three contributions, it's in the O. Henry twist punchline that provides a button not just for these two shorts but practically all of them. I don't mind the idea of a clear tag -- it sometimes helps in short-form storytelling like this -- but in almost every case, the punchline is either easily telegraphed or completely airless. If you're going to go for the big finish, you really can't whiff it.
Southbound from earlier this year. At its best, it's a lot of fun and tries really hard to entertain. At its worst, it feels phoned in. The truth of the matter is the the majority of the film lies somewhere in the middle. It can be enjoyable, but also incredibly frustrating. Just like real-life holidays, I guess.
Holidays is currently available for rent and purchase on VOD and iTunes.