Holidays

**

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Madeleine Coghlan stars as Maxine in Valentine's Day, part of Holidays
"Overall, this is more miss than hit, but there are some nice ideas that will appeal to genre fans."

Anthology films based around particular holidays (in the US sense of celebrated occasions) are relatively common, with last year's Tales Of Halloween and A Christmas Horror Story both enjoying success with horror fans. This anthology is comprised of eight short films focused on particular holidays throughout the year, and it's also a horror offering. The format means it has less of a ready-made sales pitch but it arguably leaves more room for the filmmakers to get creative.

First up, and one of the best of the bunch, is Valentine's Day, a simple tale about a bullied teenager's romantic obsession with a teacher. He's ill and needs a new heart so you can guess where this is going, but underneath the cheesy stuff there are darker elements, as we are confronted by the girl's damaged psyche and her emotional dependency on delusion.

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Also dealing with sexuality, but in a much more confused way, is St Patrick's Day, which is reminiscent in places of the hallucinatory scenes in Ken Russell's Lair Of The White Worm. Then there's Easter, which falls flat due to only having one idea, despite a good performance from child star Ava Acres and some nice early dialogue about religion which hints at darker possibilities than we see manifest. Mother's Day returns us to the fertility themes of St Patrick's Day and has an interesting central idea but never lives up to its potential.

Then there's Father's Day, which is by far the strongest of the bunch. Jocelin Donahue plays a young woman following a set of taped instructions from the father she had thought was dead, who has promised her that they will be reunited if she does as he asks. The ending doesn't quite deliver but the tension is strong throughout and there's a lot going on below the surface, with the heroine's emotional vulnerability and her father's evident exploitation of his power - whether for good or ill - making it continually unsettling to watch.

Kevin Smith, the biggest name involved here, gets the plum choice of Halloween. If you're a fan of his work you'll probably enjoy it, though it isn't as overtly comedic as some of what he's done. It centres on three women working for a phone sex line owned by an abusive man. The usual issues with Smith's work are here - well intentioned stuff coming from a man obviously incensed by the misogyny he sees in the world is let down by an inability to connect effectively with his female characters. If you're ready for something sadstic, though, this may amuse, and it's notably more coherent than some of the other films here.

There are interesting ideas in Christmas, which echoes some of the work of Philip K Dick, but it loses its way towards the end. New Year's Eve never really figures out its way in the first place but its one twist is nicely delivered and Andrew Bowen works well as the hapless hero.

Overall, this is more miss than hit, but there are some nice ideas that will appeal to genre fans and one hopes it will draw positive attention to its standout actors.

Reviewed on: 22 Apr 2016
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Holidays packshot
An anthology of short films about Valentine's Day, St Patrick's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Halloween, Christmas and New Year's Eve.
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Director: Anthony Scott Burns, Matt Johnson, Kevin Kolsch, Nicholas McCarthy, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Gary Shore, Kevin Smith, Sarah Adina Smith, Scott Stewart, Dennis Widmyer

Writer: Anthony Scott Burns, Matt Johnson, Kevin Kolsch, Nicholas McCarthy, Gary Shore, Kevin Smith, Sarah Adina Smith, Scott Stewart, Dennis Widmyer

Starring: Kevin Smith, Lorenza Izzo, Seth Green, Clare Grant, Michael Sun Lee, Michael Gross, Ruth Bradley, Jocelin Donahue, Ava Acres, Mark Steger, Andrew Bowen, Harley Morenstein, Scott Stewart, Jennifer Lafleur, Matt Johnson

Year: 2016

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

Tribeca 2016
EIFF 2016

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