December 5, 2019 Holiday Hell (Movie Review)
Holiday Hell is the newest addition on the list of yuletide-horror from Uncork’d Entertainment to hit Digital and DVD back on November 5, 2019.
Just in time for the holiday season, Holiday Hell is an amusing deviant from the hoard of Hallmark and Lifetime movies about businesswomen settling for small-town nobodies thanks to the “magic of Christmas.” A collaborative directorial effort from Jeremy Berg, David Burns, Jeff Ferrell, and Jeff Vigil, the film follows a woman named Amelia (Meagan Karimi-Naser: Job Hunters series, Dead West 2016) who enters a curiosity shop in search of a last-minute gift for her sister one Christmas Eve. While in the shop, she is greeted by the mysterious shopkeeper (Jeffrey Combs: Re-Animator 1985, The Frighteners 1996) who shares some of the horrific stories behind the artifacts in his shop.
Not taking itself too seriously with cheesy plotlines, what it lacks in substance, it makes up for in cheap gore and entertaining tropes. That in mind, Holiday Hell weaves tales about revenge, ritualistic sacrifices, and killer dolls, with each tale as wacky as the one before it. Each tale is directed by different filmmakers, and while each segment has its unique content, they all manage to blend their styles together seamlessly; making it so the film does not feel like bits and pieces of different films sewn together into one fragmented product.
Our first tale, Dollface directed by Vigil, explains the significance behind this old, decrepit porcelain mask that belonged to a troubled young girl. Some teens decide to break into their old house for some fun and in typical teen slasher flick fashion, they start dying one by one. The only thing more off-putting than the unsettling blank stare of the doll mask is the acting in this segment. Needless to say, you start to root for Dollface to pick them off because you just want to see it end.
Next is The Hand that Rocks the Dreidel directed by Ferrell. What’s an anthology without a killer doll? Reminiscent of 1975’s Trilogy of Terror, this tiny wooden doll has a face that would make you think twice about picking it up for your child. However, this doll comes with specific instructions that turn it into your own personal killer servant.
It’s not hard to side with the young boy, Kevin (Forrest Campbell: The Artifact series, Shadow Walkers series) in this segment as his babysitter Janet (Lisa Coronado: Z Nation series, Strowlers series) is horrible and her boyfriend is even worse. Unlike the doll in Trilogy of Terror, we don’t get to see this pint-sized murderer doesn’t spend the entire segment terrorizing his prey, he spends a short amount of time actually killing anyone and then he spends the rest of the time cleaning up the evidence. But hey, at least he’s efficient.
In the third tale, Christmas Carnage, directed by Burns, comes by far our most festive segment in the film. If the title didn’t give you any hints, it’s about a businessman (Joel Murray: God Bless America 2011, Mad Men series) that gets pushed a little too far one Christmas night. What starts out as a sad look on his failing marriage with his irritable wife, turns into a night of blood splatter and whiskey as he tears through his office in a blood-soaked Santa suit. It has all the resentment of a Lifetime movie paired with the cringe of 1987’s Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (although nothing will ever top that “Garbage Day” scene).
Lastly comes Room to Let directed by Berg which serves to shed some light on the character of Amelia and her purpose of visiting the shop. While throughout the whole film, you feel that there has to be some ulterior motive it’s unclear until that that motive is until now. The tale follows a young girl that rents a room in an isolated farmhouse with a strange couple. The couple gives off an unsettling vibe so as you can imagine this isn’t going to end well for our main character in this segment. Nothing says “home sweet home” like rituals, sacrifices, and decapitations, right?
As mentioned, Holiday Hell isn’t a film that takes itself seriously so as a viewer, you shouldn’t either. While it’s not the best of its genre, it’s entertaining with over-the-top effects, plot-points, and questionable acting to say the least. One of the standouts in the film is by far Combs, utilizing his horror chops to give the storyline the boost it needs to go from a full-on parody to a Horror film that’s watchable. Most of the moments in this film are cringeworthy, but nonetheless they all keep you entertained while you are guzzling down your eggnog this holiday season. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Holiday Hell 2 out of 5 stars.