There is a new subgenre of Horror films in which unsuspecting people book an Airbnb and upon arrival find that there is something amiss with their booking. Planning and booking a
holiday can be a pretty stressful endeavor anyway, so add in any type of tension and you already have a ready made Horror film before any Horror shenanigans have even happened.
Released on July 25, 2023 through Breaking Glass Pictures, the latest in this new wave of Horror films is Holistay. The debut narrative film from Director Mary Patel-Gallagher, who co-directed documentary film Electile Dysfunction: Inside the Business of American Campaigns (2008), Holistay introduces the audience to two couples. The first is Irish couple Branna (Erin Gavin: Junk 2012, Audrey 2020) and Finn (Gavin O’Fearraigh: Ros na Rún series, Coast Mafia 2014) who are happily settling into their San Diego holiday home when another couple turns up. The second couple is Gia (Gabriela Kulaif) and Tony (Steven Martini: Major Payne 1995, Louis 2010) who have arrived from New York and believe that they should be staying in the house.
It turns out that there has been a mistake and the house has been double booked. As the house has plenty of space, they agree to share for the night. The next day it transpires that due to Comic Con, there are a lack of free hotel rooms. Since the two couples are getting on like a house on fire, they decide that there is no point turning one of them out and so the shared arrangement continues to everyone’s agreement.
At this point, the audience might expect events to ramp up somehow but somehow… they don’t. It becomes clear that one of the couples might be rather more criminally minded than they have let on and there is a subplot involving some trouble with embezzlement. This subplot might have seen Holistay evolve into more of a crime thriller however the film then tries a supernatural twist with strange screams being heard in the night. It is suggested that the screams being heard might be those of a banshee and then there are glimpses of a strange figure standing outside. Unfortunately, neither of these attempts to turn Holistay into either a Horror or a Thriller work at all.
Overall, one of Holistay’s biggest issues is that rather than exploring the potentially interesting ideas that it teases of criminal activity and Irish folklore, instead the majority of the film concentrates on the small talk between the two couples. The couples exchange niceties about what they are getting up to that day and how they should exchange details and much like polite conversation between newly acquainted people in real life – it’s rather boring and stilted.
Whilst it is unfair to malign low budget films for their effects, sadly the budget does affect the Horror element of Holistay; and the result is that the mysterious figure provokes humor rather than the desired effect of fear or tension. By the time the film reveals its final hand and throws in a few twists, it is far too late to have any real investment. Holistay had a premise that could have proved intriguing, but the execution meant that the audience checks out long before the couples do. That is why Cryptic Rock gives this film 1.5 out of 5 stars.