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Holidays

Year: 2016
Production Co: ArtCastle
Director: Anthony Scott Burns/Kevin Kolsch/Nicholas McCarthy/Adam Egypt Mortimer/Ellen Reid/Gary Shore/Kevin Smith/Sarah Adina Smith/Scott Stewart/Dennis Widmyer
Writer: Anthony Scott Burns Writer/Kevin Kolsch/Nicholas McCarthy/Kevin Smith/Sarah Adina Smith/Scott Stewart/Dennis Widmyer
Cast: Seth Greene, Harley Quinn Smith, Clare Grant, Michael Gross, Ruth Bradley, Sophie Traub

I'm generally not the biggest fan of horror anthology movies, although I should be. The ABCs of Death was a refreshingly eclectic movie instead of the collection of slashers I thought it was going to be. And when I heard Kevin Smith had directed one of the chapters of this film, it was enough to make me interested.

There are eight segments centred around traditional holidays like Mother's Day, St Patrick's Day and Christmas, and they vary wildly in quality. Smith's entry (Halloween, about some webcam porn actresses – one played by his daughter – who take revenge on their cruel manager) is actually the lesser of the whole collection, showing the same kind of messy self indulgence that's pervaded all his recent work.

But like The ABCs of Death, some of them are very inventive and interesting. The St Patrick's Day story, about a pretty Irish schoolteacher who finds herself pregnant with a snake, is both a Cronenberg body horror drama and a parable about the legend of the titular Saint who banished snakes from Ireland.

New Year's Eve is a hilarious tale about a serial killer who's preparing to move against his blind date when the tables are savagely turned. Easter is a horrific tale of a little girl who just wants to go back to bed but meets the terrifying embodiment of everything she's been told about Easter (Jesus and the Easter Bunny) in the most gruesome way.

Familial horror abounds – Mother's Day is an incisive and wily metaphor about the brutal treatment women's bodies sometimes visit upon them through fertility and childbirth, and Father's Day is a brooding, Hitchcockian journey to a dark place that – after all the set-up - isn't even revealed properly.

A handful of recognisable names pop up. Seth Greene is a man who learns much more than he wants thanks to a VR headset he gets his son for Christmas and which replays memories, but there are plenty of other great performers who are doing much better than you imagine the material deserves before you actually watch it. Ruth Bradley as the Irish schoolteacher pregnant with a snake and Sophie Traub as the luckless woman who can't stop getting pregnant are particular standouts.

These dark anthologies aren't like the V/H/S series, which is much more about horror. You'll get something quite different out of them, and even though (like every short story collection) not every part will grab you, movies like Holidays usually contain something thought provoking and new.

Like The ABCs of Death, I can only attribute the negative critical reaction to the disappointment a lot of people probably felt when they realised it wasn't just a collection of supernatural murders. Personally I'll watch any more of these that they make.

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