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All the Creatures Were Stirring

Year: 2018
Production Co: Fallback Plan Productions
Director: David Ian McKendry/Rebekah McKendry
Writer: David Ian McKendry/Rebekah McKendry

Ever since V/H/S came along, anthology horror has been as popular as it is vibrant. Just like short stories come with their own much looser set of structural and narrative rules than three-act features must, many of the short vignettes seen in some films from the genre over the last few years have been very original. Not all of them have been great, but they're usually interesting.

Such is the case with All the Creatures Were Stirring. The framing device is of a couple who have either just met or barely know each other on a date one Christmas Eve they'd otherwise be spending alone.

The venue is a small playhouse theatre, and the performance is of three actors (and a seamy-looking ringmaster announcing new chapters) wordlessly acting out the stories being told. As they start a new story, the film morphs into a live action short film of the performance being staged.

Some are straightforward, like the story of the guy who hits an animal with his car late one Christmas Eve and pays for it in the worst way when the identity of the animal is revealed (suffice it to say the red glow is from its nose), and some are more esoteric, like the two girls in the lonely carpark hoping to unload a terrible burden on an unsuspecting guy who's broken down. But they're all worth watching.

The framing story of the pair in the theatre isn't as narratively satisfying. Motifs and elements make it effectively sinister and disconcerting, like the elderly man who keeps staring balefully at the woman and the snarky ticket office clerk (and her twin sister), but the movie ends without really explaining any of why they were there or why the experience was all so weird.

That said, writer/directors David Ian McKendry and Rebekah McKendry do some great work, with plenty of moments that will stick in your memory and promise bigger and better things. Even though this looks like a commercial – even lowbrow – horror anthology, some of both the writing and directing elevate it far above what you expect.

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