I’m not sure I’d ever see a full night of peaceful sleep again if I were to let this holiday season come and go without reviewing at least one Christmas-themed horror flick. Thankfully, I put in an order of some new movies recently that arrived just in time. Thus, tonight’s viewing pleasure went to the 2019 anthology film, Holiday Hell.
Amelia is looking for the perfect gift for her sister and must endure four horrifying tales from the friendly shopkeeper, each set during the holiday season.
There are way more Christmas-related horror movies out there than you may believe. I recently saw a list that someone threw together that had to contain at least 80 different films.
Because there are so many, I try to watch a few new ones each year in hopes to find that next great one. More often than not, I get lucky and find the films to be quite enjoyable. Thankfully, the same can be said for Holiday Hell, as well.
Like all anthology films, Holiday Hell features various tales from numerous filmmakers, all of which bring their A game. Each director delivers a fitting story, which when thrown together, make for a perfect viewing experience just a couple of days before Christmas.
The first of four tales is entitled “Dollface” and while this tale of a group of friends enjoying a holiday party in an abandoned house only to get picked off one by one by a doll-faced killer is pretty enjoyable for what it is, it may actually be the weakest of the bunch. Still, writer/director Jeff Vigil did a decent job at giving fans another entry in the Christmas slasher sub-genre this year.
Next, we move on to the aptly-titled “The Hand That Rocks the Dreidel,” directed by Jeff Ferrell. Ferrell’s Hanukkah-set segment tells the story of young Kevin who is gifted a very old doll on the final night of the Jewish holiday. Kevin’s parents must leave him alone for the weekend with his babysitter, who it turns out has been planning on robbing the family for months. The frightened Kevin entrusts his new doll with taking care of the problem, and it happens to do so in bloody fashion. A fun short in the vein of Puppet Master or the “Living Doll” episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Hand That Rocks the Dreidel” is a close runner up to being my favorite of the lot.
As Amelia’s search for the perfect Christmas gift continues, she hears one final tale from the Shopkeeper. This one takes the cake for being my favorite, as director David Burns’ “Christmas Carnage” tells the tale of Chris, a down on his luck hard worker who has had enough crap piled on top of him. A combination of his cheating bully of a wife, his co-worker who got the promotion he deserved, alcohol, and a handful of the new designer drug that his company has manufactured leads Chris on a bloody killing spree, all while dressed as good old Saint Nick. The performance by Joel Murray (God Bless America) is second to none and I absolutely loved every witty one-liner he spouted off as he brutally attacked all of those who had it coming.
After this story, the film seems to be coming to a close, but Amelia’s shopping trip isn’t complete without telling the Shopkeeper a tale of her own. In the final segment of Holiday Hell, director Jeremy Berg’s “Room to Let,” we learn of Amelia’s parents and how their worship of an ancient Moon Goddess lead to her miraculous birth. While this one also felt a bit weaker compared to the rest, luckily it doesn’t end here.
Holiday Hell ends on a high note as the wraparound story of the Shopkeeper and the lovely Amelia comes to a close. With a twist ending that you generally don’t see in anthology films, the wraparound entitled “Nevertold Casket Co.,” also directed by Jeff Ferrell, really does a great job of making sure that this film is a memorable one.
I won’t spoil anything regarding this twist here, as I’ve probably already said too much about the other segments, but know that both Meagan Karimi-Naser (Dead West) and the legendary Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, Castle Freak) do a wonderful job with their respective roles of Amelia and the shopkeeper, Thaddeus Rosemont.
If you are like me and trying to squeeze in just one or two more Christmas-themed horror flicks this year, do yourself a favor and throw Holiday Hell on that to-watch list.
This 100 minute horror anthology features practical special effects, creative stories, and above par performances from all parties. It’s a fun film that came out of nowhere and deserves a worthy spot in the holiday horror rotation from year to year.
If you want to own Holiday Hell, you can pick up the DVD, which is available now from Uncork’d Entertainment. It is also available to stream through Amazon Prime Video.
Make sure to check out Holiday Hell for yourself, as I give it 3.5 two pump chumps out of 5.