‘Holiday Hell’ is Entertaining, but Far from a Masterpiece (review)

A young lady named Amelia is looking for the perfect Christmas present for her sister. She pops into Nevertold, a store that sells oddities and curiosities. As the shop owner (Jeffrey Combs) tells her, every item he sells has a story behind it. I wrote a coming soon article about this movie a while ago, and again I can’t refrain from thinking about this Halloween episode of The Simpsons:

And as she considers various items, he proceeds to tell her the stories. Story one is “Dollface,” which follows a gaggle of teens partying in a house that belongs to the children of two notorious killers on Valentine’s Day. Story two is “The Hand that Rocks the Dreidel,” a tale of Kevin, a boy who on Hanukah is gifted with a golem (that looks more like a ventriloquist’s dummy) which is sworn to protect him. Story three is “Christmas Carnage,” in which a downtrodden pharmaceutical rep (Joel Murray) takes some of his own merchandise and does some bad things. Story four is “Room to Let,” Amelia’s own story about the origin of the ring she wears, which takes place on the winter solstice.

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“This peacock was my great-grandfather.” “I say, that’s a fine how-do-you-do. And who’s that girl standing in the background?” “No clue. I suspect this is a publicity photo.”

The stories are liberally dosed with humor. Or at least I hope that’s on purpose. “Dollface” contains some of the dumbest underage drinkers you’re apt to see outside of a Friday the 13th movie. They spout dialogue like “Your hands are so soft. Literally, just like a baby panda,” and “You know you gotta be knee-high [referring to a blowjob] to get on this ride […] Yeeee-haw!” Not to mention the dumb blonde stereotype yelling “OMG!” every ten seconds. The only likable character is Julie, who can’t talk. At least with her mouth. She’s deaf, and uses sign language. She spends most of her time rolling her eyes and slapping a dude who gropes her. The ending is predictable if you’re paying attention. Actually, that goes for the whole movie. Some of the twists are clever, but for the most part you get what you expect.

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Only a strange noise in the closet can stop a horror movie teen in the midst of booty

It’s been compared to Creepshow, which is a fair assessment, at least as far as philosophy (not quality). Besides the anthology style, it has at heart the same basic themes as the corny EC comic books from the ‘50s, which included Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror, that also influenced Creepshow. The villains are completely over the top. For example, story two; Kevin is being watched for the weekend by a babysitter who plans to rob his entire house. When he finds out, she imprisons him in his room and tells him how easy it is to cut children, as well as how much she’d like to decapitate him. At least she abstains from ethnic slurs. Naturally the unnecessarily evil villains earn a gory death, while the protagonist revels in their suffering.

The acting isn’t terrible, but a lot of the time the performances feel not quite genuine, a little off. Combs and Murray are seasoned pros, but much of the cast and even the crew are pretty new to filmmaking.

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A big sharp knife? How mildly disconcerting.

As far as diversity goes, it’s quite white (of course “Dollface” has a token Black couple), though Julie is a nice touch—her lack of hearing doesn’t advance the plot in any way, which is usually why filmmakers bother with differently-abled characters. There is one gay character, Mandy–the one who tries to come on to her friend with the baby panda line–but Sandy (the blonde) reacts by crying OMG and calling her a dyke. It’s far from a sensitive portrayal of unrequited love, but at least Mandy isn’t portrayed as a predatory lesbian. Sandy aside, there are actually a couple of strong, intelligent female characters. Overall, I didn’t not enjoy it. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for something fun and silly.

 

Published by GhoulieJoe

I wuvs the horror movies and like to write snarky reviews about them. I also included some pretentious as hell microfiction (don't worry, it's at the bottom).

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