Holiday Hell: 3 reasons why this film should top your list

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Father Christmas during the Premier League match between Fulham FC and West Ham United at Craven Cottage on December 15, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Father Christmas during the Premier League match between Fulham FC and West Ham United at Craven Cottage on December 15, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /

Holiday Hell is an engaging anthology film that definitely makes the upcoming season for horror fans more enjoyable. Here are 3 reasons why you should move this movie to the top of your viewing list immediately!

Holiday Hell as written by Jeff Ferrell and Jeff Vigil has an interesting premise. On Christmas Eve, Amelia (Meagan Karimi-Naser) finds herself without a present for her sister and in desperate need to acquire one. Seeing a glowing neon casket in the night, she takes a chance and enters the Never Told Casket Co. in the hopes that she might get lucky and spot that perfect gift.

What she gets is an evening full of macabre storytelling from the proprietor of the shop, Thaddeus Rosemont (Jeffrey Combs) a.k.a. “The Shopkeeper.” Every item in his store has a unique tale attached to it which is created by the untimely demise of the original owners.

Perhaps, the most terrifying yarn of all comes from Amelia about a precious family heirloom that Rosemont is keen on purchasing. The end result is definitely unexpected!

Does Thaddeus add another odd acquisition to his collection? Let’s just say that some stories are better left untold…

Here are 3 reasons why this film should be at the top of your holiday viewing list:

3. The Nostalgia Factor

The first installment in the anthology is “Dollface” which was helmed by Jeff Vigil. It’s all about a house party that goes horribly wrong. It might be because a horrendous murder took place at the location. So, suffice it to say, the dwelling has been abandoned for years.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of some horror movies from the past while I was watching this segment of Holiday Hell. First of all, the mask which is at the center of the action reminded me of the one that Chuck Connors dons in the crazy 70’s flick about roadside terror, Tourist Trap.

Everything about “Dollface” is like an 80’s slasher flick. All conceivable tropes are utilized. You have your virginal final girl, Julie (Cami Ottman) and her tough best friend, Chyna (Charnie Dondrea) as well as Chyna’s sex crazed, smarmy boyfriend, Paul (James Chrosniak).

We also can’t forget the two annoying popular cheerleader girls that speak in internet slang with phrases like, “OMFG!” and “AF.” Plus, the supposedly “nice” guy who is friends with Paul but ends up being just as “handsy” with Julie. Then of course, the horny couple who decided that an ideal spot for a get together with friends would be a vacant home with a terrifying past.

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However, the kills are inventive though and one in particular, involving a beer bottle is very reminiscent of the death by shish-kebob scene in Happy Birthday to Me. If you long for the golden age of horror, this vignette ticks all the boxes.

Jeff Ferrell’s “The Hand That Rocks the Dreidel” is a page right out of Trilogy of Terror starring Karen Black as well as Child’s Play. The ancient Rabbi doll that comes to life after a request for help is read in Hebrew, is one part Chucky and one-part insane Zuni doll that chased Black’s character around her apartment brandishing a knife in that 1970’s classic.

2. Lights Out Acting and Writing

One of my favorite stories was David Burns’ “Christmas Carnage.” Joel Murray (brother of Bill) is at the top of his game as Chris, a beleaguered family man who is browbeaten and weary. He loses a crucial promotion to his rival, Tom (Jeff Bryan Davis), because he isn’t an active “go-getter,” although he has seniority.

At home, his wife Susan (Alisa Marshall) is clearly disgusted with him and the pair haven’t had sex in quite some time because he doesn’t meet her standards. The only one that loves him is his daughter.

At the office Christmas party, where he is playing Santa, he walks in on his wife getting “serviced” in the copy room by none other than Tom who coincidentally turns out to be a raging cokehead. Seeing this vision causes him to go off the wagon. What ends up happening is a rampage like no other complete with a visit to a Home Depot like store for murder supplies.

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Joel Murray is so believable in this role that you can’t help but feel for this sad sack guy. All he wants is respect and he can’t get it anywhere.

Each installment of Holiday Hell is engaging. You become involved with the characters and this is because of the caliber of the writing. No one is a caricature; they are just like people that you might know in your neighborhood or work with at your job.

1. Jeffrey Combs

Jeffrey Combs as The Storyteller (Thaddeus Rosemont) ties all of the anthology together. After all, his character is the architect of the tales behind the items. There is something riveting about him as a performer. He definitely has a sense of showmanship which probably comes from his years in the theater.

His scenes with Meagan Karimi-Naser are intense and tinged with a slight creepiness. We never find out his true intentions until the end. His part sets the tone for the rest of the series in Holiday Hell and it couldn’t be in more capable or professional hands.

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You can catch Holiday Hell in theaters starting Oct. 11-17 at the Laemmle Monica Film Center then in Portland (Oct. 26-27) and Seattle (Nov. 1-7). More cinema dates will be announced.

The film will then be shown exclusively on Tubi beginning on Oct. 15. It will be available on Digital and DVD Nov. 5 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

Are you ready for a different holiday classic? Let us know what you think in the comments.