Nothing says Merry Christmas than a gift in the shape of a horror film. However this gift isn’t from Santa Claus, rather this time it is from writers/directors Rebekah and David Ian McKendry, and this extremely unique holiday gift is like Russian Nesting Dolls. This is an anthology horror holiday film, and while you may not hear any “Ho Ho Ho” while watching it, this film is also filled with dark comedy so you may very well hear yourself say “hah hah hah” instead.
The best anthology films have a bookended sketch, and this one is one of the most unique. It starts off with two people (Max played by Graham Skipper (Beyond The Gates) and Jenna played by Ashley Clements (Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party)) who meet up on Christmas Eve. There isn’t much for them to do so Max has purchased tickets for a small theater company’s performance of “All the Creatures Were Stirring.” Once they get inside things already seem off. The girl selling the movie tickets has a very careless attitude, and there is an older gentleman (Ian Gregory) who has a very peculiar fascination with Jenna.
They enter the theater and are greeted to a series of sketches, each with a phrase taken from the poem “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The play’s “hostess” is a very peculiar individual, but we don’t see much of her except when she silently comes out to reveal the title of the next sketch on big black cards. She then goes offstage and that is the last we see of her. As the play opened we saw three people on the stage with minimal settings and props. They start to act out a scene almost as if they were performing mime. The pictures goes black and then…
The Stockings Were Hung
For those people who hate office Christmas parties, this sketch provides every reason to never attend one again. We see a small group of employees get together for a gift exchange, but something goes horribly wrong when Ty (Beyond The Gate’s Chase Williamson) opens what looks initially like a jack-in-the-box toy, but instead there is a bullet that is somehow shot into his head instantly killing him. That is when they all learn that they’re part of some sick game, and the only way they may survive is if they continue opening the presents that their mad killer has planted. Some gifts will kill, while others may save. Of all of the sketches this one was easily the darkest because of the subject matter. In the end only one person lived, and we never learn precisely who was responsible for this and why. Also, because this is dark comedy the characters are hardly believable or even likable. That’s not to say that the acting wasn’t any good. There were some marvelous performances from everyone here. They’re just not very bright people.
Dash Away All
A gentleman has just finished his last bit of Christmas shopping and is the last to leave the mall. Unfortunately the car locking mechanism is acting up. This burns him badly when he finds himself locked outside of his own car with his phone and keys inside. He asks for help from a couple of girls inside of a beaten up van. When they learn that his birthday is on Christmas Day they perform some black magic, but not before one of the girls ends up dying. Why? These girls are bound to a demon. Because they were also born on Christmas Day they are more or less “blessed” to be able to stop him from running wild and killing everyone on Earth. The catch is they have to remain within a certain radius of it otherwise they also die. This felt like more of a traditional horror with the supernatural element in it. There were no laughs, and our new victim, Eric (Matt Long) is a very likable guy. He’s happily married with a daughter. Usually with short stories of this nature the person involved is a bit of a jerk, or is someone with a dark past. Not this guy. He’s extremely likable and just allowed himself to get caught up in this mess that the girls are in. That gave this sketch a somewhat dark turn. Good acting again, especially from Long, helps to drive home the tragic and terrifying situation Eric is in now.
All Through The House
This is another version, albeit really warped, of A Christmas Carol. It’s quite simple. Chet (Jonathan Kite) doesn’t like Christmas, and he’s quite rude to his neighbor who loves the Yuletide season. He very mysteriously gets caught up in the same action as a televised version of the Dickens story, but many of his interactions are with the characters on the TV screen. Naturally he eventually wakes up, but instead of being joyously happy as most Scrooges are, he’s actually rather deranged in his happiness. It was very easy to guess what the theme of this sketch was, but some of the new directions it took made it rather refreshing.
Arose Such a Clatter
Rudolph meets Bambi in this interesting sketch about a man who accidentally runs over a reindeer. It’s injured so he kills it believing that he’s putting it out of its misery, but then he’s stalked. It turns out that the reindeer he killed just wasn’t any reindeer, and his stalker is seeking vengeance. We don’t see much in this except a pair of antlers as they attempt to do bodily damage. As horror sketches go this one doesn’t quite live up to the previous entries. There is very little scare or horror factor here, and it isn’t the least bit funny.
In The Twinkling
My personal favorite as we see it’s Christmas Eve and there is a gentleman (Steve played by Morgan Peter Brown) who wishes to chain himself to his bed because it’s a full moon. We think we know why, but it isn’t until a friend (Gabby played by Constance Wu) brings over plenty of friends to celebrate with him that something goes quite awry. The friend goes out for a smoke when she looks in the sky and sees what she initially thinks it’s a very strange star. However the lights sort of descend upon her, we then see static on the screen and then everything is in black and white. The friend goes back into the house to join with Steve, but now the other friends she brought along are acting quite weird and continually ask the same questions. When she tells them to shut up she gets quite the disturbing response and we then see them for who they really are. Gabby and Steve just go along with all of this charade which then delivers a very pleasant surprise. So what we have here is something that starts off looking like a cliché werewolf story, but it then turns into something entirely different and gives one of the best surprise endings, making this to be both the most memorable and the most interesting sketch in the movie.
The stage lights come back up and we see our stage actors performing the final bits of the sketch we just saw. Here is when things get a bit weird. Max is acting as if has a bad case of indigestion and removes himself from the theater. It’s at that point the stage cast start repeating a somewhat familiar dialogue, which unnerves Ashley. Then Max returns, and we don’t know if what happens next is in Ashley’s mind or not. As far as theater audience members go, the only ones left are Max, Ashley, and the old gentleman, who suddenly starts madly laughing. Then the movie ends.
I love horror anthologies and have been a fan of them since I saw the 1963 movie Black Sabbath. Having then grown up on shows like Night Gallery I found this independent film to have all of the characteristics that I enjoy in horror shorts. There is a stretching of logic in order to tie the sketches in with their respective titles, but for the most part each of the sketches is quite original. They’re not all equal, but they are most definitely original. The idea of the play that Max and Ashley are watching was a brilliant idea to bookend all of these short films, despite the fact that the way it ended was both abrupt and rather odd. Aside from that, this was a fun movie with a very good cast and original storytelling.
All the Creatures Were Stirring will be released on VOD, digital and DVD on December 4 2018, and receives 3.75 out of 5 Christmas Ornaments!
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