STREAM QUEEN: holiday horror from Halloween through Valentine’s Day

I was expecting to just hit up the latest Valentine’s Day horror flick from Hulu’s Into the Dark series, but I ended up all over the map this week thanks to uncovering movies that touch upon the bulk of the holiday season! So much to add to the complete list on my holiday horror page. Here they are in order of holiday appearance…beginning with Halloween, naturally.

THE WITCHING (2016)

Call it my personal preference, but if you’re going to set the wraparound of an anthology on October 31st, make all the stories revolve around Halloween. The Witching has a group of geeks trying to become famous on the Internet (basically anyone under 50 these days—shit, I have like 2 more months to become a sensation) by telling scary stories in the woods on Halloween, which means even their situation doesn’t bring holiday spirit to the movie. This is essentially just another anthology of campfire stories—they are definitely good and to the point, but not focused on Halloween.

1st story – Creepy but generic ghost boy story.

2nd story – A woman is terrorized by the sleepwalker, an awesomely freaky ghoul!

3rd story – A skeptical DJ has a psychic on his show, and tells her to prove with visual evidence that God and the devil exist as she claims. Big mistake.

4th – A haunted object story revolving around a child in a crib for good measure.

5th – Another night security guard terrorized by ghosts story with a fun twist.

6th – A fun car breakdown stalker story on a deserted road.

I wouldn’t mind seeing the wraparound as a full-length film, because it gets witchy good for the last five minutes. A 5-minute witch in the woods moment that’s ten times more satisfying than sitting through The Blair Witch Project.

THE TERROR OF HALLOW’S EVE (2017)

Imagine my surprise when the end credits role on this Halloween flick and I discover it’s written by our favorite horror hottie Zack Ward! Adding to the behind the scenes hotness is the director, who also happens to have a small role in the film!

This is a fun and fantastical revenge flick wrapped up in a Halloween theme. Speaking of, it interweaves plenty of nods to Carpenter’s Halloween along the way, including the music, which also sounds like Carpenter’s Christine soundtrack at times.

The first part of this short 80-minute movie establishes that our main teen boy is a horror fanatic, artist, and bullied geek.

After a particularly harsh encounter with his bullies, he finds a mysterious pumpkin on his way home, carves it in fury while wishing for revenge, and accidentally summons the “Trickster”.

Played by horror monster god Doug Jones, this freaky troll wills the main boy to draw the Halloween horror fates of his enemies, which begin to come true with great horror atmosphere. There is what can only be described as the most terrifying horror movie scarecrow I’ve ever come across (not surprisingly also played by Doug Jones), what appears to be an homage to Puppet Master, demon women, and a big Pumpkinhead type monster.

There are also various cameos, including delicious Christian Kane, Eric Roberts, and Juliet “Drusilla” Landau of Buffy fame.

I’ll definitely be adding this goodie to my Halloween DVD collection. Just note that because this is a revenge flick, the frightening moments are softened by the fact that we’re not exactly rooting for the victims.

GRANDMA WEREWOLF (2017)

This is a short, goofy indie that could have been better embellished with a bigger budget.

As is, it feels very cheesy and low budget. Of course that lends itself to the silly story. A dad takes his son and daughter to their grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving, and before long she reveals she is a werewolf. When she runs away to wreak havoc on the town, it’s up to them to stop her.

I’m always happy to have another Thanksgiving flick, and they even start some Christmas decorating. It’s a good plot point for a werewolf granny movie, but the film moves away from the holiday theme too soon.

Instead of grandma’s identity staying secret throughout the Thanksgiving festivities with the family slowly beginning to suspect something is awry (as is usually the case in the “My xx is an xx” formula), grandma just flat out admits it.

The family spends a lot of time hunting her down and gaining some supernatural powers to aid in the final battle, plus there are some detectives on her trail. There’s even a hunter who looks like he stepped out of Mad Max, but his role is sorely underplayed, to the point of being, well, pointless.

Hairy granny’s look is merely cheap costume store crap, but it fits with the oddball notion of little old grandma being a werewolf. And while there are some quick, funny jokes, the film is carried by the kids. These two are such great natural actors, play off each other perfectly, and absolutely steal the show from all the adults.

ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE (2017)

Despite all the hype, don’t go into Anna and The Apocalypse expecting it to be anything but High School Musical level songs interspersed throughout a pretty good zombie movie with plenty of campy fun gore.

The plot is smartly simple—Anna and her friends deal with parents, teachers, and teen angst at school around the Christmas holiday…just before the zombie outbreak. Characters are likable and well developed. One of them is a lesbian, one is a funny bimbo who does a sexy Santa number at the Christmas play with boy dancers backing her up, and there’s a villainous teacher who totally reminds me of the duke from Moulin Rouge.

The songs are catchy because they feel like Radio Disney pop tracks circa 2005. The singing is average—clearly acting was more important than singing when casting—and the musical performances and dancing are veeeeery basic. Dare I say…clearly acting was more important than dancing ability when casting.

Perhaps my favorite musical number is performed by a gang of zombie hunting boys on the street. The song totally riffs off “Eye of the Tiger.” Now there’s an idea. What if the other novelty of this Christmas zomcom musical had been that every song replicated the sound of an eighties classic?

The Christmas holiday is perfectly intertwined into everything that happens throughout, so it’s most definitely a holiday horror to get you in the spirit.

Finally, the movie wasn’t as captivating as I expected. The pacing is a bit off, with noticeable lag between songs and zombie attacks as the kids just migrate from one place to another. Honestly, I think the energy was a bit too low key considering all that is going on. Even my hubba hubba announced it wasn’t totally grabbing him…and then went to bed without seeing it through to the end!

My takeaway from the film is that it’s a better zomcom than zomusical.

DOWN (2019)

The February installment of Into the Dark focuses on Valentine’s Day, but neatly works Presidents Day into the mix. Two pretty people—a guy and girl—find themselves trapped in a malfunctioning elevator in their office building right before Valentine’s Day weekend, which happens to coincide with Presidents Day Monday, which means they are stuck for a long weekend.

Luckily, they are each prepared for the holiday, so there’s some wine and candy kisses on hand. It would all be kind of romantic if…

…it weren’t clear that they are being watched through the security monitors.

I don’t think this is what she meant when she told him she wanted the shaft.

Much of the film focuses on the pair getting to know each other quite intimately (ah, so that’s why it’s called “Down”).

This is what I call an elevator ride.

But there’s an unnerving feeling all along that something is wrong (those monitor POVs), so it’s no surprise when it all leads to violence at the hands of a psycho.

It’s safe to say this is P2 on Valentine’s Day in an elevator instead of on Christmas in a parking garage. While it takes a while for the suspense to hit, the unnerving tension beforehand keeps your attention, and once the fight to the finish begins, it doesn’t let up.

Having said all that, it’s undeniable that this is a totally predictable thriller; I’d be surprised if you don’t see the twist coming right from the start. Even so, it’s still one of the best installments of the series so far.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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