They are few and far between this year, but I did manage to hunt down a trio of new Christmas horror movies available through Prime and for rent on Amazon to add to the complete Christmas horror movie list, so let’s get right to them.
HAPPY HORROR DAYS (2020)
Much like the film Holidays, this anthology covers a full calendar year as it ticks off the holiday of each month. If I have one complaint about this one, it’s that many of the stories feel rushed, incomplete, inconclusive, or too disconnected from the holidays they represent. Here’s the breakdown of stories:
New Year’s Eve – a cool concept about the legend of Father Time needing to be reborn by inhabiting a baby born on January 1st.
St. Patrick’s Day – shot in first person POV, this short, odd little tale is…I think…about an Irish family’s ritual to anoint one of their own as “Patrick”.
Easter – this one is a stretch. It mostly plays out as a possession film, and the nod to the holiday is a family dog that wears bunny ears. WARNING/SPOILER: dog lovers won’t be happy with what takes place by the end of this one.
Fourth of July – this brutal home invasion tale is a political story that will have conservative horror fans screaming liberal propaganda, but damn if it isn’t a timely statement on race in the U.S.
Labor Day – artistic liberties are taken on the meaning of the holiday name in this tale that plays out like a mini version of the French film Inside. Unfortunately, it uses a dream loop to deliver scares, which quickly dilutes its potency.
Halloween – a couple moves into a new house…but the previous owners left something behind. It’s a really good, scary story, my fave in the bunch, and even features a fun, flamboyant weirdo. The down side? The lack of Halloween. One plastic pumpkin and one Halloween mask are all you get. Not to mention, there’s snow on the ground during outdoor scenes!
Thanksgiving – if you’ve seen Absentia, this will feel very familiar. A young woman is nagged by her mother to a) stop smoking, and b) go get a can of cranberries. This requires traveling through one of those creepy pedestrian tunnels under a road…
Hanukkah – yay to including a Hanukkah story, but a big what the hell were they thinking? to the fact that it’s a tale of two women fighting over a Jewish man for his money?
Christmas – a young girl is terrorized by a Santa that comes knocking when she’s home alone. Nothing new here, but it does what a simple killer Santa story needs to do. Plus, there’s an appearance by gay horror film creator Michael Varrati!
THE NIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS (2020)
This is a sequel to Once Upon a Time at Christmas, one of my faves from a previous December Christmas horror roundup. At the time I watched the first film , the sequel had been announced as Twice Upon a Time at Christmas. I would have preferred that title for this direct sequel, because the title The Nights Before Christmas makes it feel very detached from the first movie.
The crazy Claus couple from the first film is back, and once again deliver the goods with fantastic performances, although this time Mrs. Claus doesn’t get as much screen time.
While the first film was more of an authentic slasher, the sequel focuses heavily on two FBI agents hunting down the killers.
I just can’t get drawn in as much when too much time is spent on those hunting the psycho…unless it’s Donald Pleasance tracking Michael Myers. Too much investigative focus takes me out of the terror of the stalker/slasher/killer aspects.
Having said that, the hack n slash kills are savory here, there’s plenty of Christmas atmosphere, there are good old fashioned gratuitous boobs, and like I said, psycho Santa rox.
Even though the character he was stalking in the original is back (played by a different actress), the plot and motivation are much more complex and seem way too elaborate for two freshly escaped mental patients to pull off, to the point of distraction. But it makes more sense by the end of the film, even though it still relies too heavily on the viewer’s suspension of disbelief.
That’s not to say I can’t wait for the announced third film, currently announced as One Christmas Night in a Toy Store. Awesome.
This anthology opens with sweeping visuals in a cemetery and music reminiscent of the Tales from the Crypt theme. There is no wraparound, so it jumps right into the stories, all of which are brief.
The good and bad news is that the film is 131 minutes long. Good news: 26 stories, so you’re sure to find a bunch you like. Bad news: 26 stories, so you’re sure to find a bunch you don’t like. There are a variety of styles from numerous countries and in varying languages. Personally, I enjoyed the quickies that keep the month at the forefront while delivering on camp, creepiness, dark humor, gore, or the good old Creepshow zinger style ending. Some stories try too hard to make you think, causing you to think too hard and still not get what they were going for. Others seem to totally overlook the fact that this is a movie focused on December.
Here are some of the highlights for me:
- a gluttonous kid that eats all the advent calendar candy in one sitting gets taught a very hard lesson.
- yay! This dark comedy clip is from gay horror creator Michael Varrati, and features Final Destination creator Jeffrey Reddick and horror queen Tiffany Shepis. She’s as “Karen” as it gets in a store, and her reaction to not getting her way rules.
- a young man is welcomed into the home of his girlfriend for Christmas dinner, and things get slithery and icky.
- an eco-conscious tale of a man who takes his son deer hunting.
- indie horror king Peter Stickles in a slasher about a greedy upper class family gathering for Christmas.
- a dad makes the mistake of using the legend of Krampus to scare his kids into behaving on Christmas.
- horror king A.J. Bowen is a Grinch of a dad, so his son asks for Santa’s help…
- a gruesome girl power tale of females that target a perv at a dance club.
- a very twisted, gory, old school Euro horror style clip of 2 women that go ice skating.
- a tale from horror queen Pollyanna McIntosh about a group of crazy carolers.
- it’s horror queen Barbara Crampton vs. a psycho Santa.
- things go horribly wrong when a stripper Santa drops in for Christmas.
Note that the closing credits begin rolling with 19 minutes remaining, but there’s another tale midway through them, and another at the end of them.