I continue to add to the complete holiday horror page with four more holiday themed horror flicks for the 2022 season.
YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER (2021)
This Irish film creates a compelling, haunting slow burn while managing to combine folk horror, Halloween horror, and the recent trend of exploring family dysfunction and mental illness within the realm of the horror genre.
A teen girl named Char is driven to school one day by her mother, who is having one of her depressive episodes. After school, Char finds her mother’s car abandoned.
The police don’t express much concern with the case of the missing mother because it’s the week leading up to Halloween and they are inundated with pranks calls.
As Char remembers Halloweens past and has nightmares about her mother, the mother returns with no recollection of where she was. Her spirits are high, but Char soon begins to notice she’s…different. A scene when her mother enters her bedroom is so understated but absolutely chilling to me.
As the mother begins to transition from creepy to crazy, we’re left wondering if she is simply suffering from dementia or if something has actually possessed her.
Thankfully this movie doesn’t stay in metaphorical hell…it ignites into full horror mode, with some body horror, terror on the streets as kids trick or treat, and the unraveling of the folklore that seems to have immersed Char in an invasion of the body snatcher situation with her mother.
It’s not a high energy horror flick, but I really do love the way it builds up the suspense concerning the mother’s condition, and it does a fantastic job of interweaving the Halloween season into the situation.
Running only a short 72-minutes long and clearly a low budget endeavor, Unboxed really gets points for taking a different approach to Halloween horror.
A young influencer is doing a Halloween special in which she unboxes gifts her viewers have sent her.
Things get mysterious fast when she begins receiving texts and videos from a masked figure that is holding her boyfriend captive and will slowly torture him if she doesn’t do what is described in each box she opens live on her stream.
The short runtime lends itself to a brisk pace as the influencer is forced not only to do some nasty things on camera, but also forced to catch everything on camera as she subjects trick or treaters to some of the boxes. Although there’s no notable performance here, a few of the visitors that come ringing her doorbell are actually kind of funny. Plus, we get a hot daddy…
As for the horror aspects, had this been a bigger production, it could have gone a nastier and more brutal Saw-esque route, but it is clearly limited by its budget.
Even so, in the end our main girl is drawn into a brief cat and mouse game with the killer in her house. The film most definitely demonstrates that the pair that directed it has promise, and I would love to see them given the opportunity to redo this film with more backing. I had a lot of Halloween fun with it.
THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN (2022)
This is described as The Hangover done Halloween style, but while it seem like it’s simply going to be a dark, non-PC, tasteless comedy for its duration, it takes a surprising horror turn at the end—and I wish that surprise had come sooner.
When they wake up the day after a Halloween party with a dead body in their tub and “Welcome to the world of AIDS” written on their bathroom mirror, two slackers have to piece together what happened the night before.
Anyone who is hyper sensitive to the ignorance of straight white male humor might take offense to the comedy here. It’s fairly light in terms of how offensive it goes, but it does lean on typical, tired topics, including a few gay jokes, Swastika humor, misogyny, and a flirtation with the N word.
What’s rather ironic about those cheap jokes being delivered by the straight white male characters is that the funniest, most genuinely humorous lines are saved for the two female leads.
We never do find out what the point is of the AIDS message beyond being an urban legend steeped in hetero paranoia of homosexuality, but we do get confusing timeline jumps that make this feel more like a series of situations than an actual plot at times. This includes the guys running a drive-in theater, their separate relationship issues with women, how they decide to deal with the body in the tub, a hypothetical police interrogation scene, and some flashbacks to their past that don’t add much to the story.
Some of it feels like pure filler, even if it might give us a little chuckle now and then, but despite the distractions (including one of the leading guys being particularly cute as he shows off a variety of looks thanks to the flashbacks), I still couldn’t wait to find out what the deal was with the body in the tub.
With only about ten minutes to spare, The Day After Halloween does something shocking—it throws in a horror twist.
I won’t spoil it, but it’s fun and satisfying and I so wish the twist had come a bit earlier so the buddies in this buddy movie would have had a chance to interact while contending with an actual horror threat.
This little indie has a great vibe and cast, but it is a little restrained in the horror department.
Billy Zane starts off the proceedings with his special style of comedic delivery, leading a satanic cult in a ritual sacrifice in the woods. Bruce Dern is a crazy old veteran who happens to witness the unleashing of a big demon from the ground.
Next we meet our cast living in a small town. There’s a new sheriff, played perfectly by actor Ed Morrone, and his deputy, played by cutie Crash Buist, who has the most awesome name ever.
We also get a load of horror veterans: Courtney Gains (aka: Malachai from Children of the Corn); John Kassir (best known as the voice of the Crypt Keeper); 80s queen Meg Foster; Candyman Tony Todd; and Adrienne Barbeau (who plays the local DJ of course).
Along with the great cast, the movie takes place at Christmastime. There are loads of Christmas lights, plus the demon makes a Christmas tree lot its new home.
The film is described on IMDb as taking place in the 80s. We do get a quick faux 80s music montage scene featuring a boom box and classic arcade games, and Barbeau’s adult son name drops Elvira and Killer Klowns from Outer Space. But what’s weird is that twice the sheriff references horror names that were a major mark on 80s era horror—Michael Myers and Cujo—and his two young officers have no idea what he’s talking about. It almost feels like a gag meant for a contemporary film attempting to show the age gap between sheriff and the younger generation, but it doesn’t make sense in the 80s, when the young people would be more likely to know the names than the older sheriff.
Everyone is fun and entertaining, and the creature is not CGI, but there are only a few demon attack moments. Most of the film focuses on the cult members stalking and killing locals, which I think is the biggest flaw here. The cult battles are a blast, but to offer a scene establishing the release of a big demon right from the start and to then underutilize his presence is quite a letdown, especially since he’s wicked cool looking.