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Thursday, October 24, 2019

HOLIDAY HELL (Film Review)

                               Starring: Joel Murray, Meagan Karimi-Naser, Jeffrey Combs
                            Directed by: Jeff Ferrell, Jeff Vigil, Jeremy Berg & David Burns


   Everyone's got a story to tell, especially during the holidays - in the case of Holiday Hell, the latest anthology piece from a quartet of directorial talent (all the names are up top for your perusal) - even the simplest curiosities have tales behind them to be told.

  The backdrop is an odder-than-odd antiquities store on the night before Christmas Eve (eve of the eve, I assume), and we follow a young woman (Naser) who is on the hunt for that "perfect" gift for her sister. Her late-night pursuit has led her to the shop run by a man (Combs) simply known as The Shopkeeper, a mysterious soul who informs her that every piece in his store has a story behind it, and he's only too glad to spill the beans on whatever she shows interest in. Broken up into four tales, her first piqued curio is a weathered and cracked porcelain mask, owned by a young girl who was tormented by schoolmates - the story is called "Dollface" and as you might have guessed, it's got bullying-revenge written all over it. Next up is "The Hand That Rocks The Dreidel" (absolutely LOVE the title), and it's about a young boy who receives an insanely creepy-looking Rabbi puppet as a gift from his parents before they skedaddle for the weekend. The boy's babysitter has alternate plans for the next couple of days and the evil-looking little protector will serve as a roadblock for her intentions.

  The third tale is "Christmas Carnage" and was by and far my favorite segment of the film - starring well-traveled actor Joel Murray as a man who's been kept in the dark by his secretive wife. One night at a company Xmas party, the booze and rage inside of him are too much to dismantle and he begins a stretch of violent tendencies that no one this side of ol' St. Nick has seen in a while - fantastic work by Murray, and if you've had the pleasure of seeing his work in God Bless America, this will seem eerily familiar to that portrayal. The last entry in the film is called "Room To Let" and it focuses on a young drifter that wanders up to a quiet, secluded home deep in the countryside owned by a couple, and let's just say that this is NOT a happy bed-and-breakfast yarn, that I can assure you. We're finally brought back to the wraparound story at the curiosity shop, where the Keeper is sworn to the knowledge that he's met the young woman somewhere before...but where?

 Overall, the film isn't going to knock down any creative or innovative walls, but there are some decent stretches contained within the runtime, and with the performance of Mr. Combs himself, how could you go wrong? The chemistry between he and Naser in their scenes works to a level that makes you wish their interaction had it's own full-blown showcase. I didn't find one story that was a dud, and for that I'll commend to an extent but I do wish that they weren't so cookie-cutter in nature. At the end of it all, Holiday Hell is one of those movies that should suffice during the months after Halloween...I mean it's either this or sitting around with family members watching them gorge themselves on turkey and struggling to put up decorations - that's a completely different arena or terror all in itself. The movie is currently making its way through some limited theater runs but will be available on digital platforms and DVD on 11/5.

RATING: 3 out of 5

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