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Holiday Hell Main

Holiday Hell Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Uncork'd Entertainment

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Directed by Jeff Ferrell (“Nevertold Casket Co.” and “The Hand that Rocks the Dreidel”), Jeff Vigil (“Dollface”), David Burns (“Christmas Carnage”), and Jeremy Berg (“Room to Let”)
Written by Jeff Ferrell and Jeff Vigil
2019, 100 minutes, Not Rated
Released on November 1st, 2019

Starring:
Jeffrey Combs as The Shopkeeper
Meagan Karimi-Naser as Amelia/Ophelia
Charnie Dondrea as Chyna/Dollface
Forrest Campbell as Kevin
Joel Murray as Chris
Jeffrey Arrington as Robert
McKenna Ralston as Anna

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Review:

I must fess up to a practice that I’m somewhat guilty of. If we’re being honest with each other (and there’s no reason not to be, eh?), then maybe we can ALL admit to this from time to time. Here goes: I often take a chance on a flick based solely on the presence of a single actor. It’s not a huge transgression, but as a reviewer I try to look at more than just that one facet. Still, I’m human. I have weaknesses.

In the case of the Christmas-themed anthology Holiday Hell, the bait was genre legend Jeffrey Combs a.k.a. Dr. Herbert West a.k.a. Crawford Tillinghast. How do you not at least take a peek when he’s involved? You don’t have to answer that; it’s rhetorical. Add to that the fact that it’s an anthology (another admitted weakness of mine), let alone one with “ho ho ho” good cheer, and you know I had to jump on that shit and hope it wasn’t a grenade.

Amelia (Meagan Karimi-Naser; Dead West) is in need of a last-minute Christmas present for her eccentric and morbid sister. She heads to Nevertold Casket Company, an oddity shop that looks more like a funeral parlor. It’s Christmas Eve and the Shopkeeper (Jeffrey Combs; Re-Animator; From Beyond) is getting ready to close. He decides to help her out, however, and show her a few of his unusual wares (a mask, a rabbi doll, a Santa Claus suit, and a human skull). Every item for sale in the Nevertold Casket Company has a story behind it, dark and ugly tales that he’s more than happy to pass on.

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  • “Dollface”: A group of stereotypical (and frankly despicable) teens make a party pad out of a famous murder house. Unfortunately for them (but fortunately for you), they’re about to encounter the famous Dollface and feel her wrath. It’s going to be one bloody party.
  • “The Hand that Rocks the Dreidel”: A young Jewish boy named Kevin (Forrest Campbell) receives a one-of-a-kind doll, a handcrafted German rabbi, on the last day of Hanukkah. His parents are leaving town for the weekend, and he’ll be in the care of his regular babysitter, Lisa (Amber Stonebraker; Grimm). Lisa is actually a burglar who’s going to rob Kevin’s rich parents blind…until the rabbi has something to say about it.
  • “Christmas Carnage”: Chris (Joel Murray; Mad Men) is the quintessential doormat – a good worker who gets passed over for the promotion because of his meekness and walked on at home by his bitchy wife for the same reason. It’s been a year since he last fell off the wagon at the company Christmas party, and it’s time to put on the Santa suit again. This time, though, he sees something that sends him over the edge in a haze of whiskey and pills. He won’t be a doormat anymore.
  • “Room to Let”: Anna (McKenna Ralston; Z Nation) is a young woman striking out on her own. She rents a room at Jenne Farm. It’s a quaint little place run by Robert (Jeffrey Arrington; All Too Human) and his wife. Anna gets the feeling that not everything is as it seems; the town is downright odd and the girl she’s replacing at the local store is missing her damn tongue! She’ll soon discover that there’s nothing more frightening than a small town.
  • “Nevertold Casket Co.”: No anthology is complete without a wraparound, and is the shopkeeper hiding some secrets? Does fruitcake taste like slow-baked shit? The answer to both questions is: of course!

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Unsurprisingly, Holiday Hell is a mixed bag (as most anthologies tend to be). It’s still a strong entry in the genre. Even the weakest of the bunch, “Dollface”, sports some lovingly gory SFX and fairly creative kills if nothing else (though it is hard to get past the squeals of “Pretty!” from the killer). Overall, the film picks up speed as it rolls along. “The Hand that Rocks the Dreidel” has some cringeworthy acting on the part of the minor players, but the two leads are strong and the sense of humor is bleak and nasty (and you’ve got to love that title!). “Room to Let” and “Nevertold Casket Co.” tie into each other smoothly thanks to deft writing and logical exposition.

The gem of the movie is “Christmas Carnage”, though. That’s due in large part to the hammy acting chops of Joel Murray. He’s so utterly believable as the downtrodden nice guy that you want to jump though the screen and pick on him. When he snaps, it’s good old-fashioned homicidal fun that makes you raise your fist in the air! The use of assorted hardware implements is a nice touch. Also, the line, “I’m high on titty coke!” is pretty damn fantastic. It’s the segment that’ll keep you grinning from ear to ear with God-awful puns to accentuate the bloodshed. Puns are the best.

While it goes without saying that Jeffrey Combs is the shit, I’ll go ahead and say it anyways. It’s no shocker, but there’s a reason they cast the man and feature him as the selling point of the film. He’s a friggin’ horror God, after all.

All in all, you’ll have a good (if not inconsistent) time with Holiday Hell. It’s a film of peaks and valleys (especially in terms of characterization), but there are some strong images that’ll stick with you and the music is well-placed and effective. I can think of a lot of worse ways to pass the time during the holidays than sitting by the fire and enjoying some Christmas violence. And “Christmas Carnage” really is worth the price of admission alone.

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Grades:

Movie: 3 Star Rating Cover
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About The Author
Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Writer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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