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Holidays directors talk their favorite holiday horror films! (Part 1)

04.14.2016by: Eric Walkuski

Holidays horror anthology movie Kevin Smith Scott Stewart Gary Shore

The past few years have seen a renaissance of the anthology horror film - and we couldn't be happier. The latest chilling compendium to arrive on the scene is HOLIDAYS, which is, as you probably could have guessed, a holiday-themed collection that gives due to some of the more notable days of the year. Christmas, St. Patrick's Day, Halloween (duh), New Year's Eve and more are paid terrifying tribute to in the film, which has been helmed by an impressive assortment of directors; some well established, some up-and-coming.

The film is about to make its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival (April 14th) before moving on to a VOD release (April 15th) and a limited theatrical roll out (April 22nd). In anticipation of that, we thought it would be fun to get almost every one of the directors to let us know what their favorite holiday horror movies are. (This is just Part 1, stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow.)

The directors of HOLIDAYS are: Kevin Smith (Tusk), Gary Shore (Dracula Untold), Scott Stewart (Dark Skies), Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes), Sarah Adina Smith (The Midnight Swim), Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact) Adam Egypt Mortimer (Some Kind of Hate) and Anthony Scott Burns (Darknet).

My Bloody Valentine movie 1981 horror

Anthony Scott Burns (director of "Father's Day" segment) on MY BLOODY VALENTINE:

It was a typically wet night in Vancouver, British Columbia. I was four years old, and my babysitter had taken me over to a friend’s house to pick up an assignment for school. After I awkwardly met her friend, Candy (yes, that was my sitters name) explained that she’d be right back and quickly ran upstairs, leaving me standing in the unfamiliar doorway alone.

 After a moment, I heard the distant sound of a betamax tape being loaded into a VCR.

In the adjoining living room, I spied a small group of teenage boys (who all looked like extras from Sleepaway Camp) sitting huddled around a small wood paneled television watching something bizarre… Two people walking around a darkened cave, dressed in, what seemed to be a cross between scuba gear, and Darth Vader. The characters on screen were actually dressed in mining accoutrement, but I had never seen anything like it before. I began to watch. The music coming from the small five inch speaker on the TV immediately gave me a weird feeling, as this was my first time hearing any musical composition that was tonally unpleasant. I was entranced, and felt ‘cool’ watching this ‘big boy’ event. Then, the people stopped walking through the dark cave, and the larger of the two turned towards the other… Undressing?

At this point, one of the teenagers turned nervously and noticed me at the doorway. He smirked and returned his gaze to the events unfolding. Keep in mind that this was the early 80s, and I had, up until then, only seen things like Mister Dressup, Mr. Rogers, and Sesame Street. So… I continued to watch as the the dirty coveralls and mask were slowly removed, revealing a beautiful woman in pristine white underwear. What?! I was beyond confused. She then began to try and take the mask off of the other ‘miner’. He wasn’t having it, and with a sudden stoic grunt, he thrust the scantily dressed young woman onto his dull pickaxe. Her chest instantly exploded red, and my mind exploded with fear. I violently cried out for my babysitter, and after consoling me, she rushed me home. I have never forgotten this moment, as it traumatized me in more ways than I wish to discuss.   This was not only my introduction to the horror film genre, but to half-nude females, and holiday themed horror. I consider it to be the most joyfully depraved sect of horror cinema, as it takes the times we feel most safe and happy, and fills them with dread and gore. Their only message: We are never safe. And although horror fans will know my traumatic event to be the youthful witnessing of the opening to ‘My Bloody Valentine’, this is not my favourite of the group, because it only highlights the effectiveness of the crowned king among these films… John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN: A story about crumby babysitters meeting the devil himself, and leaving kids ALONE when THEY KNOW he’s out there. My only message: Beware of babysitters, because you never know how they’ll allow trauma into your life:)

Picnic at Hanging Rock Peter Weir movie Adam Egypt Mortimer (Director of "New Year's Eve" segment) on PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK:

Set on Valentine’s Day in the year 1900, PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK is like a sun drenched gothic ghost story, equal parts beautiful, terrifying, mind bending, and sexy.

It begins on the morning of February 14th in a stately Australian girls’ boarding school as the students read each other love poems, help each other into lacy white corsets, and giggle about red roses and statues of St Valentine’s.  They are giddy, they are filled with longing, they are light personified -- but framed in ornate mirrors and against late-Victorian wallpaper, they are mysteriously either dangerous or in peril (it’s hard to say which). The dread increases as they arrive at Hanging Rock, a lava formation which a teacher tells them is “quite young geologically speaking... only a million years.”  They are told to watch out for venomous snakes and poisonous ants, they viciously stab a St. Valentine’s Cake, they whisper sonnets while the camera lurks among them like a gentle predator -- it feels both romantic and sinister. There’s an insane cinema moment at one point that starts with an extreme wide shot of the girls in their pristine white petticoats and hats, lying scattered on the rocks and grass and then CUTS to a macro shot of black ants crawling on an angel food cake.

Famously, this is a movie about a horrible mystery that is never solved.  We watch a small group of the most beautiful girls taking off their shoes and stockings, walking in slow motion through the endless corridors of rock formation and the ripples of Australian heat -- until they are gone forever, erased into the abyss on the other side of the frame. One girl screams and runs, seeing -- or understanding -- something that’s never revealed to us.  With all the trappings of a slasher movie, the killer is an invisible unknowable metaphysical force who stalks beautiful young women that just want to have fun. The sound design -- a strange rumbling of wind and black hole noise -- and the soundtrack rival the best and creepiest of any horror film.  Tying the core of the film back to Valentine’s Day -- and making it into the kind of thing I like to call a Psychotronic Breakup Movie -- is the story of the orphan Sarah’s unrequited love for the gorgeous Miranda.  “You must learn to love someone else aside from me,” Miranda tells Sarah. “I won’t be here much longer.”  Later, another girls asks “Doomed? What’s that mean?” -- which feels like the real central question, the central fear.  There can’t be a love story-turned-horror more oddly frightening than when one lover evaporates out of reality -- on a sunlit Valentine’s getaway.

Next February 14th, snuggle up with the one you think you love and disappear with this.

Gremlins Joe Dante horror movie Christmas  Scott Stewart (Director of "Christmas" segment) on GREMLINS:

My favorite holiday themed horror film is Joe Dante's Christmas season set GREMLINS.  Yes, it's light on big scares and leans more heavily toward satire than straight horror, but it had Chris Walas's amazing practical monsters and enough splatter to enthrall and gross me out when I first saw it as a thirteen-year-old in 1984.  Dante's achievements with GREMLINS are many but the film's dark and funny tone impresses me the most when I watch it today.  It's a spectacular cinematic tightrope walk and was an influence for me on my Christmas themed segment of HOLIDAYS.

City of Lost Children Gary Shore (Director of "St. Patrick's Day" segment) on CITY OF LOST CHILDREN:

It's a bit of a stretch to call this a holiday movie, but the opening scene in the The City of Lost Children with the many creepy Santas sticks in my mind as being to most disturbing incarnation of the jolly fat man.

But if we are talking full movies then it would have to be Jim Henson's The Muppet Christmas Carol.... followed closely by Darby O'Gill and The Little People (the Banshee scene gave me nightmares as a kid).... followed by The Wicker Man, which is technically a pagan holiday movie.


HOLIDAYS trailer

HOLIDAYS hits VOD on April 15th and theaters April 22nd courtesy of XYZ Films and Vertigo Entertainment; check out the official site HERE.

Extra Tidbit: Part 2 of our holiday-themed exclusive with the directors of HOLIDAYS comes tomorrow, April 15th!

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