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Holidays directors talk their favorite holiday horror films! (Part 2)

04.15.2016by: Eric Walkuski

Holidays horror anthology movie Kevin Smith Scott Stewart Gary Shore

READ PART 1 RIGHT HERE!

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 just made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival (April 14th) and is now available on VOD; a limited theatrical rolls out on 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. (You can find Part 1 right HERE.)

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).

Dennis Widmyer (co-director of "Valentine's Day" segment) on TRICK OR TREAT:

For me, it's gotta be TRICK OR TREAT. No... not TRICK 'R TREAT. TRICK OR TREAT. Sorry, just need to make that clear. And hell, I wouldn't even call TRICK OR TREAT a "holidays horror" movie really. But it has the title, so fuck it, I'm sticking with it.

I first saw the film with friends in the late '90s. About a solid decade after it had already been released. And I remember being shocked that it wasn't already on my radar. As a kid growing up that was very into hair metal, I should have been mainlining this film monthly. It tells the story of tragic and evil rocker, Sammi Curr, coming back from the dead (sort of?) via the power of his music, and tormenting Marc Price ("Skippy" from Family Ties) and his High School friends. Yes, it's notable for the cameos of rock legends like Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons, but for me, it's entered the pantheon of iconic horrors for this performance alone.

Watch. Listen. Move your butt. And you can thank me later...

Kevin Kölsch (co-director of "Valentine's Day" segment) on BLACK CHRISTMAS:

My favorite holiday-themed horror movie is, without a doubt, BLACK CHRISTMAS. It’s one of my favorite horror movies in general, holiday or no holiday. It has an amazing cast and the direction is spot on. When I watched this film for the first time, I thought it might just be your typical holiday slasher, but was pleasantly surprised at what a landmark film it truly is. At just how effective it is. At how far it goes. At how much it gets under the skin. Or to quote the trailer, “If this film doesn’t make your skin crawl, it’s on too tight!”

The entire film is an exercise in tension. It is remarkable how unnerving it remains. Even watching this after having already seen all the films that have “borrowed” from it, it still feels fresh. It still surprises. And it still has you squirming in your seat. I’m not one of those guys that lives by that principle, that “what you don’t see is scarier than all that blood and guts.” I admit, I love me some gore, but this film is the shining example that it is atmosphere and dread that serve up the most scares. And knowing that this dark tale of Christmas comes from the same director that brought us A CHRISTMAS STORY fills me with so much joy that I want to start caroling right now…in April.

Nicholas McCarthy (Director of "Easter" segment) on LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET:

It's a curve ball, but the one I think of is the 1972 film LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET.  Let me explain.

The first time I saw it, in 2002, I couldn't put my finger on why the thing looked disturbingly familiar. A friend had brought it over and we watched it in my apartment on a Sunday afternoon as it was raining. When it was finished, we were floored. The film lived up to the hype we had heard from hardcore horror freaks – it was a weird, homemade, quasi-masterpiece, like a piece of outsider art that the Manson family might have made. 24-year-old Roger Watkins wrote, directed, and starred as a snuff filmmaker leading his crew on a killing spree. As the film moves toward its black-hearted climax, it gets more surreal and upsetting, with Watkins and his band of giggling hippie killers wearing Greek tragedy masks and pointing their own camera and lights right back on us, the viewer. The whole purpose seemed to be to violate the audience. At one point Watkins' beats the shit out of one of his crew while screaming, "I'm directing this fucking movie! I'm directing this fucking movie!" This was a film beamed from some dark, cold planet.  So why did it seem like I already knew this world?

It was only later that I learned that LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET was filmed over a winter break at SUNY Oneonto, a sister college to where I studied film, SUNY Purchase. Roger Watkins had, in fact, also been a film student, 20 years before I was one. With the holidays looming, he scored a box of 16mm reversal film and talked his way into getting a cast and crew to stick around over the winter vacation, lose their minds, and make this unholy film. That Watkins later freely admitted that nearly the entire budget was spent on crystal meth (!) to power the marathon shooting schedule makes sense. The result is something that looks and feels like the misery of what upstate New York winter vacations are when you are in your 20s, stuck in the snow with nothing but your screwed up mind and a dream of making movies. I lived that same winter break for four years in a row before I escaped. To me, LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET is like a psychopath's answer to "What I did on my Christmas vacation."

Sarah Adina Smith (Director of "Mother's Day" segment) on EYES WIDE SHUT:

I know it's a stretch, but I'm going with EYES WIDE SHUT. It takes place around Christmas- has that unmistakable atmosphere of dark holiday glow. And while I wouldn't call it a horror film, it is significantly unnerving. The film's pace is hypnotic, it's a masterpiece of tone. The entire thing is a waking nightmare, in my opinion. I don't know if there's anything more disturbing than thinking you really know someone and then finding out you don't, it makes you feel as though you've lost your grasp on reality.


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.

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