Review: Holiday Hell (2019)


A young woman goes into a store that sells items that each have a story attached. The storekeeper relates a series of tales for items she is interested in…

Portmanteau films can often be hit and miss. For each story that works, there is often one that doesn’t.   For me the best film of this type is still the British classic, 1945’s Dead Of Night. There’s a reason for that, the wraparound story, the one that brings the stories together is one of the best, with a terrific resolution. Other films of this type often try a similar approach, that often doesn’t work, or choose other ways of connecting the story. One of my favourites in that regard is 1974’s From Beyond The Grave. It’s a film that I think was an influence, to a degree, on Holiday Hell. In From Beyond The Grave, Peter Cushing plays a storekeeper who sells antiques and follows those who buy items from him.

In Holiday Hell it’s one customer and the storekeeper, with the storekeeper telling the stories, except the final one, which the customer relates, with the scenes in the store building to a climax of its own. The other aspect here, is that each story is linked to a holiday.

The film is written by Jeff Ferrell and Jeff Vigil, with the directing duties taken by Ferrell, Vigil as well as Jeremy Berg and David Burns.

As said, like most of the films of this type, the stories are a mixed bag. The first Dollface, about a group of teens being picked off by a woman in a porcelain type mask. It’s basically a condensed slasher film that does have an a slight surprise in that the main character is deaf. It also, to be fair, pulls of a surprise at its end.

The second story follows a young boy who receives a doll as a gift, one that comes to life to help him, when his babysitter and her boyfriend plot to rob the house. In truth it’s a very slight tale with nothing really going for it.

The next is about a man who at Christmas goes on a drink and drugged fuelled murder spree involving his unfaithful wife and colleagues at work. There is some humour here and like with Dollface, the violence is surprisingly restrained for the most part.

The final story, involves the customer relating a story that her mother told her involving a young woman arriving in a remote town. It’s a story where you can see where it is going before it gets there.

In truth, none of the stories are that great. They aren’t scary enough and really, with the exception of the first one, which does have a little twist, there are no surprises at all here.

And yet, the linking story builds to a satisfying ending. This is definitely a case of the ending almost saving the film. It too is a development, you might not see coming either.

Cast wise, the acting is a mixed bag. Jeffery Combs plays the shopkeeper and is as good as ever, in the key role. He’s matched by Meagan Karimi-Naser as Amelia, the customer. Their scenes are the best thing in the film. As for the rest, some of the acting is weak, others are better, but the nature of the stories mean none are truly memorable. The direction isn’t bad, but there’s no tension that the film needs, but in truth a lot of the blame lies more in the script I think.

Yet, despite its many weaknesses, I enjoyed Holiday Hell to a degree. It certainly helped that the pay off worked. It meant the film ended on a high note. And if I’m honest there is some fun to be hand in a couple of segments.

Holiday Hell will never go down as a holiday horror classic. In truth, you will likely forget it soon after seeing it.

It’s a mildly diverting film, but certainly nothing to celebrate over the festive period.

Rating: **1/2 out of 5

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