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Review: Black Sunday Productions’ “Holiday Hell”

Christmas can be pure Hell. What with all the crap music on the radio, fake well wishes from strangers and the encroaching disaster that is another unwanted family dinner. A slight annoyance to be found in the holiday blues is the age old question of “what do I get my loved one for Christmas? what is the perfect gift?” That’s the gateway into Black Sunday Productions’ horror anthology flick, Holiday Hell. A young woman finds herself in a curiosity shop on Christmas Eve in search of her sister’s last minute gift. The shopkeeper there is more than willing to help her pinpoint the perfect present, but every item in the shop has a particular appeal and scary story attached to it. As they go from idea to idea, the shopkeeper shares just how each mysterious object ended up in his care. A porcelain-faced slasher, a tale in the same vein as Trilogy of Terror, a psycho Santa and a Satanic cult can be found in Holiday Hell, releasing exclusively on Tubi October 15th 2019 followed by a digital and DVD debut on November 5th 2019 courtesy of Uncork’d Entertainment. Starring Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, The Frighteners), Megan Karimi-Naser, Charnie Dondrea, Cami Ottman, Natasha Duvall, Forrest Campbell, Amber Stonebraker, Lisa Coronado, Joel Murray, Ailsa Marshall, Jeff Bryan Davis, McKenna Ralston, Lisa Carswell and Jeffrey Arrington, Holiday Hell is an anthology is a decent movie that shouldn’t be so heavily marketed as Christmas horror.

“Nevertold Casket Co” and “The Hand That Rocks the Dreidel” were directed by Jeff Ferrell. “Dollface” was directed by Jeff Vigil. “Christmas Carnage” was directed by David Burns” and “Room to Rent” was directed by Jeremy Berg. The segments that make up the feature film Holiday Hell can be found on the big screen as follows: in LA on October 11-17 at Laemmle Monica Film center, in Portland on October 26-27 at Clinton Street Theater and in Seattle on November 1-7 at Grand Illusion Cinema. If you end up reading this review and think Holiday Hell may be something that interests you, those are your chances to see it on the big screen before it hits home media courtesy of Uncork’d Entertainment. So, what did I think of this anthology? Well, as I mentioned above, for being marketed as a Christmas horror movie, it never actually delivers the mood and festive cheer you want sprinkled into your blood, guts and suspense. Outside of a Bad Santa inspired segment and the wrap-around segment taking place around Christmas, there aren’t any other trees, bulbs or baby Jesus’ to be found in this movie. It seems almost pointless to have added the production design to a few of the narratives, especially when Holiday Hell could have survived on its own without it. Give me Silent Night or nothing at all. This, however, is really my only complaint.

I love independent movies, hence why I’m here, and Holiday Hell definitely falls into that category. It looks like the whole thing was made for less than a quarter of a million dollars, and that’s alright with me. I just want you to know what you’re getting before I say that Holiday Hell turned out to be much better than I was expecting. For starters, the camera quality, editing and acting performances were far better than what you’ll find in other independent anthologies. The cast and crew really held their own and delivered a product that is completely void of production errors and lackluster performances. Holiday Hell also possesses a ton of horror troupes that fans know and love, splattered with grit, twists and intestines. It doesn’t rely too heavily on gore to keep viewers interested, more-so going for the shock-and-awe tactic where each segment flips on its head before it ends. Not to mention, this film finishes with a very strong ending that more than makes up for any slow parts in the beginning and middle stories. Look out for that surprise! For each segment having a different crew and director, Holiday Hell is extremely cohesive and feels like one fluid feature. This usually never happens when tasks are divided this way, so major props to the editor and masterminds behind this picture for keeping their style in check. Only other thing I would change is the backing scores. A lot of them sounded like royalty free downloads that didn’t fit in a title with this level of quality.

What Holiday Hell lacks in Christmas spirit, it more than makes up for in traditional horror storytelling. And what it lacks in gore, it more than makes up for in ingenuity. Final Score: 7 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)