• Holiday Hell (Uncork’d Entertainment) DVD Review

    Released by: Uncork’d Entertainment
    Released on: November 5th, 2019.
    Director: Jeff Ferrell, Jeff Vigil, Jeremy Berg, David Burns
    Cast: Joel Murray, Meagan Karimi-Naser, Jeff Bryan Davis, Amber Stonebraker, Jeffrey Combs
    Year: 2910
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    Holiday Hell – Movie Review:

    Co-written by Jeff Ferrell and Jeff Vigil, the 2019 Christmas themed anthology horror picture Holiday Hell opens with the requisite wraparound segment (with Ferrell handling direction). It’s here that we are first introduced to a young woman named Amelia (Meagan Karimi-Naser), on the search for a last-minute Christmas gift for her sister. She wants something interesting, something unique and she winds up at an old antique store run by an unnamed shopkeeper (Jeffrey Combs). He’s just about to close up for the new, it is Christmas Eve after all, but Amelia is charming and she coaxes him into letting her look around for a bit. As she looks around the shop, he tells her the stories he’s heard about the different items that she’s looking at…

    …which leads into our first story, Dollface, directed by Vigil. Here a group of teenagers get together to meet up at the abandoned home that was once the abode of a girl that they went to school with, a girl who was more than a little troubled it seems. Anyway, they are there to party and screw around, knowing full well the home’s terrible history and the murders that took place there. After they’ve gathered at the house, someone in a doll mask starts skulking about slashing away. This one is a fairly standard slasher, no real surprises here. Some of the dialogue is pretty cringey but the effects work is solid and a couple of the kills are well done. oddly enough, this is the only one of the four stories in here that doesn’t have anything to do with the Christmas time holidays. The score is pretty great though, especially if synth work happens to hit your sweet spot.

    Anyway, up next is The Hand That Rocks The Dreidel, also directed by Ferrell, which wins just based on the title alone. Clever stuff. In it, a young boy named Kevin (Forrest Campbell) who is given a weird Rabbi puppet as a gift from his parents before they take off for a weekend away, leaving him with shifty babysitter Lisa (Amber Stonebraker). As luck would have it, the puppet is cursed and things spiral out of control very quickly from there. This is an improvement over the first story, it’s weird and a bit on the funny side with pretty solid effects work and, again, a nice synth-heavy score.

    The third story is Christmas Carnage, directed by David Burns, and it is the best of the bunch. It delivers the story of a man named Chris (Joel Murray), husband to Susan (Alisa Marshall). Their marriage seems to lack spark and she’s less than friendly to him. They live together with their daughter in your average suburban home. Things go haywire when Chris learns what Susan has been doing behind his back, which causes him to get completely trashed and go on a rampage in a Santa suit. This one is pretty fun. Joel Murray is really good here, he’s just a blast to watch, and he does a great job as a man who has completely lost his shit. The direction is solid and the score is quite good. If you appreciate gory, practical effects this one has that going for it as well. It’s very over the top and rife with some delightfully bad puns and one-liners, but that just adds to the fun.

    The fourth and final story is Room To Let, directed by Jeremy Berg. Robert (Jeffrey Arrington) and Lavinia (Lisa Carswell) run a nice little farm together out in the countryside. Their picturesque life becomes a little complicated when a young woman named Anna (McKenna Ralston) arrives in town and rents a room from them for a little while. As she becomes more familiar with her hosts and the small town that they live in, she starts to realize that everything is not okay – in fact, things are pretty weird.

    Holiday Hell scratches a few itches – it’s an anthology, it’s a horror movie and it’s a holiday themed picture. If you dig any of those qualities, odds are pretty good you’ll find something to like here. Dollface is the most mediocre story of the bunch but some solid effects and murder set pieces go some way towards redeeming it. Dreidel is a step up, and pretty entertaining while Christmas Carnage is great thanks to Murray’s insane performance. Room To Let is okay, it too has its moments, though it’s less engaging then the two middle sections. The whole thing was clearly done with a modest budget, sometimes that shows and sometimes it doesn’t, but overall the movie works more often than it doesn’t, and hey, Jeffrey Combs is pretty fun to watch as the shopkeeper.

    Holiday Hell – DVD Review:

    Uncork’d Entertainment brings Holiday Hell to DVD framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. This was obviously shot digitally so there are no problems with any print damage or grain. Some mild compression artifacts pop up in a couple of spots and a few shots here and there look to have been shot a little on the soft side, but overall things look just fine here. Colors are good, detail is decent enough and the image is stable throughout.

    The disc offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound track and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. There are no alternate language options or subtitles offered. Dialogue is generally pretty clear and the tracks are properly balanced. The 5.1 mix spreads out the score and effects quite nicely in spots.

    The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary track with Jeff Ferrell, Jeff Vigil and composer Semih Tareen. They speak about scoring the film, how this was a passion project that took about eleven years to get completed, how they landed Combs for his role in the film and what he was like to work with, how they secured an actual abandoned home for the first shoot, how and why certain scenes were shot and lit the way they were, how a specific character wound up with fake tattoos on him, working with Joel Murray and what he was able to bring to the production in terms of improvisation, working with the other directors involved in the film, the farm house used in the final short and how Farrell tried to do something different with the coven aspect of that last story.

    Aside from that, there’s a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    Holiday Hell– The Final Word:

    Holiday Hell has some ups and some downs but overall, it’s an entertaining low budget anthology picture that will appeal to those with a soft spot for holiday horror pictures. Worth seeing for Christmas Carnage alone, it’s pretty entertaining stuff. The DVD release from Uncork’d Entertainment looks and sounds fine and the commentary is interesting.