Christmas horror films are few and far between these days and even rarer still are ones that actually work. Add to that the additional challenge of an anthology and you are almost certainly asking for disaster. However, filmmakers (and longtime horror journalists and scholars) Rebekah and David McKendry did just that with their film All The Creatures Were Stirring and while it does fall prey to some of the pitfalls of anthology filmmaking, overall it is a worthy addition to the yuletide horror pantheon.
The film’s framing story concerns two 30 somethings spending their Christmas together in a small black box theater watching a play with short vignettes all centered around the holiday. All is not as it seems, however, as each vignette unravels a sinister Christmas tale and the show the couple is watching is anything but normal. To say much more about the plot of the film does a disservice to the individual stories suffice to say that there is a little bit of something for everyone.
The cast is made up of some of the independent genre’s best and brightest. Indie darlings like Graham Skipper (Sequence Break, The Mind’s Eye), Brea Grant (A Ghost Story, Halloween 2), Amanda Fuller (Starry Eyes, Fashionista) Morgan Peter Brown (XX, Teenage Cocktail), and a slew of other familiar faces round out a cast that feels like a highlight reel from indie genre cinema over the past 5 years (and in no way is that a bad thing). There’s also a few neat casting choices like Larry Zerner, best known as Shelly from Friday the 13th Part 3 as well as Archie Hahn from Phantom of The Paradise. Spotting folks you’ll surely recognize is part of the fun of the film.
The McKendry’s pull double duty as both a writing and directing team but they make it work almost completely. For the half-dozen or so stories that populate it, the film never seems to drag as they keep things moving at a decent clip. There are, however, a few moments where a couple of the stories feel a little lighter than some of the others. But this is almost to be expected with an anthology like this and the other shorts more than make up for any shortcomings that those few have. They do a wonderful job of balancing pitch-black humor with genuine laughs as well as holiday cheer with heaps of the macabre. The framing story never feels forced and each tale of Christmas terror feels in place within that frame.
All The Creatures Were Stirring is sure to find a home on many people’s holiday watchlist and could easily be in rotation with the likes of Gremlins and Krampus. It has a mean streak but one that is similar to those films. The film won the audience award at CFF and it’s easy to see why. It’s fun, hilarious, dark and even oddly touching at times and doesn’t even scratch the surface of how many stories can be told. Sequel anyone?
You can follow the film via their Facebook page and be sure to give our interview with the directors a listen here.
4 out of 5.