Unwrapping Holiday Horror Movies of 2021



At this time a year when things twinkle bright, fans of scary movies sit patiently awaiting a morsel of yuletide horror, a small but resilient sub-genre. We gotten a mixed bag of movies, and here's some thoughts on 2021's seasonal offerings.



Black Friday

Bruce Campbell leads a fun cast in a Superstore-inspired horror comedy where retail drones are pitted against a zombie apocalypse on Thanksgiving night. It has charming indie B-movie vibes but like that impulse buy on a shopping frenzy, it just never fully satisfies. ★★★



Silent Night

This horror comedy pits humans against the world, which has unleashed toxic gas clouds on Christmas night. It rides a fine line between depressing bleak apocalypse movie and comedic family situations that seem to rise during the holidays. Though pitch black in nature it stayed with me days after seeing it. ★★★1/2



Elves

Netflix's Christmas-set series from Denmark marks a return to the darker side of Yuletide folklore. Centered around kids and a cute little creature it gives off a Gremlins-like atmosphere, presumably with YA audience in mind. Tonally it's humorless and dour with the slightest sense of wonder. Also at a brief 2 1/2 hours it both overstays its welcome as a movie and underwhelms as a series. ★★



The Advent Calendar

This is clever concept for a yuletide horror film with a solid cast, relatively good execution, and good production values. The big bad is woefully unexplored and too much is left to the imagination. The ending however, leaves a sour, hard candy Christmas taste. I appreciated that a character with a disability led the story (even though the actress is not disabled) but didn't appreciate its overall ableist message. Horror has always been a transgressive genre so it's disappointing that The Advent Calendar is so regressive. ★★1/2




The Humans

This is a horror movie dressed like a drama about a family at Thanksgiving dinner. It's incredibly subtle and slight, with a deeply meditative knowing, characterizations written with the thriftiest of screenplays, and acted so meaningfully that every glance and intonation says so much. On the surface it's all a mundane affair, but underneath slithers a real darkness about the mistakes that consume us as humans. The aural landscape is a character of its own. Every bang, bump and clang signifying unknown terrors. And it's shot at all the wrong angles with a still and penetrating camera. Everything is carefully crafted to fill you with unease and muted dread of an impending calamity. I found myself mesmerized and jumping at some moments along with the characters on screen. ★★★★1/2



Krampus: The Naughty Cut

The definitive holiday horror film from Trick 'r Treat director Michael Dougherty comes in a brand new shiny 4K edition with lots of new extras. The film itself only gets about 4 minutes reinserted back into its runtime, including some slightly extended gore, rearranged scenes, profanity, and some extended scenes. Mindblowing? No, but collectors should take note. This movie has become an annual tradition in our home and it's always good to remember that before Christinanity came along, notions of Santa and Krampus already existed and they were a terrifying duo. ★★★★


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