It’s a well-known fact that I have a weakness for horror anthologies…
… So when I learned about Deathcember, a collection of 24 horror shorts that act as an advent calendar, my interest was captured immediately.
Because there are so many, each story was only a few minutes long, but the film still totaled an extensive run time of 2hrs and 23mins. Usually I prefer an anthology with fewer segments, as it allows me to spend more time with each story, but with a film project like this, you’re guaranteed to find something you like, which I did on multiple occasions. I enjoyed almost all of the stories; they were perfect little bites of horror during Christmas time, from creators all over the world with very diverse ideas and styles.
The first of my favourites was “All Sales Fatal”, written and directed by Michael Varrati. As someone who has worked in retail during Christmas time, it was definitely one of the most cathartic stories for me. It centres around a woman trying to return an item without a receipt, and the cashier who has to deal with this nightmare customer. The frustration of the situation was all too familiar to me.
Another one I liked was “Joy to the Girls”, written and directed by Sonia Escolano. This story showed the importance of always being punctual as we follow a man who has received an invitation to a Christmas party. It was visually stylistic with a beautiful aesthetic and music that really built the atmosphere and pulled you into the scene.
I also really enjoyed “The Hunchback of Burg Hayn”, written and directed by Bob Pipe and presented as a black and white silent film. It follows a hunchback who is cast a monster by the townspeople and sentenced to die for being who he is. It was beautiful and sad with an incredible melancholic score that fit the story perfectly.
Then came “They Used to Laugh and Call Him Names”, directed by B.J. Colangelo and Zach Shildwachter and written by Shildwachter and Wes Allen. It follows a father and son who set out to hunt a deer but get much more than they bargained for. The cinematography was great and captured the lovely winter set locations, and there was some really fun gore that even made me wince a little. The best part, for me, was the characters and their relationships with one another.
Another pleasant surprise was “Five Deaths in Blood Red”, directed by Ama Lea and written by Marc Gottlieb, and is essentially a very Giallo Christmas. I knew as much instantly, when it opened on a beautiful woman tied to a bed bathed in a vibrant blue light, a leather gloved hand slowly approaching her. I really enjoyed the story and loved the visuals; both the stylistic cinematography and the lighting, as well as the beautiful costumes and set dressing.
If there’s one thing everyone knows I love in horror it’s a super dysfunctional family, so “Milk & Cookies” was easily one of my favourite segments. Written and directed by Sam Wineman, it followed a young boy who asked Santa for a wish, and then another, and another. It looked great and felt so Christmassy; the performances from the actors were also very good. But the thing I loved most were the character relationships and learning more about this strange little family.
And finally, the last of my favourites, “Pig”, a story about revenge written and directed by Andreas Marschall. This was one I knew I liked immediately, with its vibrant colours and beautiful aesthetic. The visuals were incredible and featured some of my now-favourite imagery of girls in creepy masks. At certain points the violence was visceral, and there was some gore I found hard to look at in the best possible way as a group of women enacted revenge with strange homemade weapons.
Of course, because there were so many different stories, there were also some mixed feelings, although there were only a few times that it didn’t necessarily work for me. These misses were easier to overlook because each one lasted a matter of minutes. The part that felt the most disjointed was the CGI room that acted as the advent calendar—we bounced around it from object to object with motions that made me feel a little dizzy. Each item was related to a story that we were about to be pulled into in some way. The room was a great concept, but the execution felt a little jarring and occasionally it took me out of the story. I would have much preferred the effects to be done practically, but it didn’t detract from the shorts themselves.
Deathcember is a fun holiday anthology, full of diverse voices from all around the world that has something for everyone.
Deathcember comes to digital November 24th and VOD December 1st from Scream Factory
By Dani Vanderstock
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