So often do horror fans jump at the traditional classics like Black Christmas (the original), Silent Night Deadly Night and Christmas Evil but how often does one search out the lesser knowns? Krampus made a good splash into the seasonal spirits as did Better Watch Out over the past few years. However, in 2018, there were some new additions to the pack including All the Creatures Were Stirring.
Keep reading after the trailer
Deciding that it is hard to go wrong with the anthology format, the writing and directing duo of Rebekah and David Ian McKendry whipped up some stories to spice up the holiday cheer. Distributed by RLJE Films (responsible for All Hallows’ Eve 1 and 2 plus Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales as well as the fantastic Bloody Homecoming), ATCWS hit the DVD shelves earlier this month. Witty taglines reminiscent of 80’s ham-and-eggers provide a delightful touch of anticipation to the awaiting viewer. That’s right, we get this line “Another reason to dread the season” slapped along the bottom of the cover art. On the back, “O Come all ye Evil” followed by “Ho, ho, no!” elicits a chuckle even from the most skeptical buyer. Honestly, this gimmicky marketing appeals to me and I love every bit of it. Part of the joy of horror in the holiday season is to add that bit of depravity and rebelliousness to the family filled fun times. Now what about the movie itself and whether it would deliver the goods or be stale cookies and sour milk for Santa?
Never trust nice girls in a van
Shot in 2:35:1 Widescreen gives a bit more coverage than you would expect for an independent outing but it works especially for the scenes in one story where an office Christmas party goes awry. Outside of the wraparound story, this is the actual first to kick off the series and provides an interesting premise about disgruntled employees and how they get payback on those above them. Did that give away the murderer? Nope. While simple in nature, this piece does a decent enough job in establishing the tone of things to come. The second story will likely be a favorite since there is a wonderful mysterious element that builds to the revelation of what really is going on but not without a few red herrings along the way. Guys…never trust nice girls in a van even if they have good intentions!!!
Too many times in direct-to-video features, especially with the increase in digital camera usage versus the traditional film, the color timing can be spotty or off from shot to shot; with darker hues of green or blue usually apparent but not the case here. The whole film is polished and clean with the color palette relatively easy on the eye. It could be noted that this is also the problem because with holiday shockers, the over-abundance of red and greens are a desire not to be thrown away. It is like watching a Halloween-season outing, the glowing oranges on the nightscapes established atmosphere. You want to be able to dive into the rich contrasts of the Christmas lights on a night sky with white snow. Sadly, that doesn’t come to be here because everything is rather muted. Sure there are Christmas trees and gifts, but there isn’t that sense of lighting danger. Better Watch Out used this technique tremendously well and probably the best since the Black Christmas movies. The strongest colors were found in one segment starring Constance Wu (“Crazy Rich Asians”) that scores points for originality, nostalgia and an alien view on the technology medium that we have grown accustomed to in the current generation.
As for the cast, the names are not going to jump out at the average eye. In addition to Wu, they were able to get Jonathan Kite (“2 Broke Girls”), Matt Long (“Mad Men”, “Private Practice”), Brea Grant (“Rob Zombie’s H2”, “Dexter”) and Amanda Fuller (“Last Man Standing”, “Grey’s Anatomy”) so not too shabby. The acting wasn’t stiff but rather timed might be a better term. Echoing the pace found is some of David Lynch’s works, each actor had a diverse part to play in their respective narratives. The science fiction story mentioned above exemplifies this best because the character forms are alien to those viewing them.
All The Creatures Were Stirring is not scary and not altogether fun either
It sits at a crossroads where you are positioned to watch much like the audience of the wraparound story – as an arthouse spectator watching what independent filmmakers can do with a lens (or a stage) strung together with surrealistic, subjective visual tones. Bringing this review back around to the props of the DVD cover, it does exactly what DVD covers and posters should – it sells the product. Kudos to that because there will be an audience for this movie for sure. Doubtful that it will enter the cult realm seasonal schlock of Christmas past, but All the Creatures Were Stirring can be dusted off occasionally for a yuletide viewing. Speaking of past, how about the present and the future – I forgot to mention the ghostly apparitions that hone back to John Carpenter’s The Fog. These ghouls haunt one particular soul in the middle of the movie and while the CGI can feel a bit like watching Supernatural on the CW, it at least can spark one minor chill down the audience spine.