‘Tis the season to be jolly, and what to our wondering eyes should appear but a new Christmas film from David Ian McKendry and Rebekah McKendry (of Shock Waves/Blumhouse fame). This anthology of five stories and a framing tale takes place on Christmas Eve, and it has a lot to live up to: there are a number of really good Christmas horror films already (Black Christmas, Silent Night, Deadly Night, Christmas Evil), and the pedigree of the McKendrys is certainly of note as well. Both Michael and Ryne sat down to get merry with All the Creatures Were Stirring, and they’ve presented their own stirring commentary on the yuletide film below.
First thing’s first: All the Creatures Were Stirring is broken down into a few different segments all bordering on Christmas elements in southern California, but the majority of the film seemed to lack Christmas spirit to me. If I’m going to be watching a Christmas horror movie, I want both of those elements to stand out significantly. The McKendrys have some good sketches of Christmas story ideas, but their execution leaves a lot to be desired. The second story in particular stood out as a short that may actually be the best in the movie, except it only negligibly factors Christmas into the mix – everyone’s birthday is on Christmas day. That’s a huge turn-off immediately, since this short occurs only about 20 minutes into the film. How did you feel about the Christmas-ness of All the Creatures Were Stirring?
The lack of a Christmas feeling was the first thing I noticed in the film. Of course, being that the film was low budget and most of everyone involved probably live in California, it was easier to shoot it there. I do agree that the second story was the best one and I could have easily watched a full-length story around that tale. However, maybe the reason I say that is because watching the rest of the stories was equivalent to pulling your toenails off.
That’s some harsh criticism, and yet I definitely get the sentiment. Some of these stories had the potential to be really entertaining. The first, set at an office Christmas party, is like Saw with holiday gifts. But the way that one sort of just ends with no resolution, no character building, and no commitment to telling an entire story is problematic. There’s also a Christmas Carol-esque short that is way too overdramatic (and short) to work effectively. The worst story, though, is one about a guy hitting a reindeer with his car and then being pursued by a different reindeer. The hilarity of the special effects is most likely not intended, and the constant flashes back to a scene we saw five minutes ago wastes an exorbitant amount of time for a short story.
I liked the idea behind the first story, an Office meets Saw, but the idea was squandered with quick editing and an ending that was haphazardly put together. Although, it was nice to see a quick cameo from the man that provided Jason Voorhees with his hockey mask, Larry Zerner. The reindeer story as you said was hilarious, but for all the wrong reasons. Maybe, just maybe it was intentionally made to be bad? The only redeeming quality of the Christmas Carol tale was the joy of knowing it was going to end eventually. The acting from the lead was over the top to the point of parody.
I like that you mentioned wondering if the film shorts were meant to be bad, because I was left wondering the same thing due to the framing story. All the Creatures Were Stirring presents the wraparound tale as a theater production two people attend as a date on Christmas Eve, and both of them are entirely bored and nonplussed by the all of the acts. Which begs the question – why would the McKendrys want to present their shorts as re-envisioned concepts of the theatrical production that its audience finds horrendous? Are we also supposed to think these shorts are awful? It certainly works, in a way, but not the thematic intention one presumes.
I have a feeling that was just a coincidence that reflects poorly on the film. I noted it as well when watching, thinking to myself that even the characters in the movie feel the stories are terrible. Frankly, the whole film fails to impress, which given some of the glowing reviews this film has garnered, has me scratching my head.
Yeah, unfortunately I too did not experience the love. It’s fairly well put together, the directing itself isn’t bad and the acting is good for the most part (although even Constance Wu has a hard time carrying the weight of her Twilight Zone-esque story). It’s the writing that really doesn’t work, both in the stories and in the framing tale that tries to put the whole thing together. Unfortunately, it’s that framing story that really makes the whole thing incomprehensible – if some of the individual stories didn’t work but the framing story was good, I would be more open to understanding that this was a lukewarm anthology where my personal tastes didn’t mesh with some of the stories, which is often the case in these types of films.
It’s unfortunate the movie didn’t turn out better, as I do generally love anthology films. Sadly, this is one holiday-themed anthology I would rather trade in for a big giant lump of coal. Nevertheless, this is my worthless opinion and I’m sure there are some people out there that love the movie for legitimate reasons. I for one am all out of legitimate reasons to like this terrible movie.
All the Creatures Were Stirring has some interesting concepts for its Christmas-themed short stories, but it's not particularly Christmas-y and none of the tales really come together, especially the framing story.
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