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21.12.18

WRITTEN REVIEW: All the Creatures Were Stirring

By CORY CARR
Just when you thought it was safe to celebrate Christmas again, here come the writer/director team David Ian McKendry and Rebekah McKendry with their new anthology holiday horror flick All the Creatures Were Stirring.

Don't let the title and cover art fool you. All The Creatures Were Stirring is NOT a rip-off of Gremlins, or Critters... or Ghoulies for that matter. No, the titular critters in this flick come in the form of performance artists who are putting on a show during the holidays, that is taken in by a couple on their first date. Each of the shorts in this anthology are bookended by the performance artists acting out the events of each tale.

These stories are each very different, and in the interest of avoiding spoilers I'll discuss each of the short tales, but only briefly.


“The Stockings Were Hung” - This story is focused on an office holiday party with a secret Santa from hell. The unfortunate employees are locked in and threatened with death if they don't open their gifts in a timely manner - the gifts themselves could also spell their doom. So will they work together to foil their predator, or will they tare themselves apart trying to survive?

“Dash Away All” - This one is focused on a young father who is picking up a few last minute gifts for the family, on Christmas Eve, when he locks his keys in his car. He soon meets two helpful, attractive, and suspicious women who offer more than this father bargained for as they try to unload a demon that they have been trapped with for years.

“All Through the House” - Simply put, this is a new take on A Christmas Carol, about a young bachelor who is a stick in the mud when it comes to the holidays. He'd rather get wasted and get laid than spend quality time with those who appreciate him the most. But things all change when he's confronted by holiday spirits.

“Arose Such a Clatter” - Here's one PETA would love. After a man runs down a deer on a dark and lonely stretch of road, someone or some thing gets sweet revenge. Without saying too much, the avenger in this story has close ties to Santa, and this time, it's personal.

“In a Twinkling” - Last but not least is a story about a man on Christmas who is surprised by a visit from a friend who wants to share the holiday with him. The only problem here is that he's expecting visitors, from beyond the stars. These unwanted visits are something that he's been dealing with for years and now he runs the risk of his friend learning his intergalactic secret.


The strength of this film is how each tale is creative and fresh even when it doesn't seem so original. The first story, “The Stockings Were Hung” seemed to borrow from the likes of Saw or The Belko Experiment with a contained group of people being forced to kill or be killed. But I think the feeling of being trapped in a social situation with your co-workers often feels to some like being trapped with a gun against your head, especially during the holidays.

This sentiment is also seen in “In a Twinkling” where sitting down with family who are visiting your home, again for the holidays, feeling as if you're held hostage by alien invaders who bring with them their stubborn traditions and unwanted opinions about your lifestyle.

I also give this story props for working against the grain of traditional holiday horror, bypassing the tired “deranged Santa Claus wielding an axe” trope. It isn't everyday that Christmas is invaded with science fiction and aliens. And no, I'm not forgetting Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.


The “Dash Away All” and “Arose Such a Clatter” are the segments that steal the show. If the holiday theme was stripped from these, they could have fit well into ANY modern anthology - “Dash Away All” being my favorite with it's slowly unfolding story. And the demon is pretty awesome too.

The ugly kitten of the litter is “All Through the House” which does little to breath new life into Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Not only that, but it tries a little too hard to make it's main character edgy. In fact, I think the most entertaining part comes in the form of the uptight neighbor who is left scratching his head at our bachelor’s new found – post Christmas spirits - behavior.

With that said, I enjoyed All the Creatures Were Stirring quite a bit. There seems to be a new holiday tradition that is watching at least three or four new Christmas themed horror films, all of which are cheaply made, unoriginal, star a Krampus and are a real slogg to get through. And with my expectations set THAT low, All the Creatures Were Stirring blew me away! It is a fun and creative take on the holidays that I fear will be lost in a sea of other lesser films that have been released in recent years. It's definitely worth your time this season.

All the Creatures Were Stirring is currently available on DVD and VOD from the fine people at RLJ Entertainment. I screened it for this review on Shudder. And if you are interested in the other works of the McKendys, they have worked on several short films together and are both involved with the Blumhouse Podcast Network and the Shockwaves Podcast.


CORY CARR
Reviewer | Producer & Editor | Resident Conspiracy Theorist

A blue collar dude with facial hair that would make his Norse ancestors proud. He is a collector of comic books, retro video games, and obscure relics from the VHS era.

"ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING"

★ ★ ★ ½

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