All the Creatures Were Stirring
all the creatures were stirring | david ian mckendry | rebekah mckendry | constance wu | jonathan kite | jocelin donahue | anthology | christmas | ashley clements | amanda fuller | megan duffy | graham skipper | alien | alien | creature | creatures | monster | monsters
Film: All the Creatures Were Stirring
Director: David Ian McKendry and Rebekah McKendry
Writer: David Ian McKendry and Rebekah McKendry
Starring: Constance Wu, Jonathan Kite and Jocelin Donahue
I had heard about this film from one of the podcasts I listen to, which writer/director Rebekah McKendry is part of, talking about this film. I was intrigued that this is a Christmas based horror film as well as part of 2018 round-up. To get into my review of the film, the official synopsis is when an awkward date on Christmas Eve leads a couple into a strange theater, they’re treated to a bizarre and frightening collection of Christmas stories, featuring a wide ensemble of characters doing their best to avoid the horrors of the holiday.
As the synopsis states, we have Jenna (Ashley Clements) and Max (Graham Skipper) meeting up for what feels like a first date. It is Christmas Eve and neither of them had anything going on. They come to a small performing arts theater, where the workers and the patrons are quite weird as well. An example is that there’s a guy staring at them and Max takes a phone call right after they get there. Each of the stories is acted out on stage by three actors while we see the actual shorts of this anthology film.
The first tale is of an office gift exchange entitled The Stockings Were Hung. We have a group of workers that most don’t really want to participate. Things take quite the turn when one of the gifts kills one of them and they get a call on the office phone. It is telling them to keep participating or this unknown person will kill them. Things get revealed that and tensions run high as poison gas is pumped into their room.
This one I thought was quite interesting as I work in an office and have been to gift exchanges like this. I really liked though that there is some hidden emotions and thoughts amongst co-workers that finally come to the surface when the situation gets tense and their lives are on the line. The unknown of what is in the gifts is quite scary as well.
Another of the tales has a man making some last minute Christmas shopping in Dash Away All. His name is Eric (Matt Long) and without paying attention, he locks his keys and phone in his car. There is a strange van that is across the parking lot. He goes to ask for help from Sasha (Catherine Parker) and Frankie (Makeda Declet). There is something not quite right with them and they are hiding something in the van that will change his life forever.
For this short, I thought there were some interesting concepts in it. There is a reveal that I thought was pretty solid and quite scary for multiple reasons. The details at the reveal about how long this has been going on added an extra element to me. It is a good choice that we know about Eric’s family as it raises the stakes.
All Through the House is an interesting take on A Christmas Carol. Chet (Jonahtan Kite) hates Christmas and tries to ruin the holiday for those around him. His television will only show a film called Chet’s Soul and it is very Charles Dickens. He calls up his lady friend, Linda (Amanda Fuller) who is currently with her family. Chet is then haunted by things trying to get him to change his ways, or he might not survive the night.
The only issue I had with this one as that I felt it moves a little too quickly. Being that it is an update of the Dickens tale, you can’t focus too much time on it so it has to be condensed down. I almost feel this one might have been a little bit too ambitious for a short this length. I will say that I like the modern take on that story though. This one had some solid humor and I would actually like to see this one fleshed out a bit more.
There is also Arose Such a Clatter where a man looks at a file labeled Suzy. He hits a deer, but it isn’t dead and he has to kill it with a rock. We see that something is watching him from the woods as well as a collar. The man is Guy (Mark Kelly) and he comes home to Suzy (Megan Duffy) who surprised him for Christmas. Whatever was watching him from the woods follows him home.
This is interesting in that I thought the misdirection really makes this better. It starts you off thinking one way and then as things are revealed it goes a completely different direction. Going from that though, what the outcome of this one is was quite funny to me.
The final story we see is In a Twinkling. It starts with a man looking up at a full moon with a bag. It turns out to be chains and his girlfriend calls him. He is Steve (Morgan Peter Brown). He tells her that he needs to spend the holiday alone and he isn’t very happy when his girlfriend, Gabby (Constance Wu) shows up with Mary (Stephanie Drake), Michael (Peter Cilella) and Jill (Tiffany Elle). This isn’t the normal dinner that they thought it would be, but we do learn about how important Christmas is to some.
This one also has a solid misdirection that I didn’t see coming. I liked that aspect of it. I will say that I’m not entirely sure this one fits with the other with how it plays out and ends. I like the story and everything as well as the message it is getting across. It doesn’t have much in the way of horror though.
There is an intermission where we see something is not quite right between Max and Jenna. The final performance also strikes an eerie similarity to their night and alludes to what could be happening next.
I want to toss out my thoughts with saying that I’m a fan of anthology films when they are done right. The structure of this one is something I’m a fan of. Each story is given and concludes before we go on to the next one. The other thing is that I like they did a wraparound story that have its own eerie qualities as well. I’d really like to know more about it like how did Max hear about this performance. The only thing that could have made it better would be to intercut the stories a bit more, but I’m not going to hold that against this film. That is something I personally like to see.
While looking up the names of the segments for this, I came across someone else’s review where they said the pacing was off to them. I have to say that I disagree. I thought this film moves through its 80 minute runtime quite quickly. If anything, I would have liked a little more for some of the stories as I think a little more fleshing out might have brought up my rating. None of the stories outstay their welcome and the endings actually left me wanting more. It didn’t hurt it, but I’d like to see how it plays out.
Acting for this film was pretty solid. My favorite person in the film was Jocelin Donahue and I’m quite sad she didn’t have more. She appears as Alissa in the office party segment. I’m a big fan of her and she is gorgeous. Wu I thought did a really good job in conveying the emotion she does in her short. Kite was quite funny in his. Clements was interesting in that we get sections of her story and she knows something isn’t quite right. It was fun to see Fuller, Duffy and the rest of the cast. I thought everyone fit their roles well and I really don’t have anything negative to say.
Something that wasn’t always the greatest though was the effects. The ones that were done practically I thought were fine. An example would be the effects of a gunshot in the office party segment. I also thought the creature at times in the parking lot one looked good. My real issue though came from the CGI. Most of the creatures that were done with computers didn’t look good and it took me out of the film. The film was shot very well overall. I did like the editing effect during the In a Twinkling segment. It has people changing facial expressions, but we are missing the frames in-between. This is something that really unnerves me.
Now with that said, I thought this film was pretty solid. I really like that the film embraces the Christmas spirit, despite the use of snow. That is something that can be quite difficult to do and I was impressed. I thought all of the shorts were pretty solid overall, only one of them didn’t really seem to fit, but even that one I thought was good. I thought it was paced well and if anything, they could have expanded on some of the stories a little bit more. The acting was good and some of the effects were. I wasn’t a fan of the CGI that was used though. The score didn’t really stand out to me, but I do think it helped with the Christmas vibe of the film. I would say that overall this film was pretty solid. If you like anthologies and want to see a solid one around Christmas, I would recommend this one.
My Rating: 7 out of 10