All the Creatures Were Stirring Dec 18, 2018 16:44:59 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Dec 18, 2018 16:44:59 GMT -5
All the Creatures Were Stirring (2018)
Directed by: Rebekah and David Ian McKendry
Directed by: Rebekah and David Ian McKendry
A group of friends surprise one of their buds on Christmas in one of the short segments in All the Creatures Were Stirring.
When you look at horror anthologies — from Creepshow to Chillerama, or even the comparable A Christmas Horror Story — you see a particular commonality, one that's easy to appreciate. They're made by people with an extreme love for the horror genre who often illustrate their love for the genre in their vignettes. Such admiration for horror is echoed, in many cases, by head-nods to other works or by the sheer presence of nostalgic elements within the many stories. All the Creatures Were Stirring was made by a pair of horror-lovers, which only adds to the confusion why it is so horrendously incoherent and unsatisfying.
That duo is Rebekah McKendry and her husband David Ian McKendry, two names that any horror fan should know. While David Ian has made a name for himself with genre efforts, Rebekah has been a prominent figure in horror journalism. She served as the Director of Marketing for "Fangoria" many years ago, and if that wasn't enough, she was the editor-in-chief at Blumhouse.com, and presently one of the co-hosts of their ever-popular "Shock Waves" podcast. The service to the genre both have done cannot be understated, especially on Rebekah's end, as she is also a film professor at USC. A project helmed by both of them and full of indie talent should immediately suggest their directorial debut together would produce something truly special. Unfortunately, All the Creatures Were Stirring is a baffling project from start to finish. Beyond being nearly vapid in scares and tension, it's a woefully misguided collage of half-baked stories that wander aimlessly in search of a consistent tone and a rewarding payoff. Not even the wraparound story ties together this assortment of odds and ends, which winds up being as fulfilling as last Christmas's fruitcake.
Our frame-story, for one, doesn't make any sense. It's Christmas Eve and we drop in on an awkward first date between Max (Carnage Park's Graham Skipper) and Jenna (Ashley Clements), who attend a showing of a play called "All the Creatures Were Stirring" at their community theater. The show consists of five short plays, each named after a lyric in famous Christmas ditties. We are introduced to the shorts by way of cue cards on an easel prior to them being briefly acted out on stage by three novice actors before the short itself actually begins. So what are Max, Jenna, and the other members of this sparse holiday crowd viewing? Are they watching the short that we, the viewers, are, or an even more cruel imitation by the three individuals of it by the stage talent?
At 80 minutes long, with five stories, a wraparound, intermittent cutaways to the couple, and a hokey "intermission," All the Creatures Were Stirring doesn't give us much time to sink our teeth into these stories because they're so brief. Our first is "The Stockings Were Hung," the most intriguing of the bunch, as we see an office holiday party/gift exchange turn deadly when a rogue, Jigsaw-like coworker (?) traps several people in the breakroom with a plethora of presents, some useful in the present situation, and others deadly traps. Just outside the room, the entire office is filling with toxic gas, leaving the group trapped without any option other than to play along. However, the short ends with no explanation and no closure, even by horror standards.
Others include "Dash Away All," which revolves around a man (Matt Long) who has just locked his keys and phone in his car. He requests help from two strangers (Catherine Parker and Mekeda Declet), who circle the parking lot in their colorful van, only to be cursed with a pox from the two due to having a peculiar thing in common with the ladies. Once again, it's a shaky premise made even more odd because of how the two strangers come to apply the curse based on the information they get from the man when he's on the phone with roadside assistance. Then there's "Arose Such a Clatter," which barely even registers as the simplest of Christmas evil before abruptly concluding, and the finale, "All Through the House," which stars 2 Broke Girls' Jonathan Kite and Crazy Rich Asians' Constance Wu in a pitiful parody of The Twilight Zone and A Christmas Carol — be warned, it's not nearly the fascinating amalgamation for which you're hoping.
The big problem is the McKendry's storylines for each of these shorts. Most are interesting ideas but aren't given the development and time to succeed. They feel truncated, while at the same time, misbegotten as they don't deliver a cogent story nor any payoff. As we continue to cut back to Max and Jenna, it's like the two writers are running out of things for the clearly uncomfortable couple to say and do, which I suppose shouldn't be much of a surprise given that the context in which we are seeing these shorts doesn't make a bit of sense. The editing also does a big disservice to these shorts. Had it solely been for their largely obtuse nature, I'd say the whole execution was off, but the way the editing clearly struggles to coherently piecemeal these vignettes together makes it all the more evident how discombobulated things were from the jump.
User Amy Searles on the website Letterboxd makes an interesting observation about All the Creatures Were Stirring — one that helped me put my gripes in better perspective. She comments about the greatly supportive and encouraging horror community present in Los Angeles, where All the Creatures Were Stirring was based, and opines that perhaps that's what ultimately crippled such a potential-filled project. It's very possible to believe that the McKendry's film received little to no constructive criticism from anyone involved, and as such, the film suffers in every way possible from bad writing, hokey editing, and even the most disappointing of wraparound stories. I, too, bring this up because that appears to be the only reasonable justification I can offer as to why such a short, simple but ultimately confusing anthology film like this could arise from the minds of two very talented, necessary individuals in the horror community. It's a sobering reminder that even the most creative souls can produce something so terribly underwhelming — and goes on to reaffirm there is difficultly in trying to capture and do something you love and have studied for much of your life.
Starring: Graham Skipper, Ashley Clements, Constance Wu, Jonathan Kite, Matt Long, Catherine Parker, and Mekeda Declet. Directed by: Rebekah and David Ian McKendry.