Festive Frights: 12 DEADLY DAYS
We all know Halloween is a horror fan's biggest holiday, but Christmas is a close second. Welcome to our celebration of yuletide fueled terror, our 12 Days of Festive Frights.
We know the classics. Just as genre fans do in October, when December rolls around we all queue up the movies that we have grown to love and associate with the holiday. Black Christmas, Gremlins, Christmas Evil and dozens of others find themselves habitually viewed with every new Christmas. It's an exciting prospect to look forward to these films we treasure now but an equally elated experience is had when you run across that new gem. Discovering a long forgotten gem, getting to see Silent Night, Deadly Night or having a instant classic like this years Better Watch Out add to the buzz of the season.
Well, dear readers, what if I told you that I could introduce you to not just an hour or two of Christmas frights, but TWELVE full episodes of some of the most colorful, creative, and inventive horror that has slipped under the radar of the mass horror populace. At twenty-five minutes a piece, that's THREE HUNDRED minutes of merry mayhem. Stoked? I bet you are. I sure as hell. Let me tell you a little bit about 12 Deadly Days.
From genre giant Blumhouse, 12 Deadly Days was a collaboration between the wildly popular studio and internet goliath Youtube, alongside production company Dakota Pictures and created by Chris Cullari and Jennifer Raite. Cullari and Raite had previously made a name for themselves with some very witty and smart shorts online before coming to Blumhouse with the idea of an anthology type show that would showcase horror's second favorite holiday with a twelve episode series that would pull from series like The Twilight Zone and Goosebumps to create a eclectic and intelligent love letter to Christmas scares.
Set in the fictional Souther California town of Saturn, it follows strange and supernatural events in the twelve days leading up to Christmas. Each of the twelve episodes are mostly stand alone stories (save for the first and last two, serving as book ends) but much like the critically adored Trick r' Treat, characters and locations from numerous stories find their way into the peripheral of many of the others. For instance, a Starbucks-esque coffee company sneaks it's way into most of the episodes, whether just a cup or a brief visit to the shop itself. Little nods like this are scattered throughout and a fun easter egg for fans to keep track of, and this is just one of the creative hooks used to keep you interested.
The show is also full of horror legends and icons, in front of and behind the camera. Indie darling Joe Lynch, television screenwriter extraordinaire Joe Menendez and The Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sanchez all have a go at the helm of an episode or two and even Mr. Chop Top himself, Bill Moseley, come along for the ride. While these are all enticing tidbits to get you interested, the real meat of why this is REQUIRED viewing is the storytelling.
The first episode is very much an introductory episode to the tone of the show, a deft blend of truly creepy and frightening moments and sharp humor, and it's also a play of the most famous ghost story of all time, A Christmas Carol. It has a clever twist that will hook you and from there, get ready to go off the rails into a twisted and weird world of some of the best theme horror you'll ever indulge in. Each episode gives a new macabre twist on an existing Christmas staple, sometimes expanding on something well known like Santa's reindeer (although, trust me, it's one of the most bonkers takes on that story imaginable) or sometimes tapping into something as simple as Christmas office parties or fruitcakes. It bounces all over the genre, covering slashers, ghosts, possession and even some fantastically freakish body horror. The story is fresh, playing with existing tropes, but never treading on territory that we've already travelled. Each episode is truly a love letter to whatever type of story it's trying to tell, whether that's an old fashioned retelling of a classic tale, a millennial found footage story, or a folkloric exploration of Christmas trees.
Cullari and Raite have a firm handle of their craft and because of their razor-sharp wit, they are also able to play with some social commentary without coming off hamfisted or obligatory. Coffee Cups looks at American consumer culture while Cakes A'Cursing takes a look at what has become an all too standard approach of super harsh criticism created by the online social media community. It's all neatly crafted into each story though and flows smoothly, never preachy, but instead almost subliminally effective.
12 Deadly Days truly is a hidden gem. It has a little bit of something for everybody. It's a modern day Tales from the Crypt that we unfortunately only got one beautifully created season of. You'll have to sign up to Youtube Red to catch it, but trust me, it's more than worth it. And once you see it, you can join my crusade of getting this criminally under appreciated cult classic in the making a proper release.