[Chattanooga Film Festival 2018]: Rebekah and Dave McKendry Craft A Delightfully Weird Christmas Anthology With ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING
All The Creatures Were Stirring had it's film debut at the 2018 Chattanooga Film Festival.
The anthology horror film is a beloved gem among genre fans. It's an opportunity to showcase various talents, stories, ideas and motifs within one construct without having to convolute a plot, instead using a wraparound to give the film some sort of cognitive narrative. In layman's terms, it's damn fun when done right. With All The Creatures Were Stirring, a new Christmas horror anthology from Rebekah and Dave McKendry, I'm here to tell you that it's done right.
It's Christmas Eve in Southern California and in true SoCal fashion, Max and Jenna (Graham Skipper and Ashley Clements) are having a somewhat awkward first date in true L.A. style: at a small independent play. Only consisting of three actors in full black unitards, the different acts start and end with the three actors performing abstract actions while we are treated to fully realized segments instead. It's a smart and honestly hilarious way to bring us in and out of the stories, you'll find yourself wondering how the actors are going to portray the end of the act, and it's instantly memorable.
The film is broke up into five segments and the McKendry's really shine with their gallows humor and subversive Christmas storytelling. While the movie is distinctly holiday themed, it's never overtly Christmas, instead choosing to play with the traditions and some of the lesser looked at season tropes. You're not going to find any portions of the movie devoted to Santa Claus or elves, but instead using the unique urban setting of a sprawling city and Christmas in L.A. to tell quirky wholly original stories. Office Christmas parties, a misanthrope spending the holiday doing coke and watching black and white holiday reruns, a man running into bohemian roamers after last minute shopping. It's sly with it's representation but pulls it off in spades.
The cast is absolutely stellar. If you're a horror buff, you're going to run into a whole lot of familiar faces. Chase Williamson (John Dies At The End), Graham Skipper (Almost Human), Jocelin Donahue (The House of the Devil), and Amanda Fuller (Red, White and Blue)all show up in enjoyable roles. In "All Through The House," Jonathan Kite plays a true scrooge that's a delightful douchebag who undergoes his own Dickensian nightmare and Constance Wu is fun to watch as the new girlfriend who has an extraterrestrial encounter in "In A Twinkling." Also keep your eye out for blink and you miss it cameos from horror director Mike Mendez, podcaster Elric Kane, and genre star Brea Grant.
The segments are tonally eclectic and that's a great thing. The pacing and flow of the movie is so fluid that you'll be wishing for more by the time it's over. The McKendry's do a perfect job at balancing their gonzo humor with different shades of horror, ranging from The Outer Limits just left of reality stories to Creepshow-esque comic book styled scares. One piece in particular, "Dash Away All," is one of the most clever and frightening premises to ever be introduced and the McKendry's ability to so perfectly make it authentically feel "L.A." perfectly showcases their talent as filmmakers and writers.
The film is proof positive that a micro budget means nothing. With talent, passion, and a little help from your friends, anything is possible. All The Creatures Were Stirring is weird and wicked in the best way possible. While it's not going to be the scariest movie you ever see, that's not what it's aiming for. It's smart with its satire, it bounces around subgenres to give a treat to any horror fan, and it perfectly sticks the landing when it comes to why Christmas in Southern California just feels different. Because of this, All The Creatures Were Stirring is an easy staple for the yearly Xmas rotation but it's also good to watch all year. Rebekah and Dave McKendry have a distinct voice, it's bonkers, and it's a damn good time.