I don’t know about you, but I am a full-on Grinch. I fully admit to my Grinch-iness and realize that I can be a total drag during what is supposed to be the jolliest time of the year. Nothing about the holidays appeals to me. The food? Forgettable. The Weather? Freezing. The Color Scheme? Disgusting. The political discussions with family you thought you knew? Discouraging. So, to say that I was excited to see that All The Creatures Were Stirring was hitting the market would be an understatement. What would be better for a Grinch than a spooky horror anthology film to watch while everyone in the house is sleeping off their eggnog? I would give it 80 minutes of my holiday and it would make everything cheery and bright. Unfortunately for this big green Christmas-hating monster, however, the film didn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
All The Creatures Were Stirring was written and directed by the husband and wife team, David Ian and Rebekah McKendry. It follows awkward couple Max (Graham Skipper) and Jenna (Ashley Clements) on a Christmas Eve first date. They pick a local theater that is showing “All The Creatures Were Stirring”, which appears to be a student-driven production and the only thing open this late into the holidays. They sit down in the creepy theater and are shown five vignettes, which correspond to the segments of the anthology film. As a story on its own, it’s pretty weak, but as a construct for the film, it works extremely well. Some of the most enjoyable parts of the movie are seeing the theater kids take their places and begin the segment, before the film kicks in.
“[All The Creatures Were Stirring is] inconsistent, but you have to give them credit for swinging as hard as they could.”
The segments themselves remind me of Joaquin Phoenix’s Merrill from 2002’s Signs. They are hit-and-miss, for sure. The hits are tremendous, and the misses are more than disappointing. It’s inconsistent, but you have to give them credit for swinging as hard as they could each time. The first two of these segments, titled “The Stockings Were Hung” and “Dash Away All” respectively, were the high points of the film, with the final three being on the disappointing side of the spectrum.
In “The Stockings Were Hung”, we are set down in the middle of a lame office Christmas Gift Exchange. No one there seems to want to be there any more than we do, and they each do a terrible job of hiding it. It’s boring, it’s monotonous, until someone decides to spice it up with a Jigsaw-like intervention. Each member of the group is forced to open a gift, which may contain a weapon or a reason why you might want to use it. The segment is filled with great gore and some startling decisions made by its inhabitants. There’s a heavy curtain of paranoia that hangs over the scene, like it was pulled straight out of an episode of The Twilight Zone. It stars The House of the Devil’s Jocelin Donahue, who shines as the scene’s most talented actor.
Immediately after we leave that corporate hell-hole, we meet Eric (Matt Long) in “Dash Away All”. Eric has his arms full on Christmas Eve night, finishing up his shopping as the mall closes around him. When he reaches his car, Eric does something I would totally do and manages to lock his keys inside. After surveying his surroundings, he decides to approach the only other vehicle in the parking lot. This van is occupied by two women who perk-up instantly when they hear that Eric’s birthday is on Christmas. They are a mysterious pair and they seem to be hiding something in the back of their vehicle. After some back-and-forth, we finally see what they were hiding, and it is nightmare-inducing to say the least. This segment is my absolute favorite of the entire film. It brings a whole new mythology to Christmas and creates a terrifying universe where evil incarnate can be unleashed with the ease of just taking a few steps.
The remainder of segments are a mixed bag of fun ideas (“In a Twinkling” brings us Christmas-loving extraterrestrials but wastes the talents of Constance Wu), over-used story arcs (a version of A Christmas Carol is presented in “All Through the House”), and baffling camera choices (such as the Murderous Reindeer-POV in “Arose Such a Clatter”). There is something to enjoy in each segment, but they all fell a little flat. Whether it was due to poor editing or a vision for the material that didn’t make it through the lens, the film’s attempts at comedy never landed. There were expanded beats and long waits between character reactions that kept the funny out of the final product. These final segments in All The Creatures Were Stirring also lacked the scares that were prevalent in the first two.
“The McKendry’s have a ton of talent, and their passion for the genre is unmatched.”
While the first two little plays in the film were outstanding, the rest of the film let them down. In those segments, you can clearly see Rebekah and David Ian’s talents for story and direction shine through. They created two worlds that left me wanting more. Unfortunately, the remainder of the segments hide that talent from us.
The McKendry’s passion for the genre is unmatched. This peeks through in the first two segments of All The Creatures Were Stirring, and it’s because of them that you should give the film a chance. You can catch the film On Demand now, or wait until the 13th of December and watch it on Shudder. I can’t wait to see what they do next, and here’s to hoping that it’s a vehicle that will allow them to flex their horror muscles a little more. After you give All The Creatures Were Stirring a watch this weekend, let us know what you think! Hit us up on Twitter, Reddit, or Facebook and let us know. While you’re at it, go ahead and bookmark our homepage at Nightmare on Film Street so you can stay up-to-date on all the hottest horror news, reviews and retrospectives the internet has to offer.