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CampBlood Homo Horror Features: So Readable They Hurt

 


Home for the Holidays   1972

Sally Field, Eleanor Parker, Julie Harris, Jessica Walter
A menacing tale of dysfunctional family gatherings, Home for the Holidays does nothing if not prove that no matter how much you’re dreading your holiday reunion, it could never be as f’d up as this one!

Edward Morgan (Walter Brennan) calls his four daughters to his deathbed after years of estrangement. The girls seem to follow the basic roadmap of horror female stereotypes - the Slut, Jo (Jill Haworth), the Brain, Alex (Eleanor Parker), the Druggie, Freddie (the always wonderful Jessica Walter) and the Virgin, Christine or ‘Chris’ (Sally Field). The daughters have gathered so their curmudgeon of a father could plead them to kill their stepmother Elizabeth (Julie Harris), whom he believes is slowly poisoning him to death. Though all four agree daddy is a rich old creep, they don’t necessarily want him dead. But can they murder Elizabeth for him? These formidable ladies may not get the chance to find out. After a magnificently over the top freakout by Freddie, Jo attempts to leave the sordid situation only find herself impaled on a pitchfork by a killer in red goulashes (ed.:I think you mean "galoshes", but I think "goulashes" is much funnier...). Looks like nobody is safe in this house of secrets.

Written by Joseph Stefano (screenwriter for Psycho), and directed by John Llewellyn Moxey, who was the closest thing to a small screen Hitchcock the 70s ever saw, Home for the Holidays is a tight little thriller that is brought up even farther by the fine caliber of actors (though the hammy Walter Brennan is pretty bad). In addition to some nicely orchestrated set pieces, there are some subtle backstory clues to give the viewer an idea of why this family is one flicker short of a strand of Christmas lights. The daughters all have masculine names (veddy interesting indeed) and you find out how their real mother’s death affected them. But most important is that men take a backseat to the fiercely independent, though admittedly screwy, women. In fact, as far men go, this is bare bones fare. Only two male actors are featured and the final act isn’t so much heroic as it is necessary to facilitate the shocking ending. Although men are pretty ornaments, it’s the women who make this tale of yuletide terror shine bright.

Recapped by Amanda by Night

Special Features:
Whodunit; Peeping; Great Camerawork
Rating (out of 5):