Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Home For The Holidays (1972)

 John Llewellyn Moxey

 Joseph Stefano


Jessica Walter
Sally Field
Jill Haworth
Julie Harris
Eleanor Parker
Walter Brennan
John Fink


An ailing man requests that his four daughters return home for the holidays. They are under the impression that their father is dying. When the four daughters arrive home, their father tells them that he believes his new wife is trying to kill him. He thinks that she is trying to poison him. He asks his four daughters to murder her before she ends up murdering him. This request is the last of this families problem after a storm hits the house, and someone is out to kill the family.

Going into Home For The Holidays, the only things that I knew about the film was that this was a TV Movie, Sally Field and Jessica Walter were two of the main stars of this movie, and Aaron Spelling was the producer on the project. Growing up, I was a big fan of TV Shows like Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210. So when I saw his name splashed across the screen, I was hoping for a Halloween styled slasher mixed with the sassiness of Melrose Place. After watching this one, I sadly got none of that from this film.

The movie gets off the ground pretty quickly. We are introduced to all four of these sisters, their father, and his new wife almost immediately. This movie doesn't take its time and gets right to showing us the fractured relationships between the father and his daughters. Some of the women aren't pleased to be in their father's presence, one is trying to be the civil mediator, and one is entirely unbalanced when it comes to her mental state. It's a whole lot of melodramatics for the first act of the film.

Once the movie starts to move into a more sinister territory, does it get any better? Not really, no. I thought the film was going to pick up the pace when the first sister is murdered by a hooded killer carrying a pitchfork. I thought things were about to get really intense but sadly, like the first swift and almost bloodless death scene, the rest of the film follows the same path. Don't forget that this is an extremely low-budget television movie, so don't expect any real boundary-pushing violence or substantial gore effects because you will be left sorely disappointed.

Where Home For The Holidays goes wrong for me personally is that there is no central mystery to the killings. We are aware that someone is going to start killing the family off, but we are instantly given the identity of the killer from one single sentence that is uttered about a set of car keys. When the car keys aren't in the car's ignition, it's revealed straight away who the killer is as its a big set up to get this one sister away from the rest so she can be killed. This kills any chance of the story building up to a creepy shock reveal of the killer or whodunnit?

The movie also tries to continue beating us over the head with this incessant need of make this one character appear as the red herring throughout the entire story, but we as the audience are well aware that the killer isn't this person due to the killer being revealed an hour earlier. It's all very messy for me. I wasn't buying anything that this mystery was trying to sell. If this movie actually manages to shock or even surprise you with the reveal of the killer, I have to assume you fell asleep early on and missed the first reveal.

The winning element of this quaint little slasher is all of the performances. Sally Field is here in the lead performance as the youngest sister. I don't remember seeing Sally Field deliver many genre related performances in her career, so I wasn't expecting an almighty scream to come out of her. I had my windows open, and every time she let out a horrified scream, it was so high-pitched I was sure all the neighbourhood dogs would start barking and howling. She is excellent in this role. I'd love to see Sally Field tackle more horror related fare.

Jessica Walter is the other actress that I have seen in other things. She plays the sister who is clearly mentally unbalanced and a self-harmer. She has only minimal screen time before she is killed off in one of the most boring deaths in a slasher film ever. She is drugged, passes out in the bathtub, and her feet are pulled forward so her head goes under the water and she drowns. I doubt you'd convince an actress of her calibre to ever perform a poorly written death scene like this one on screen ever again. She deserves something much more violent.

Lastly, I must also mention the motive of the killer. It's a motive that is used a lot in horror films these days. It's killing everyone off to get the parents inheritance. Back in 1972, this may have been sordid and unheard of that a character is trying to kill off their own family to try and get the money. This happens all the time and even more so in real life and in crime-related documentaries. So I thought while I'd seen it all before, this may have been different for audiences back in the early seventies.



- A woman is shown having cut her own arms with glass.
- A woman is stabbed with a pitchfork.
- Someone passes out and is drowned in a bathtub.
- A girl is shown being buried in mud.
- An old man is confirmed dead in bed.

Home For The Holidays is a mixed bag. The movie has some standout performances from the award-winning cast, but that's about all it has got going for it. It lacks any tension, scares or violence. The whodunnit and reveal of the killer are also extremely predictable as they basically reveal the killer only fifteen minutes into the film. Not once was I really surprised or shocked by the events that took place in the movie. This is worth the watch just to watch Sally Field scream her lungs out and Jessica Walter delivering an unhinged performance.

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