Chattanooga Film Festival Review: ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING (2018)

ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING, a horror anthology from directors David and Rebekah McKendry, merges both horror and comedy, along with the Christmas spirit, in a way that I haven’t seen. The film stars Graham Skipper (Beyond the Gates), Ashley Clements (“The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”), Jocelin Donahue (The House of the Devil), Amanda Fuller (Fashionista), Constance Wu (“Fresh Off the Boat”), and Jonathan Kite (“2 Broke Girls”).

The film primarily centers around two people on an awkward date Christmas Eve, as they attend a stage show based on a collection of Christmas poems from “The Night Before Christmas: A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Each vignette that is presented houses a horrifying, yet sometimes hilarious and even endearing, take on the Christmas spirit with each separate story correlating directly with the holiday poem.

One of the most important parts of an anthology is how each stories ties into the overall picture. In ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING, we have a very minimalist stage show where three actors portray an interpretive rendition of what we are to expect. As we transition from one performance to the next, we have a silent MC (played wonderfully by actress Maria Olsen) who guides the Christmas story along. There are five stories at play here ranging from an office party that goes wrong to a modern retelling of ‘Christmas Carol’ and even an homage to “The Twilight Zone.”

What I really loved about this film was the overall execution of everything. Though done on a micro budget, it was still just as effective and presentable as films that have a major studio or financial backer behind it. The acting was fantastic, with superb pacing and art direction along with a cohesive storyline through all five films. It was also great to see so many familiar faces within the horror community. The people involved with this anthology are clearly passionate fans of genre film and horror as its apparent throughout ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING.

My two favorite stories happened to be “Dash Away All” which centers around two mysterious women that help someone stranded as well as “All Through House” which centers on a modern re-telling of ‘A Christmas Carol”. For me, I loved how intriguing “Dash Away All” was as it kept me guessing till the very end. I also really appreciated they way in which they used practical effects, especially upon the reveal of the women’s motives. In “All Through the House” I loved the mix of comedy and horror as well as how they revitalized such a classic Christmas story for a much younger crowd. The only short I wished packed a bigger punch would have been “Arouse Such a Clatter” but in lieu of the 1-2 punch it had some beautiful color palettes and a pulp-like horror film feel.

I was also impressed with how well the McKendry’s and the actors were able to merge humor and horror so well. That can be a fine line to ride and the execution is usually not spot on but in the case of ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING I found myself laughing out loud many times while also cringing at the more horrific moments. As I mentioned earlier, in regards to practical effects, I love how much it was used in this movie. Whether through creature design or the gory kills the attention to detail that was used to make it look as real as possible was brilliant.

Overall, I can’t say enough good things about ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING. It was refreshing to see a horror anthology take place during a different holiday other than Halloween. It’s clear that the McKendry’s have an eye, and love, for storytelling. presentation, and horror, which makes ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING such a fantastic feature film debut. I like my Christmas holiday with more horror in it, which is why I’m looking forward to adding ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING as a yearly viewing tradition. This film has easily become one of my favorites in 2018 so far so make sure you follow ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING on Facebook to see when it’s coming to a film festival and/or theater near you!

Shannon McGrew
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