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Home For the Holidays (1972)

  Tags: 1970s, Eleanor Parker, family, Home For the Holidays, Jessica Walter, Jill Haworth, John Fink, John Llewellyn Moxey, Julie Harris, made for tv, Med Flory, Mystery, Sally Field, slasher, slasher film, thanksgiving, thriller, Walter Brennan

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John Llewellyn Moxey
73 minutes
Jessica Walter, Sally Field, Jill Haworth, Julie Harris, Eleanor Parker, Walter Brennan, John Fink, Med Flory

In my search for some holiday horrors I came across this little unknown made-for-TV effort that came out of the early 70's. Much like a lot of early television horror, it's slightly above average from the standard genre fair, relying mostly on its performances and story to drive things along and keep the viewer watching. Sadly, compared to today's standards the film is pretty tame and easily guessed. I'm sure that during the time it aired it was quite a treat and a refreshing look at a darker and rarely seen part of the holiday broadcast. An Aaron Spelling production and written by Joseph Stefano (Psycho), the film proved to be a nice little mystery thriller with small hints of a Giallo (which was picking up steam at the time) and early signs of the slashers we've grown to love.

The film revolves around a group of four sisters who are all called to visit their ailing father out in his country manor. Once there they meet his new wife -- a mysterious quiet woman who was married once before, until the husband died of poisoning. She was taken to court, but was let go due to lack of evidence. Now, as the sisters crowed around their father's bed, he reveals his true intentions for requesting their visit -- to kill his wife, whom he believes is now poisoning him. Is she really slowly killing him or is it just the old man's imagination? That's the question presented to us throughout the span of the movie. Amidst this mystery is a hidden slasher, as each one of the sisters are killed off by an unknown red-gloved rain-coat-wearing murderer.

Although I did find this to be a nice little mystery, the film hasn't aged very well. Anyone who has seen at least a dozen slashers prior should be able to guess the killer as easily as I did, but it's not the movie's fault, but rather it's age and our decades of seeing the same old twists and turns the genre has already given us. Another thing to blame on the decade are all the horribly-cheesy quick-zoomed facial shots of our leads. Apparently the 70's was very big on this type of thing, especially when it came to television productions. Another favorite thing to do in the 70's is offer a lot of awkward blank stares that last entirely too long. When the wife first approaches the sisters we're first greeted to an expressionless awkward starring contest, which was probably a good way to build tension back in the day, but now just proves to be simply hilarious!

Aside from Sally Field as the "young naive sister" I noticed another familiar face in the bunch -- Jessica Walter! I'm a big Arrest Development fan (last season, not so much) so it was interesting to see her in this, but coincidentally, she once again plays a drunkard. I guess there are some people that just play drunks much better than others. Since this was made for television we're given very little gore, in fact, all we really get is some blood on a victims back and a little more blood on someone's wrists. With a mystery flick like this there's really no need for it anyway. Especially when we have a brilliant over-dramatic scream from actress Eleanor Parker towards the end -- another hilarious scene! Ah, but I digress.

Aside from all these silly old fashioned antics, the movie's really only big flaw is its half-assed big "reveal" of who the killer is and the reason why he/she did it. 'Really, is that all they can come up with?' I thought to myself when it happened. In the end, this movie really isn't all that bad, it's just outdated. It still remains a decent mystery and I can appreciate the creativity it offered for its time.

This was decent mystery-thriller that, sadly, didn't age very well. The killer is easily guessed, the acting is overly-dramatic, and the quick-zoomed shots and pointless awkward stares are nothing more than unintentionally funny scenes compared to what we've grown used to with the genre today. It's not the film's fault, but the decade and production it was born from. If you accept it for what is it and acknowledge its creativity it offered viewers at the time, then you'll find that it's not a bad flick. Check it if you like a retro look at a holiday horror mystery, but don't expect a whole lot.

Posted on November 24, 2011 - 12:35pm | FrighT MasteR