When an awkward date on Christmas Eve leads a couple into a strange theater, they're treated to a bizarre and frightening collection of Christmas stories, featuring a wide ensemble of characters doing their best to avoid the horrors of the holidays. From boring office parties and last-minute shopping, to vengeful stalkers and immortal demons, there's plenty out there to fear this holiday season.
It’s the 18th of December and we are ready for another Awful Advent review. Perhaps inspired by A Christmas Horror Story. Today’s movie is another Christmas themed Anthology Horror. All The Creatures Were Stirring features five stories that run about 15-20 minutes a pop. Drawing them together is a connecting story set at a community theatre.
Each of the segments follows a theme of people trying to get through the Christmas season. You know how it is. Tons of traffic, people expecting you to be happy. Relatives wanting to visit, nothing but Christmas stuff on the TV. The whole thing can be a bit of a nightmare. Especially if you are not a fan of the season. Still, as far as festive themes go. This movie has bags of them. Presents, decorations, Rudolph. It fits the bill perfectly. But, is the movie any good? Let’s take a look.
We’ve been on a bit of an end of the year run of themed features. We had K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween in October. We had a Fall Themed Horror movie month for November, Now It’s December and that can mean only one thing. It’s Awful Advent. We are reviewing a new horror for each of the days leading up to Christmas. That’s not all, we will also review a bonus movie for Christmas day itself. 25 horror movies to make your December just that little more frighteningly festive… Or should that be festively frightening? I am not sure, whatever.. It’s going to be scary.
The catch? All of the movies must be set around or feature Christmas. Movies based on a specific Christmas theme are even better. Christmas and horror have always gone hand in hand. There are tons of movies to look at and I expect you can probably predict a few right now. Check back every day of December for something new.
All The Creatures Were Stirring consists of five segments. These segments are all linked by a connecting story. The connecting story sees a couple sharing a first date together. It is Christmas eve and Max has managed to snag tickets to a community theatre production. Jenna arrives and the pair head into the theatre. Max has to take repeated phone calls but we are not sure from who. As the night goes on. The pair watch the three artists on stage performing skit versions of the stories we are about to watch. All the while, a strange man sits and stares at Jenna.
The first segment, The Stockings Were Hung, takes place in an office. It’s time to exchange Secret Santa presents so the workers gather in a room. Passing a few presents around, the gifts are mostly disappointing. Home made balsamic vinegar is the highlight until one of the workers opens a package. A bang rings out and the man slumps into his chair. He has a gun shot wound to the head. The doors lock and gas starts entering through the vents. The workers are informed that they have ten minutes. They have to find their way out before someone kills them.
Segment two, Dash Away All, sees Eric leaving the store late, arms full of presents. Apparently it his Birthday soon and he is due home immediately to spend time with his family. Talking on the phone, he clumsily puts his bags in the back of the car. Sitting in the front seat, his “open door” indicator informs him that he has left the back door open. Getting out of the car, Eric closes the door only to realise he has locked himself out. Luckily there is a van nearby so Eric approaches. A decision he will come to regret.
Segment three, All Through The House, follows a miserly man who hates Christmas. He spends his time arguing with his festive neighbour and indulging in drugs and alcohol. That night, however, he will visited by three spirits and made to change his ways. Segment four, Arose Such a Clatter, sees a man driving home for Christmas. Looking through some pictures while driving. The man suddenly slams his car into something in the road. Dragging the carcass of a reindeer off the road, the man carries on with his journey. In the rear view mirror of his car, however, he sees lights and it appears he is being followed.
The last segment, In a Twinkling, follows a man, Steve, who is about to chain himself up. A knock at the door stops him in his tracks. It turns out to be a group of his friends. Despite being angry at them for showing up, he chats with one of them, Gabby. He explains that something started happening about ten years ago. He used to love Christmas but can’t celebrate anymore. Their conversation is interrupted by another friend. Before eating, Gabby goes outside for a smoke. While outside, Gabby notices what looks like a bright star. When she returns into the house, everything seems different. Her friends seem odd but Steve seems like he has seen it all before.
This is an incredibly uneven movie. I mean, anthology horror always is. By its very nature you are watching a product that can vary wildly. That is actually part of the charm of anthologies. The problem with All The Creatures Were Stirring, however, is that only one of the segments is good. The rest are a mix of really bad or average. Again, when it comes to Anthology horror, a few average segments isn’t a problem. If a couple of them are really good, you barely notice the bad. When most of them are pretty bad, however, it is a huge issue.
The first segment, The Stockings Were Hung, is decent. It features an office place exchanging secret Santa presents with a twist. I actually quite enjoyed it. Acting was really good and the premise was fun. The gradual worsening of the situation kept me interested. The opening of the presents was a nice novelty that kept you wondering what the group would find next. There was a fair amount of suspense and a decent sense of tension.
The second segment, Dash Away All, was also pretty decent. It had an interesting setup and you get the hint there is a fun backstory based on the premise. Acting was fine and there were a few chuckles here and there. It doesn’t offer too much on the horror front. I enjoyed the dynamic between the girls in the van and Eric, though. The rest of the segments just didn’t stand out at all. The stories were uninteresting and they were completely devoid of scares. One of them bears mention for just how ridiculous it is. Combine this with bad special effects and you have the recipe for a very average second half of the movie.
The last three segments become gradually worse. The third, All Through The House, is a retelling of A Christmas Carol. The main character manages to be more unlikeable than any Scrooge in history. It is filmed in such a way as to look horribly drab. The special effects are terrible. It is absolutely not a horror movie and not remotely scary. It drags on and is simply a boring chore. I couldn’t care less about this guy’s redemption. He was simply annoying.
The fourth segment, Arose Such a Clatter, might be one of the most pointless I have ever seen in an anthology. Seeing a man followed home by one of Santa’s reindeer. It is a low effort piece of media absolutely not worth your time. The build up is boring. Attempts at creating some tension do not pay off. And the last few scenes, which I am assuming are supposed to be a bit comical, are simply bad. Luckily it is only 7 minutes long but it is still 7 minutes you won’t get back. You could spend that time doing something infinitely more productive… Like scratching your arse.
The fifth segment, In a Twinkling, is potentially the worst out of the bunch. It feels so utterly confused. I am not sure what it was trying to be. I don’t think the people that made it were sure, either. There is something of a Twilight Zone vibe to it. It attempts to create a feeling of uncanniness to unsettle the viewer. It doesn’t work. Strangely enough, despite being a 20 minute short, it manages to have plot holes. From the very get go the actions of the first character we see make no sense. Constance Wu tries her best to make this work but it really just doesn’t.
As if the bad segments weren’t enough. The connecting story is absolutely terrible. It sees a man and a woman on an awkward first date. Apparently they decided to go to a community theatre on Christmas eve. The three actors basically perform versions of the stories that we are watching. The guy keeps leaving his date alone as he uses the phone. A random dude stares at her sinisterly and it goes absolutely nowhere.
I am not sure if this whole thing was supposed to be funny? Were the community theatre actor’s interpretations of the stories intended to be comical? I don’t know. Maybe people who have performed in community theatre would find it hilarious? Perhaps this is “Sooooo community theatre” and “if you know, you know!”. I have no clue. It was boring, pointless, and felt utterly redundant.
Connecting segments tend to actually go somewhere. They demand a fair investment of attention from the viewer. After all, they act as the backbone of the anthology. There is a feeling of bewilderment when you spend your time watching it only for it to go nowhere. It’s baffling. It hints at certain things and almost ends up just laughing at the viewer (literally). This connecting story actually acts as something of a microcosm of All The Creatures Were Stirring. It reeks of low effort and cheapness, just like the rest of the movie.
There is a feeling of budgeting issues running throughout All The Creatures Were Stirring. A few of the segments are very reminiscent of some of those terrible horror movies that appear on Prime Video. You know the ones? Filmed with a Sony Handy cam or something equally unsuitable. Terrible acting, no production values. The third and fourth segments are particularly guilty of this. The movie feels beyond low budget. The connecting story really reinforces this. It is like the makers went for the cheapest possible location they could find. Similarly, a few of the other segments feel as though they were made in the crew’s houses.
Outside of the first two segments, special effects are woefully bad. Really terrible CG is the biggest offender but it isn’t the only one. A cheap filter is placed over part of the last story to make it feel like an old black and white TV show. Instead, it looks like you have simply forced 4:3 aspect ratio and turned down your colour saturation. Set designs are incredibly bland and unappealing. The movie is extremely boring to look at. On top of that, the segments feel as though they have been made by the same team. It sort of defeats the object of an anthology horror. I would understand if the stories had some connection to each other but they don’t. It just feels like a single director throwing five lumps of shit against a wall and hoping one sticks.
The strange thing is, the first two segments are genuinely decent. They lack the cheap feeling and actually work really well as horror shorts. I am not sure whether the production ran out of money fairly quickly? Maybe they had to cobble something together. That would make sense. Outside of that, however, I just can’t understand the difference in quality. It is really apparent and feels somewhat jarring.
With all of this being said, this is a really tough recommend. It just isn’t that great. The first segment is decent, the second is pretty good too. The rest are just really bad. Maybe watch the first two and turn it off. The rest are just not worth your time. A Christmas Horror Story is a much better option if you are looking for an Anthology Horror. There is no real reason to sit through this.
All The Creatures Were Stirring is a disappointing Christmas Horror Anthology. Featuring two decent segments and three that are pretty awful. An incredibly lacklustre connecting story that goes nowhere is the proverbial icing on the shit cake. Acting ranges from bad to okay. Cinematography is consistently cheap feeling and, outside of the first two segments, the movie feels beyond low budget. The last three segments are incredibly dull and there are absolutely no scares in the entire film. You can safely give this one a miss or, if you must, just check out the first two stories.