It’s Christmas in July! Or that’s at least the inspiration for this week’s pick after getting through a week-long heatwave in London. I never understood what Christmas in July really meant, but its certainly a cause to watch Christmas-themed horror movies in the middle of the summer.
Nothing says “happy holidays” like a good murder-mystery at Christmas. I find too many Christmas-themed horror movies focus way too much on the whole “messed-up Santa” bit. After watching a number of them, I’ve had enough (especially since none of them were appealing in the first place). But this week’s movie is a little bit different. Home for the Holidays is a made-for-TV movie from 1972 starring a pretty impressive cast: a young Sally Field early in her career, Eleanor Parker, Jessica Walter and Walter Brennan.
The Morgan family are a family that the town loves to talk about. The mother of the family committed suicide five years earlier, and three of the daughters have since never returned to the home. But the eldest, Alex (Parker), has called them back, claiming a “family crisis”.
When the three sisters arrive at the airport, they find out exactly what that crisis is: their father is dying. But Alex reveals that he thinks he is slowly being poisoned to death by his new wife, Elizabeth. Most people believe that Elizabeth poisoned her ex-husband. Though this rumour didn’t do enough to sway Mr Morgan away from her.
The four daughters go to their father to speak to him. The unloving family are reunited with some character introductions: Christine (Field) is the eternal-youth who is in grad school, Freddie (Walter) is an alcoholic (of course) and Joanna (Jill Haworth) has gone through more husbands than pairs of pants. They’re all hesitant to talk as Elizabeth could be eavesdropping. But Christine spots her outside, walking away in a yellow raincoat.
After insulting each of them, their father asks them to kill off Elizabeth for them. A group of worse options couldn’t have been picked.
Before dinner, Freddie and Christine talk about the death of their mother. Freddie is convinced that their mother didn’t commit suicide, but instead was killed by their father. She gets drunk instead of going to dinner, but her screams interrupt the meal as she continues to become super-drunk.
Joanna decides she’s had enough and begins to pack her bags. She bids good-bye to her sisters and heads off to her car. She steps out after she realises that her keys are missing. She’s immediately stabbed by a figure in a yellow raincoat.
The next day, the friendly doctor Ted visits Christine. He’s hesitant to be visiting the house as he isn’t welcome. He tells Christine that the roads are washed out from all the rain. Christine checks the phones and the line is dead.
She then finds Freddie’s body, which has been posed to look as though she died of an overdose, when in fact she was pulled under and drown in the bathtub by someone wearing rubber gloves. Elizabeth is framed as she admits to giving Freddie a drink of milk and honey when she heard her crying the night before.
In a fit of desperation. Christine heads out to the woods to seek help as no help can go to the house. But she’s stalked on her way to the neighbour’s by someone in a yellow raincoat with a pitchfork. Poor Christine has had one hell of day, but when she discovers Joanna’s corpse in the mud. She freaks out when Elizabeth approaches her, wearing the yellow raincoat. Elizabeth tells Christine that her father is dead.
Christine runs back into the rain, screaming for help. When Alex pulls her car over to pick up her sister, she admits to her little sister that she was the one to be killing off her family. Alex tells her that she became tired of her family always needing her. “Now you’ll never need me again.” And Alex proceeds to knock Chris down a hill, seemingly killing her.
Alex finds Ted and tells him that Elizabeth killed the entire family. Ted sends Alex to get the sheriff and to show the sheriff the letter that their father has written, saying he believed Elizabeth was poisoning him.
When Alex arrives back to the house in the morning, the sun is shining and the storm is finally over. And Elizabeth is waiting for her. Ted tells Alex that he found Chris’s body and returned it to the house. When she approaches Chris’s “corpse,” Chris opens her eyes. Alex begins to scream and is immediately pulled away by the police.
Home for the Holidays is extremely melodramatic. It’s filled with over-the-top piano music and contains an excessive amount of thunder and lightening. But I’m slowing warming to these fantastic 70’s made-for-TV-movies. They’re slightly ridiculous, but the quality of acting is always superb. Something about this movie just really hit the spot this week. I’m certainly glad I watched it.