HANUKKAH * USA 2019 Dir: Eben McGarr. 106 mins
A Jewish slasher movie modelled partly on IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA with straight-from-the-horror-convention casting and composer Harry Manfredini and stunt co-ordinator Kane Hodder among the credits. It opens with a long-haired, cadaverous Sid Haig as a notorious serial killer who carves the Star of David into his victim’s chest but is shot dead by cops while preparing to sacrifice his young son Obediah Lazarus (Joe Knetter). 36 years later, Obediah believes that God is personally giving him access to a further 53 commandments not in the Torah, and begins killing those he considers breaking the laws of Judaism. Early on, he scalps a Nazi in a HALLOWEEN-inspired / framed suburban scene, while the main protagonists prepare a “fuck fest” party.
Haig, who made this and 3 FROM HELL in the last year of his life, is a striking presence and it’s fun to see P.J. Soles as a nice Jewish mom in a weird reversal of THE GRADUATE, but even her skit seems to go on forever in a film that runs almost two hours. Charles Fleischer’s Loomis-like Rabbi is one of the misfiring supporting characters and unworkable jokes like “An American Werewolf in your Hiney” alternate with would-be “comedy” sex scenes typified by the line “fuck me with that micro dick”.
The tropes of the sub-genre are knowingly replicated – subjective camerawork, Peeping Toms, lots of unerotic nudity – but there’s a mean-spiritedness behind the multiple scenes of naked, bloodied, mortally wounded women that keeps any of it from being any fun whatsoever. Dick Miller, also at the end of his life, shows up at the very end in a wastefully sincere performance and Caroline Williams is always good – but HANUKKAH wears out its welcome very quickly.
Review by Steven West