Written and directed by Eben McGarr, Hanukkah has the distinct pleasure of being the first horror film centred around the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah aka the Festival of Lights. One, that on first glance, looks like it is going to be a whole lot of fun.
It’s not. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. A grim, grubby and nasty slasher horror that alternates between nothing happening for ages and everything happening in an instant. It’s a horrible movie with a bland story, mostly off-screen kills and grindhouse-style abuse to a female cast who are happy to spend most of the movie naked.
So, you might be wondering just what any of this has to do with Hanukkah. Well, the story starts in 1983 as we see a serial killer (Sid Haig) known as the Hanukiller, attempt to sacrifice his young son, Obediah. However, the police break in and shoot him before he can kill the boy.
Thirty-six years later and there’s a new Hanukiller on the loose. One who is targeting those who break Judaic law. Bad Jews, as they are dubbed. Who is the killer? It’s only Obediah, traumatised by the events that befell his father and warped by his beliefs. That’s not a spoiler, the film reveals who he is very early on.
For a group of young party-going Jewish youngsters, this Hanukkah is going to be deadly.
Hanukkah had a lot of potential. The first Hanukkah-themed horror. The pun that adorns its cover. The playful nods to other horror movies, in particular, Halloween. Everything screams… play this for laughs. While utilising the Jewish religion to make things fresh and interesting. Be big, be bold and be bloody. None of this happens.
The story is mind-numbing with so many moments where nothing happens at all. Instead of using this time to endear us to the characters, they just become even more insufferable. To the point where they become so unlikable that you can’t quite wait for them to die. At least then something would be happening on screen.
Then there are moments when we spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on one particular victim who goes through the wringer. Almost torture-porn in its delivery, these moments are really grim and that almost all the uber-violence is dished out to women, who are naked or topless, just makes it feel all the grubbier.
The film boasts a ton of famous names but most are in minor or pointless roles. Sid Haig, looking extremely frail and ill. Dick Miller, in what would be his final movie ever. Caroline Williams, P.J. Soles and Charles Fleischer. The latter, in a role that is the equivalent of Halloween’s Dr. Loomis. Only showing up in the final third and through endless monologing, dragging the movie down even further into the doldrums.
As far as a first Hanukkah horror movie goes, it couldn’t have been worse.
The Final Score - 2/10