The holidays can be a very difficult time for some. I know from firsthand experience that when you don’t have any family to rely on or any kind of financial security to speak of Christmas can feel like a national nightmare inhabited by drunken revelers, crazed shoppers and merciless merchants. This is only compounded by what author Anthony Trollope once called “the perils of winter.” More folks tend to die during the winter months than any other time of the year so when you’re coping with the death of a loved one or a life threatening illness the pressure to remain “merry and bright” can become wearisome and demoralizing. I mention all of this because one of my favorite telefilms seems to perfectly capture the darker aspects of the holidays that are so often swept under the rug. Throughout 2013 I’ve spotlighted a few of my favorite made-for-TV movies so it seems appropriate to conclude this unofficial series with a look at HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (1972), a surprisingly grim and suspenseful Christmas themed thriller that also happens to star Eleanor Parker who recently passed away at the age of 91.
In HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS Parker plays Alex, the eldest sister in a dysfunctional family made up of a high-strung pill-popping alcoholic named Fredrica (Jessica Walter), a promiscuous multiple divorcee called Jo (Jill Haworth) and the young and somewhat naïve Christine (Sally Field). The four sisters reluctantly return home during Christmas to pay one last visit to their dying father (Walter Brennan) who remarried a local woman (Julie Harris) after the mother of his four daughters committed suicide. Once the sisters arrive home, their father informs them that he believes his current wife is slowly poisoning him. The sisters, who all loath their father, dismiss his suspicions but Alex thinks there might be some truth to his claims and insists that they all stick around and try to figure out what’s going on. Soon afterward it becomes apparent that the entire family is being stalked by a pitchfork-wielding maniac who wants them all dead. But outside a winter storm is raging and with the roads washed out and the phone lines down it’s going to be difficult to escape the murderous wrath of the mysterious Christmas killer.
Continue reading “Telefilm Time Machine: Home for the Holidays (1972)” at Turner Classic Movies’s official blog: The Movie Morlocks