Darke Reviews | Krampus (2015)

What may, or may not, surprise many of you is that I am a traditionalist about my holidays. I celebrate Halloween the way it is meant to by the romanticized American traditions and I also celebrate Christmas the same way. I have a real tree every year, there’s a fire in my fireplace, stockings, nut crackers, egg nog, the whole deal. It’s what I grew up with, the Rockwellian holiday. Even had a White Christmas once as I recall. Watch that every year. Watch Bing Crosby and David Bowie sing together. It really is my second favorite  holiday even if it will be alone for a long time coming.

Christmas

                The stockings were not yet hung by the fire with care.

So how what do I think of a horror movie not based around Christmas, but based ON the holiday?

Let’s discuss my bias for the director Michael Dougherty and his previous work Trick R Treat; which is the only other major directorial role he has. This is a loss. The man knows how to shoot a scene and build tension. He has a clear love for the holidays like I do, and takes that into the film. As one of the three writers on Krampus I can see his influences throughout as he writes in such a way to relish that what makes the holiday and simultaneously comments on the darker aspects of it as well. Todd Casey, one of the other writers, comes from a background in grown up animation with work on GI Joe Resolute, Green Lantern Emerald Knights (really good), and even the Thundercats reboot. This tells me he remembers what it was like to be a kid, the moments of joy, and laughter, and fun and knows how to bring it to screen in a way that’s appreciable by adults. The last writer is Zach Shields, a producer of The Conjuring. By their powers combined….something got pooched. Dougherty was the sole writer on Trick R Treat, so I don’t know where it went …ok.

This is the story of white above middle class suburbia and that Rockwellian over produced Christmas. The story of how one well to do white collar family is visited by their obnoxious blue collar family and the loss of innocence and faith and hope from the one of the children. A child who knows Santa doesn’t exist and still wants to believe. I think I am that child some days as my two favorite holidays near. This is what went wrong; the characters literally are stereotypes, they don’t feel real. They feel like what the media tells me families like this are. Except not, the suburban family is played straight as if they have very few faults, with the blue collar family being so painfully obnoxious I was counting the moments until the carnage I anticipated coming. I wanted to watch them die. They have next to no redeeming qualities and are just so over the top it is clearly the script, not the actors at fault; it’s that bad. Conversely the suburban family does have flaws, but play much more loving and overall healthy….ish. The only thing that these families have in common is that they do love their kids; which was a pleasant surprise. I don’t consider that a spoiler as it has no bearing on the film and truth be told falls into one of those redeeming qualities mentioned before.

Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation, Black Mass) plays the movie beautifully straight; so whilst I vex over the characters themselves, the actors do what they can to elevate it. Scott does his part, along with Toni Collette (Hostages, Fright Night). Emjay Anthony, as the child Max, turns a performance that could have been painful and hard to watch into something just a touch more without being unrealistic either. He’s still a kid and the part doesn’t forget that. The presence of the grandmother Omi, as played by Krista Stadler whom is a veteran actor of German films and TV brings the connection to the original myth of the Krampus fairly deftly. There’s a beauty in the fact most of her dialogue is in German with subtitles.

There are parts of the production that feel over produced and too clean to be real. There are some significant logic (and physics) fails a few times in the film that made my eyebrows arch and took me out of the moment; but otherwise the technicals are solid. Some poor fool over at Weta studios had to take this and make it not totally laughable.

 

Krampus_Old

Good luck with that…

Turns out they did. He has a physical presence that time is spent to maintain. I won’t say he isn’t ridiculous looking, but with what they had to work with they did good. They made the minions kinda terrifying as well in a way I found pleasing to my aesthetic. They didn’t go for the overt gore either which was another joy. There is one scene, however, that the CG work is beyond ludicrous; but in the context of the moment I didn’t really care considering the events transpiring right then.

TL;DR?

Krampus is a fantastic holiday horror. It mocks much of how we spin modern christmas while telling us point blankly what to cherish. It does some things I didn’t expect and am glad they did. The biggest weakness is the characters themselves at times, I want to see a horror movie where I don’t wish death on the majority of the cast. The movie lacks most of the fun black humor that lived in Trick R Treat, but it does have moments where I heard the audience and myself laugh. It was pin drop silent the rest of the time as it does a good job with tension.

All in all, if you are looking for some alternative fare of the horror variety, give Krampus a chance. It isn’t particularly new but does tell an old story in a modern way. I find as I talked about it I enjoyed it more than I thought I did.

Also I am adding a new segment to the TL;DR; after some look back at my DVD purchases this year, or lack there of.

Would Jessica buy this? Yes

Darke Reviews | Trick R Treat (2009)

Many of us were first introduced to this film through its musically powerful and highly visual trailer. You say, thats how most people find out about movies, trailers, Duh. That’s true, but this one appeared in front of the DVD release for the movie 300. It had fans of horror movies positively salivating in anticipation. Then, never came to be. Finally a DVD was released in 2009; two full years after the trailer was given to us.

The trailer itself was timeless in it’s own way with a near perfect execution of imagery and sound. It promised us a tale of vampires, classic halloween costumes not seen since the early 80s, ghosts, ghouls and jack o lanterns. Most of you will read this review two weeks prior to the day, this is intentional on my part. This gives you time to watch it and get in the halloween spirit.

Is it a Trick or Treat though?

As normal first we examine sole writer and director, Michael Dougherty. Prior to 2007 he had given us Bryan Singers screenplays for X2 and Superman Returns. In both cases he was one of several involved. Fault cannot be laid soley at his feet and it appears as he worked both films he is friends with Bryan Singer. On his solo outing, he finds a voice all his own. He comes at the movie in a way I haven’t seen since the Creepshow movies or perhaps even Heavy Metal. He interweaves the stories and connects them through touches of subtlety that can be overlooked. What he also shows is a true passion and love for the holiday (my favorite of course) and crafts a tale bringing superstition, horror, and tradition together.

We have the story of a modern woman (Leslie Bibb – the reporter from Ironman 1 and 2) who scoffs at tradition and her husband (Tahmoh Penikett – Battlestar Galactica)who respects it. This is the shortest of them, but has some meaning as it lays the ground work for what is to come. There is also the tail of poor, sweet, virginal Laurie (Anna Paquin – True Blood), with her big sister and friends off to a party hunting for dates as storybook characters. One cannot forget the lessons by principal Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker – Law and Order) and his son Billy; reminding us of all the warnings we grew up with and some of the modern traditions of Halloween. We cannot have a movie like this without a ghost story filled with tricks, treats, myths, and even revenge. A story of children on a bus left to die long ago and children today who were lost to the darkness inside all people. Of course there is also the final story – the obligatory haunted house. The old man who scares everyone and yet has dark secrets of his own that bring the darkness to him in ways he can only imagine in nightmares.

Now for the month of October many of my reviews, contrary to the norm, have been spoilerific. This one will not be, unless you’ve figured out things from how I said them. If so more power to you.

From a technical standpoint, this movie is everything Halloween should be. Had Carpenter gotten what he wanted in 1978, this film would have fit into his goals for what the Halloween series was meant to be. The effects done by Patrick Tatopulos (Underworld) while not perfect are some of the best I’ve seen for transformations and certainly original. The movie stays practical nearly 100% of the time on all the effects and those that aren’t I can’t tell. It also does something I have not seen much of when it puts actual children in the roles of the very children who are in peril – which is unusual for Hollywood. It also wisely knows when to leave well enough alone and let your imagination and a creative foley artist do far more than any gore effect. A lesson to be learned by many so called horror directors.

TL;DR

The movie has frights, but not too much to handle. It has chills and thrills, twists and turns. This to me, is an absolute must see in the horror and halloween genres. It’s barely flawed and almost perfect in every execution.

It is THE movie to have for a Halloween completist.
Tomorrows review let us know that Mummy came to his house