KRAMPUS

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Would Watch

Available for Comcast or Verizon OnDemand Rental (Verizon’s cheaper)

This moral tale’s more like Black Christmas than the Nightmare Before, despite its apparent family-friendly vibe.

I guess I may be a little late to the game on this one; Krampus came out for the holiday season last year. I remember my little sister was positively amped for its theatrical release. I’d been intrigued by the trailers as well. However, we neither managed to watch it until this last week, spurred on by Thanksgiving and the fresh set of winter holidays. 

Krampus turned out pleasantly worth the watch.

Here’s an “I’ll be honest:” I expected a more lighthearted affair. Indeed, Krampus’ first 30 minutes strongly echo the bumbling, comedic feel one can find in seasonal classics like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, maybe a little The Grinch minus its Whoville trappings – you know, that sort of innocent evil story-for-all-ages vibe. The multifold family members which constitute the film’s cast effectively elicit its audience’s empathy and rueful chagrin in addition to a healthy dusting of chuckles. And boy, what an intelligent approach this is to these despicable twelve, Krampus’ consanguineous dirty dozen: here’s a bunch of humans with spades of conflict between them, plus enough off-putting personality traits to count on both hands (and none may need share), but the director still needs to make us, the audience, like them. We need to root for these petty savages. They win us over in two equal parts; with the relatable aggravations that dog all mid-size families, colored in just-broad-enough cartoonish strokes. Paint strife funny and no one will scapegoat anyone for it too much.

Once we get to know everybody, and kind of like ‘em even if we hate ‘em, Krampus reveals it has gloves on beneath the cheer. With one hard hook, this film gets its shit real real, real quick.

Turns out this isn’t National Lampoon after all: no one’s lives are at stake in that holiday comedy. Same with The Grinch and sure, Nightmare Before Christmas, even – since both of these deal in fairy tales, the mind begs to compare and equate Krampus with such fluff. I was frankly shocked at the film’s first character death/disappearance. “I didn’t think this was that sort of movie,” I commented to a friend. “I didn’t think, you know, they’d actually kill anyone.”

From that point, Krampus doesn’t let up. While the serious horror treatment was a surprise, initially, and maybe just to me (maybe I forgot the tone of the trailers, or something), I have to applaud it. I didn’t expect Krampus to put anything real at stake. After all, it was a horror movie, but it was a Christmas movie, too. In my experience horror-Christmas movies tend to 15% horror, 85% gingerbread, tinsel, and loads of at-the-end, good-feels. Not so, Krampus, and it’s both the surprising of my expectation and the serious-ness of its scare which, at the end of the day, have won me over. I have no reservations. I recommend Krampus to you utterly.

If you feel in need of an antidote to angels, cherubs, carolers with rosy cheeks and Auld Lang Syne anytime in the next six weeks, then I say cue Krampus right on up.

THE CONJURING 2

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Meeehhhhh-commend

Available on American Airlines Flights (I know, right? Super bougie)

Based on a true hoax story

THE QUICK & DIRTY DEETS

  • Mod-to-high jump scares
  • Haunted house/family genre
  • Dat Vera Farmiga

THOTS

I admit that maybe I’m approaching this franchise from the wrong end, having not actually seen either The Conjuring or Annabelle (look, they make horror movies about living dolls for a reason, they’re fucking creepy), but you know what? It wasn’t so painful coming up the ass. Sorry, am I being crude? I didn’t realize horror fans were so sensitive.

Taken as it was, I have to say, The Conjuring 2 offers a solid specimen from the “haunted house” genre, although I would honestly argue this fits more into the “haunted person” arena as opposed to an actual “haunted house.” It’s typical poltergeist sort of fare, based on a “true story” from when “true poltergeist stories” were all the fashion – the early ‘70s. Any movie that can claim to be based on a true story does elicit just that extra inch or so more of thrill.

If you’re a fan of Poltergeist or similar, The Conjuring 2 will appeal to you because that’s what the story really is, though the film’s justification for its events is about as thick as the first early December sheet of ice overlaying some given neighborhood’s decorative, man-made pond. That is to say, there is an explanation and it holds just so long as no one steps on it, or tries to challenge it with the throw of a few fist-sized rocks. The film gives its audience just enough rationale for why this haunting? now? that probably no one walked out of the theater complaining of plot holes. However, like an appetizer may stave off true hunger, it doesn’t fully satisfy. It just puts off, enough.

While we’re talking about small-to-moderate flaws, while there’s an extensive cast of characters, if the film passes Bechdel, it does so narrowly. Mom’s acting starts off poor and, ultimately, hits only uneven success. Several short scenes feel auxiliary and maybe needless in retrospective examination. If a director’s ability is truly demonstrated by unbroken shots, The Conjuring 2 doesn’t say anything favorable about its dude-behind-the-cameras-in-charge. But does it have to?

The Conjuring 2 is one of those films with good enough star power and decent funding which ultimately delivers exactly what it promises but not one whit past that. It won’t enrage you or leave you disappointed. Neither will it excite you or make you think. Sometimes, with horror movies (as with most things in life), even I admit – mindless entertainment can be all you want or need.

I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Official Red Flag

Available on Netflix (Netflix Original) 

The good news? Only idiots and invalids are susceptible to specters in this flick.

The bad news? Now you have to watch it. 

THE QUICK & DIRTY DEETS

  • Subgenre: Haunted House; Paranormal Activity
  • What the fuck era is this in? Some ancient one
  • Low on story, low on scares, low on everything
  • See In Real Life: Bechdel pass not actual indicator of quality

THOTS

Wow, I hated this movie. I hated this movie so much I turned it off halfway in and was going to “let it rot” (a phrase the film repeats over and over) forever.. Then, after a day and half’s worth of levelheaded thought I realized I hated PYT (as the movie shall be dismissively termed henceforth in this review) so much that a) I had an obligation to the public to save them, and b) I had a lot to say about it. Very heatedly. That, in itself, merited a review. On a side note, you should see my notes for this movie. They’re hilarious, or, at least, hilariously frustrated.

I’m disappointed. With its arsenal of wildly popular original productions, Netflix should be able to churn out at least an average horror movie. Instead, someone somewhere greenlit a script which features a protagonist who, at one point, is too scared to learn more about her slightly spooky living situations to read a book that would explain them. If that weren’t enraging enough, the fact is that the only character “development” the film exhibits, in any way, is the development of a living character into a dead one. I guess not everyone was paying attention in 6th grade Reading class when we learned about dynamic characters and story progression.

This is a film that focuses on two characters who are so alone that, when they die, it is weeks before anyone thinks to check on them. If no one in the movie cares about the two main characters, why in God’s name would the audience? PYT asks us to care but gives us nothing to care about.

To get real honest, right from the start there’s no reason for us, the audience, to hear the story PYT churns out. We open with a first-person monologue told by a woman who, it’s established, is too afraid to read a book; leave her job; leave the house, even; or do anything. Why would this frightened creature talk to us? Are we in her house? What’s prompting her to speak to an audience?

And even if PYT offered some frail explanation for all of this, which it doesn’t – why would we, the audience, decide to listen? There is nothing compelling on sale.

Not only is our main character boring, she is dumb. She is reportedly uneasy living in the house but she never tries to leave it. Books are so frightening she would rather be scared and ignorant in real life than attempt to learn more about her situation. She had paranormal visions but does not acknowledge them. Things happen around her and over and over again she does nothing.

Even if this might be realistic, in that there may be a person out there like this idiot, that does not make it interesting, and in order for a movie to succeed it is more important it be interesting than believable.

For the sake of my time wasted, please – don’t waste yours.


Everything I Love That PYT Ruins (Special Closing Feature):

– Haunted house genre

– Minimalist script (2 MCs, 3 characters total, limited setting)

– Feminist horror genre