KRAMPUS

0

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.

SUMMER OF BLOOD (S. O. B.)

2

HONEST FILM SUBTITLE: “If Christopher Moore made a movie”

Available on Amazon Prime through a Shudder add-on subscription (free trial period).

THE QUICK & DIRTY DEETS

  • Status: Meeeehhhh-commend – recommend to those who like vampires for any reason, do not recommend to those looking for bona fide horror
  • Horror Category: Humor, Vampires
  • Low on Jumps and Cheap Tricks, Low on Gore, Low on Realism
  • High on Quirky Independent Film Student-ness, High on Need For Viewer To Suspend Disbelief

THOTS

Hey. Hey, Amazon Shudder. You freakin’ lied to me, man. Oh, how? Well, Shudder, I went to you hoping to find a treasure trove of great horror movies with surprisingly okay casts, lost from years gone by as reels got pulled from cinemas and converted to VHS. I mean, aren’t there at least one or two good horror movies, with surprisingly decent, known casts, every year? It seems that way to me. Theoretically. In my perfect world. Who knows, when was the last time I even went to the movies?

What I’m trying to get at here is that S. O. B. is hardly a horror movie. It nods to its rumored existence as a horror movie, shoring up this categorization primarily with its slew of vampire characters and ostensible vampiric activities. However, just like how green clothing does not confer an Irish heritage, these supernatural creatures do not transform our movie today into a horror flick.

S. O. B. is really a quirky, independent, kind-of-rom with definite com. In and of itself, it’s not a bad movie, mind you, although a little self-satisfied and totally lacking in some parts. (I’ll get to “totally lacking” in a bit.) At least Shudder rightfully categorized it as “Comedic Horror,” but what disappoints me is that Shudder only has 8 categories. “Comedic Horror” is one. If the rest of the “comedic horror” group are anything like S. O. B., that sub-set will truly be horrific – a horrific dud. Creeps and thrills form the bare minimum of my horror needs. Lafftrax don’t.

I confess, there are some highlights to S. O. B. : the dialogue is clever, the main character one of those lovable-loser types, the vampires aren’t glamorous, the ending features a nice little turn and, as a whole, the movie veers wildly away from overtrodden or predictable ground. The romance subplot lacks a little sparkle and interest, but that’s okay because this movie is clearly about the main character, not his window-dressing romance – now I guess is a good time to point out that the MC wrote, directed, and produced S. O. B. in addition to starring in it. I suspect this self-saturation is why the movie’s self-awareness can start to seem like arrogance, especially in retrospect. All of a sudden, it becomes clear what that off-putting feeling secretly rising into tangible thought while the movie progressed was: S. O. B. is overly pleased with itself. The movie is almost smug about its degree of cleverness. Or so it came across to me – don’t let my opinions rule you, if otherwise it sounds interesting. Stop right now. Watch it, then report back.

As for the rest of you, let’s proceed.

The biggest issue I had with the film (besides its potential artistic masturbation) was how it simply dismissed certain elements of reality in order to maintain the major story-arc. For instance, the lead character, very early on, becomes a vampire. Through the course of his transformation marked physical changes occur. However, at no point during the movie does any human who knew the main character previously, as a human, comment on his changed appearance or ask about it at all. Hell, he pulls on a ski mask to talk to his landlord while simultaneously smothered in a giant blanket, and the landlord doesn’t even blink an eye. In scenes throughout the movie, characters conveniently do not observe or examine what is literally right in front of them in order to keep the movie a lighthearted comedy and scurry the plot along. I think this is the deeper flaw in S. O. B.: character realism and intelligence are eschewed in favor of hitting another fast-paced punchline. For me, as a audience, this cheapens the film severely.