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.

WILLOW CREEK

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Meeeeeh-commend

Available on Amazon Prime – Shudder Add-on Subscription

THE QUICK AND DIRTY DEETS

Suggested Alternate Title: Big Baby After Bigfoot

  • High on: Build-Up, Bad Camping, Bigfoot Lore
  • Scares: 6/10
  • Genre: Found Footage; Urban Legends/Folklore
  • Low-to-Moderate Jump Scares, Low Follow Through, Shorter Length

THOTS

I decided to watch Willow Creek because I’ve been doing a lot of camping lately and I thought it would be fun to watch something more along that theme, instead of sticking to my typical favorite genres (feminism and haunted house movies). It was relatively high rated on Amazon, so I settled in for a little over an hour’s of entertainment without much by way of expectations, excited mostly for the camping.

Here is the essential plot of Willow Creek: Bigfoot believer dude and his non-believer, but loving and tolerant girlfriend, are on an expedition to re-create the famous 1967 Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot footage. As a point in the film’s favor, I learned more about Bigfoot during the 79-minute run time than I had ever cared to know before. All the facts and legends the couple seem hellbent on exploring in Willow Creek prove, upon a little Googling, real, established, “facts” and legends of the Bigfoot myth. That’s – fairly impressive. It’s nice that the film mines truly extant legends and folklore for its premise, and in fact, much of what drives its story arc.

Now here are the downsides of Willow Creek: the two main characters constitute a couple which, at almost every turn of the movie, the audience wonders why they are together. Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson have virtually no on-screen chemistry. Gilmore’s hot, and Johnson’s certainly good-looking, but he comes across like a douche, and she – well, we wonder why she’s with Johnson at all. He’s insistent upon the existence of Bigfoot and angered when she compares the urban legend to, for instance, leprechauns. There’s a single cute couple moment in the entire movie, which is when Johnson’s character proposes to Gilmore in their tent. But wait: during this scene we realize the two don’t even live together, have probably not been dating that long (let’s estimate a year or less, based on contextual remarks), and in short, why the hell does this guy think he wants to marry this girl? Because she tolerates, even enables, his Bigfoot obsession?

To return to the realm of positive commentary, there is more to be said about Willow Creek. The film has a great build-up. There’s a lot of back detail provided, and it’s complete with the typical “locals warning intruders not to intrude” and so on.

Unfortunately, when Gilmore’s character says, at over 30 minutes into the movie, “I have no cell reception…the beginning of every horror movie,” all it made me think was “So why did it take this one thirty minutes to get there?”

All in all – the movie wasn’t bad. But the ending is virtually inexplicably by way of motivation and reason, despite the fact that it may wake you up in the middle of the night with thoughts of dark figures standing by your bed. I wanted more out of Willow Creek, and I started it without even wanting much.