Saturday, 14 January 2017

She's Gotta Have It



Title: She’s Gotta Have It
Director: Spike Lee
Released: 1986
Starring: Tracy Camilla Johns, Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrell, Spike Lee, Raye Dowell

Plot: Nola Darling is simultaneously dating three different men at the same time and while they all know about each other, they all want her to commit to them solely only Nola doesn’t want to be “owned” by any one partner.


 
Review: Despite being one of the key directors of the early independent cinema scene with Jim Jarmusch’s “Stranger Than Paradise” and this film could certainly be linked as kickstaring the Independent cinema scene. Spike Lee has always been a director whose work I’ve seen very little of, they why of this situation could be narrowed down down to a handful of reasons while Lee has continued to be as talked about for his comments on various aspects of society including an ongoing dispute with Quentin Tarantino as his films. However putting that aside and focusing solely on his work as a director he still remains a highly acclaimed director, especially for his early films and for this reason I felt it was time that I dealt with this missing section of my film studies more

The first full length feature film to be directed by lee three years after his debut “Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads”. Here Lee shuns the typical potrayal of young black men as pimps and gangsters but believable everyday people with Nola’s lovers each being created to represent a different aspect and social level of society. It’s a world that he introduces via a series of photographs showcasing the local colour as we see pictures of residents, buildings and graffiti before we are introduced to Nola.

With this film the camera not serves to observe the interactions of the small group of characters but also serves as an almost confessional device for the characters as they frequently break the forth wall to give their side of the story which inturn equally serves to perfectly encapsulate each of the character personalities. Nola is unquestionably the strongest of these voices as a fiercely independent young woman who sees no issues of having multiple lovers especially when each of her three lovers gives her something different that she wants. At the same time Lee is refuses to have Nola portrayed as being a slut even driving home the point when Nola is sent by the dominating Greer to a doctor after he accuses her of being a nymphomaniac only to be reassured by the doctor that there is rightfully nothing wrong with her behaviour.

Nola’s lovers as I mentioned already are certainly a mixed bunch as we have the polite gentleman Jamie (Hicks), the self-obsessed and dominating model Greer (Terrell) and the motor mouthed street punk Mars (Lee). Each lover is introduced talking to the camera about how they feel about Nola and what they get from their relationship with her. While at first it might seem like they don’t know about each other as the film goes on it becomes much clearer that they are actually aware of the other men and there a strange fascination to be found in how she dates each of them as she fools around with Mars laughing and joking while dressing up for expensive diners with Greer.

Each of the guys is memorable in their own way with Jamie coming across as educated only wanting to make Nola happy, even if its at the cost of pushing his more traditional world view. Greer meanwhile is his polar opposite as he is a self centred and sees Nola as his property and who through her association with him makes her better. That being said he is a flawed character himself as seen during his sex scene with Nola which is teased out by him slowly and maticulously removing and folding each piece of clothing while she waits in bed, watching him and slowly losing her patience.

Mars is arguably the most memorable of the trio while also played by Spike Lee himself seemingly channelling Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav is everybit the oddball from the moment his is introduced charging at the camera on his bicycle before unleashing his motormouth style of dialogue on the audience. His character would following the release of the film go on to be a pop culture icon for a short period as Lee carried him across to a series Nike Air Jordan commercials he would direct and appear in with Michael Jordan in turn cementing his pop culture status.

Shot in black and white reminiscent of both “Clerks” and “Slacker” this film equally plays similar to those film in that this is a film driven by its dialogue and its characters interactions shooting on small sets as well as on streets and more keyly the park of Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Despite this Lee truly crafts a full world for his characters to inhabit despite his limitations. At the same time he constantly mixes things up just when we think we have things worked out as seen by the film suddenly switching to glorious technicolor for the dance sequence or randomly cutting away to a montage of young black men sharing their best pick up lines in a scene which is as humorous as it is cringe worthy especially when you have one of these guys thinking that lines such as “Baby, you’re so fine, I’d drink a tub of your bath water.” as a flattering pick up line.

A film which is as equally driven by its humorous elements as its character interactions, while even now it still remains a relevant film and a strong start to Lee’s lengthy career as a director, leaving me keen to see what else I’ve been missing in his filmography.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl



Title: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Released: 2015
Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, Connie Britton, Massam Holden

Plot: Greg (Mann) is a high-schooler who along with his best friend Earl (Cyler) share a love of cinema which they celebrate through their movie parodies. Things change for him though when he is forced to befriend Rachel (Cooke) a classmate and former childhood friend who has recently diagnosed with leukemia.


Review: What happened to the American indie? Once a sub-genre which showed such promise and originality only to disappear almost as quickly as it exploded into the movie watching conscious. Perhaps it could be traced to the rise of Mumblecore which saw film student hipsters believing that every thought which tumbled out of their heads and should be preserved on screen as what could be mistaken as a pretentious attempt to clone “Clerks” or “Slacker”. Whatever it was it was with the one two punch of this film and “Dope” I was honestly left feeling as the credits rolled on this film that perhaps we are starting to see the genre rise once more.

Of course I missed this film during its original release no doubt thanks to overwelming presence of the more minor sick teen girl film “Fault In Thier Stars” and meaning that I am of course only now catching it now following a recommendation from both Jess (French Toast Sunday) and Kim (Tranquil Dreams / Game Warp) that I should watch it.

Right from the start its established that Greg is something of an outsider as he refers to best friend Earl as being his “co-worker” and even though he still views other people at his school of being more of an outsider than himself such as the white wannabe rapper Ill Phil (Holden) as he is happy just doing his own thing than joining one of the social cliques. This outsider feeling is equally carried across in his love for classic cinema which refreshingly isn’t some “Dawson's Creek” style trope where they spend the film over analysing cinema for deeper meanings but instead just for the sheer enjoyment of these films after being introduced to them as kids by Greg’s father (Offerman) and more importantly the ability to parody them.

These parody films are shot in a style reminiscent of “Be Kind Rewind” as they rework the titles to fit in with their unique reinterpretation for these films, in turn giving us such wonderful random hints of these films they are making from the brief clips we see from the likes of “A Sockwork Orange” (A Clockwork Orange) and “2.48pm Cowboy” (Midnight Cowboy) with no genre or director seemingly safe from their satirical eye as we see Greg imitating Herzog in “Burden of Dreams” or as they rename it “Burden of Screams”. These moments providing a fun sub-plot throughout the film while nicely setting up the finale.

While the main meat of the film unsurprisingly is in the relationship between Greg and Rachel this is not a love story in any shape or form, but instead refreshing about the friendship they share and how she shapes his outlook forcing him to deal once more with the world around him, rather than shutting it out as he currently has been doing when we first meet Greg as he believes that it will save him having to deal with it. The pair despite their initial reservations at essentially being forced to hang out together soon fading as they discover that this might have more in common than they first thought.

Because of the platonic nature of their relationship we never have this fear that she will be what breaks up the Greg and Earl’s friendship as she instead becomes this hip edition to their group as she handles her hair loss by donning a bubblegum pink wig. Credit going to Cooke who actually shaved her head for the role and even though we can see she is getting sicker as the film goes on, we still have a contradictory narration from Greg who assures she is going to live, which of course does little to stop us still being put through the wringer towards the end of this film. Gomez-Rejon showing a quirky confidence behind the camera which makes it only the more surprising that coming off “American Horror Story” that he’d been hiding this almost Wes Anderson style world view and which is certainly present here, while still retaining enough of his own originality to not make it seem like a clone of Anderson’s style.

The young cast are all equally fantastic with Mann convincingly able to pull of the narration which is so essentially the backbone to the film. At the same time the supporting cast as equally strong with Rachel’s mother (Shannon) choosing to handle her daughter’s illness through the bottom of a bottle, while Greg’s own home life is none the less fractured with his oddball psychiatrist father working through more than a few problems of his own, while the almost monologue style of speech he uses makes the casting of Nick Offermann only the more perfect.

A film which truly reminds me of the golden period of the American Indie scene (99-04) as here we get a story and plotting which actually feels fresh and original and most importantly free from being burred under an avalance of Smaltz that it might have been as a mainstream feature. Hopfully this is a sign of things to come as I for one certainly wouldn’t mind seeing more films like this than another “Hannah Climbs the Stairs.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Green Room



Title: Green Room
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Released: 2015
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Patrick Stewart

Plot: The Ain’t Rights are a struggling Punk band travelling through the Pacific Northwest, though when a gig falls through they are offered a gig playing at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar deep in the Oregon woods. However when their bass player Pat (Yelchin) accidently witnesses a murder in one of the back rooms, the band find themselves confined to the club’s green room while their captives plot to make them disappear.

Review: Patrick Stewart has an approach when it comes to reading potential scripts, were if a script fails to hold his interest after the first couple of pages he will read it on his computer. However if it does grab him he will print it out and read it in his armchair as he revealed in an interview for the film. However after reading the script he found himself so shook up by what he had read he locked up his house, set the security alarm and poured himself a large scotch. Having seen the film its certainly easy to say why as this might be possibly one of the most tense movies I have seen in a very long time and seeing how this is the kind of film best watched blind I will now urge you to stop reading here and come back once you’ve seen it or risk spoilers which potentially lie ahead.

I don’t think that anyone who saw Director Jeremy Saulnier’s black comedy debut “Murder Party” could have predicted the path his career has taken and despite releasing the critically acclaimed “Blue Ruin” before this film it was instead the prospect of seeing Patrick Stewart playing a neo-Nazi which initially attracted me to this film but despite several of my fellow bloggers recommending this film I don’t think I was expecting to get a film as good as we get here.

Introduced to our group of slumming punk rockers who are now at the point where they have to sleep in their van and siphon gas to make it to their next gig, often playing in front of miniscule crowds as seen by the spontaneous gig they are forced to hold in a backwood diner in front of a crowd totalling ten people, two of which are just trying to have their breakfast. Needless to say they jump at the chance of playing a proper gig despite their initial reservations of playing a skinhead bar. Its during their opening rendition of the Dead Kennedy’s “Nazi Punks Fuck off” that you’d expect to be the catalyst for the band getting in trouble but instead they manage to win over their hosts and are pretty much out the door when they of course stumble across the murder thanks to a forgotten mobile phone that their issues really start.

Its a real mixed cast of known and unknown actors assembled here though somehow this doesn’t show in the film as every member of the cast really brings something to the film, with Alia Shawkat here continuing her assention as an indie starlet making me want to draw comparisons to the career path of Joseph Gordon Levitt as I can’t help but feel in the coming years that she is going to be an actress we are all going to be wanting to talk about as only further reinforced by her supporting role here as guitarist Sam.

What only further helps the film is Saulnier’s seeming refusal to abide to the usual sterotypes and conventions when crafting his characters here as while the band might be punkers there’s not a mohawk or leather jacket to be found. Equally with the neo-Nazi’s they are from the the dumb racist nuckle draggers that we have come to expect from these kinds of characters instead they are shown as being organised with the so-called true believers being identified by their red laces who are more than willing to do anything to protect their group.

Seeing how Patrick Stewart was my main draw to the film, the performance he gives here is well beyond anything I expected as here he plays the Skinhead leader Darcy. A truly monsterous creation who hides a ruthlessly cold and calculating side under his soft spoken front which plays perfectly when he’s initially introduced with this air of mystery to him and shown seemingly willing to negotiate with the band to try and resolve the situation only to reveal his true intentions when he has the advantage. There is of course a real thrill in seeing a classically trained actor like Stewart playing such a villainous role as he snarl derogatory remarks while constantly holding command over his loyal followers without once raising his voice or losing his cool over the quickly escalating situation.

The real shocking aspect of the film is in the violence which is often without warning and frequently bloody as we get to see Yelchin’s arm slashed to spaghetti by unseen attackers leaving him to tape up his arm with duct tape. We also get a torso opened up by a box cutter, numerous stabbing and dog attacks aswell as a number of other gory highlights. At the same time it should be noted that while the violence is frequently bloody and explict, it is never without justification or senseless as Saulnier carefully plots out each moment of violence to maximum effect as especially seen by the number of cast members who are suddenly killed off with zero warning about their impending demise.

The real strength of the film here is how Saulnier has managed to craft a film with genuine tension, while its locations being largely to the club and its exterior only adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere which refused to ease up over the brief runtime, avoiding moments of comedy or even the prospect of rescue for the band as he remains stubbornly fixed on making the viewer watch the band try and escape from this situation they find themselves in.

Sadly hampered by a limited release in theatres this film much like his other two films looks set to be one which audiences will discover through word of mouth promotion or scrolling through Netflix who thankfully have recently added it to their catalogue and meaning that us folks in the UK finally have something worth watching on there. Unquestionably though this is a film which lives up to its hype and more making this a title unquestionably worth hunting down, while of course leaving us eager to see what he does next.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Alternative Christmas Countdown 2016

 
For those of you who follow the Facebook / Twitter feed will know already that this year I ran another Alt Christmas countdown with each day bringing something Alt. Christmas related be it a piece of music, a review or a short film as we countdown to Christmas!

You can also check out the original 2013 countdown here


Krampus In The Corner
 
The alt Christmas alternative for those kids too hip for "Elf on a Shelf" created by Silent Orchid Studios based on the character from Germanic folklaw who punished naughy children at Christmastime.
 

 
Patton Oswalt - Christmas Shoes
 
Patton delves into possibly one of the worst Christmas songs ever.


Wes Anderson Christmas

Inititally mistaken for a new Wes Anderson feature. Here though he crams in a brief runtime his distinctive style and characters to create a charming little short which sadly has already been butchered for its TV release, but here it is in its original form.

 
 
DRYVRS Ep.1 - Just Me In The House By Myself starring Macaulay Culkin
 
Ever wondered what happened to Kevin after the first two "Home Alone" movies?
 

 
Christmas Carolling with Rowdy Roddy Piper
 
The legendry Rowdy Roddy Piper takes us through his alternative take on the 12 days of Christmas with a voice like melted gold.
 
 
 
Santa Vs. Jesus Wrestling
 
The battle for Christmas is waged in the ring thanks to Freakshow Wrestling
 
 
Bonus: Knockouts Santa's Workshop Streetfight - From TNA wrestling this match from the glory days of their Knockout Division is not only festive themed but features Christy Hemme going nuts with a doll, before getting full on kicked in the chest.
 
John Water's Why I Love Christmas
 
The maestro of bad taste cinema shares his thoughts on the holiday season. 
 

 
Weird Al Yankovic - Christmas at Ground Zero
 
 
Santa With Muscles
 
The Franchise Killer Hulk Hogan kills his own acting career, but is it really as bad as IMDB would have you belive it is?

http://fromthedepthsofdvdhell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/santa-with-muscles.html
 
 
 
Nick Helm - (Hey Johnny) There Ain't No MotherFuckin' Santa Claus

Surely the song we should all be pushing for the Christmas number 1!
 


 

Hunter S. Thompson Sets Christmas Tree On Fire, Nearly Burns His House Down
 
Not even Christmas is free from Thompson's trademark brand of chaos as seen here by the raging inferno he unleashes.
 

 
 
Treevenge

Short horror film by Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun) as the Christmas trees decide to revolt and take revenge on the humans. A fun little short outside of the ending which arguable goes too far, but the lead up is packed with his usual neo-grindhouse charms.


 
The Spirit of Christmas Shorts

Before South Park Trey Parker and Matt Stone gave us these two short films, which would lay the template for South Park, while becoming cult favourites on the tape trading scene.

Jesus Vs. Frosty (1992)



Jesus Vs. Santa (1995)
 

 
Psycho Santa Pranks

I love a bad Santa so needless to say this series of pranks really tap into what I love about the Alt. Christmas season.
 

 
Kaiju Christmas

Thanks to August Ragone for this fun track
 
 
 
Bobcat GoldWait on the True Meaning of Christmas
 
Boy competitions where a lot better back in the late 80's. I just love the fact that MTV essentially missed the message of "Scrooged" by letting you be your very own Tyrant




Liam Nesson Auditions as a Shopping Mall Santa

So wonderfully creepy it makes me hope that they sign him up for an Alt Christmas movie soon!



Jimmy Kimmel - I Gave My Kids A Terrible Present
 
What's the point of having kids if you can't torment the hell out them right? Needless to say these kids were less than thrilled with this one.
 

 
 
Full Metal Rudolph

Hmm the opening of Full Metal Jacket and the children's classic "Rudolph" because those two things go together


 
Bonus: Apocalypse Pooh - Because who doesm't want to see the Hundred Acre Wood spliced with Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam classic

 
Star Trek Christmas Decorations

Yours for a mere $199
 
 
 
 
 
A list of my favourite Christmas episodes from "Black Mirror" and "South Park" through to the one episode of "How I Met Your Mother" that's actually still worth watching.  
 


 
Pee Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special

While this never made it over to the UK, watching it now its hard not to get caught up in just how wholesome and fun it is. Also how long is that guest list!
 


 
 
Happy Christmas to all my readers and friends. Thanks for your continued support and here's to a kickass 2017!!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Santa With Muscles


Title: Santa With Muscles
Director: John Murlowski
Released: 1996
Starring: Hulk Hogan, Ed Begley Jr. , Don Stark, Robin Curtis, Kevin West, Garrett Morris, Diane Robin, Kai Ephron, Steve Valentine

Plot: When arogant millionaire Blake Thorn (Hogan) recives a blow to the head, he is convinced by shopping mall elf Lenny (Stark) that he is Santa Claus. Meanwhile evil scientist and germaphobe Ebner Frost (Begley Jr.) is plotting to take over a local orphanage to steal the magical crystals uless Blake can stop him.

Review: Constantly referred to as one of the worst movies ever made as further reinforced with its position as one of IMDB’s bottom 100 movies but as someone whose seen more than my share of bad movies I had to wonder if it could possibly be that bad, let alone worse than the likes of “The Wrecking Crew” or "Deaden”.

Coming towards the end of Hogan’s acting career though the quality of said acting greatly varied as he went from mainstream productions and cameos before drifting into more DTV fare with this film really marking the start of this period ironically released the same year as his last theatrical production “The Secret Agent Club” both directed by John Murlowski and really on polar opposites of the terrible movie spectrum to each other making me wonder how the same director / actor combo could produce two films so wildly different in quality to each other.

Opening to Blake stalking and beating up his own staff as part of some bizarre training regime, it pretty clear that he is kind of a jackass while at the same time I couldn’t help but feel as Hogan goes through a juvenile routine not only with the staff but also while playing paintball that in some way he was trying to emulate Adam Sandler in “Billy Madison” which was released the previous year. Needless to say its pretty random to see Hogan trying to convingly pull off such a performance, let alone the fact that he’s suddenly gained an equally random hair piece. At the same time no explanation is given for this man-child behavior as while Billy Madison was a spoilt rich kid born into money, Blake is a self made millionaire thanks to his line of protein shakes and bodybuilding equipment but from the way he acts during these opening scenes it makes you wonder how exactly this was even possible.

Still once he gets a blow to the head he’s found by the opportunistic Shopping Mall elf Lenny (Stark) who for some reason convinces Blake that he is Santa. From their first meeting its pretty clear what Lenny is planning as he plots to rip Blake off though for some reason in this world which the film is set cash points need your fingerprint and even then the machine is picky over which hand you use. You have to admire his dedication to his half baked scheme as the pair soon find themselves at the orphanage and he’s forced to don an adult sheep onesie which magically appears from somewhere, unless he’s been carrying it around with him all this time.

Its when we are introduced to Ed Begley Jr’s villainous Ebner Frost that things really start to get weird here as he seems to have hired a bunch of failed wrestler idea to act as henchmen despite starting positively with the electro gloved Dr. Watt (Robin) though it goes drastically downhill from here as we get the evil chemist Dr. Vial (Ephron) whose about spraying farts in people faces which made me wonder who the hell wrote this, especially when their duo is joined by the evil geologist (but of course) Dr. Flint (West). The bumbling henchmen lead by evil doctor Blight (Steve Valentine) while crusing around in an Ice Cream truck for some random reason which is never explained much like why everyone that Blake fights uses a weapon relating to to their profession as seen with Dr. Blight using his stethoscope as a makeshift whip.

Its a real toss up between which is more ropey here the acting or the attempts at pulling off anything resembling an action scene. Upgrading his Santa suit with cut off sleeves and leather gloves Blake soon decides to punish the naughty boys and girls by beating the hell out of them which of course is such a great example to set in front of a bunch of orphans. At the same time no one really knows how to put together a fight scene so we get a lot of slop-fu here as Hogan throws snail paced punches and throws generic bad guys around while they fail around wildly around him. This of course is not even mentioning the fight between Blake and a white guy who clearly thinks he’s a samurai and only seems to be there so Hogan can give us his best Bruce Lee impression before kicking a bench into his face. It should equally be noted that for such a good brawler Blake is also knocked off a roof by a Christmas decoration!

The main issue here and there are certainly more than a few is that the film never seems to know who its audience is, as even when viewed as family fare it still feels that its playing things way too dumb and this is putting the already nonsensical plotting aside. While we might occasionally get the odd laugh or two its far too often a grind to sit through.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Saint



Title: Saint
Director: Dick Maas
Released: 2010
Starring: Huub Stapel, Egbert Jan Weeber, Caro Lenssen, Bert Luppes

Plot: On Dec 5 1492 the evil former bishop Niklas and his gang where killed by an angry mob of villagers who refused to be be intimidated by the bishop and his gangs reign of terror. Now they return to seek murderous revenge whenever the anniversary of their death coincides with a full moon.

Review: One of the great aspects of the alt. Christmas season is occastionally getting to see how different countries choose to celebrate the festive season with the standout example of this being “Rare Exports” aswell as the more recent interest in Krampus but here its the turn of the Dutch in particular the festival of Sinterklaas which takes place on the 5th Decemeber the night before Saint Nicolas Day which Christmas Day was derived from. It of course only makes it all the more fitting when you consider the amount of Santa slashers out there that the Sinterklass mythos get a twisted re imagining as well.

Directed by Dick Maas who outside of directing music videos soley for classic rockers “Gold Earring” is no doubt best known for directing “Amsterdamned” and the killer elevator movie “De Lift” aswell as its English language remake “Down” and here he wastes little time setting the scene for the film as we open to slaughter of the a village by Niklas and his Zwarte Piet before they inturn are slaughtered and burned alive on their ship which is used to explain the black face appearance of the Zwarte Piet who at the same time are said to have black faces due to soot though to those not familiar with the mythos it can be kind of jarring to see characters being so enthusiastic about blacking up. From this opening we are quickly thrown into a second slaughter in which a young boy Goert (Luppes) is left the sole survivor who grows up to be a bitter police detective obsessed with getting his revenge.

Our main protagonist here though is teenager Frank (Weeber) who we see being dumped by his girlfriend during the exchanging of gifts being held by his class, which it seems is largely an excuse for the boys to give girls dildo as secret Santa gifts. Frank’s ex meanwhile gives him the gift of giving his stuff back not that he really cares of course seeing how he has secretly been seeing her best friend on the side. Things however take a turn for the worst when he escapes the massacre of his friends by Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Piet though the police not believing that Sinterklaas is anything than a myth are quick to label him the primes suspect in the murders happening around the city.

Shot at a brisk pace there really is very little fat to this movie as it feels like there is always something happening especially with the kill scenes being regularly peppered throughout the film including a jaw dropping chase scene which see’s Sinterklaas riding his horse along the city roof tops while being pursued by the cops.

Despite the largely fun tone of the film, there are actually a few surprisingly shocking moments of gore and splatter as limbs are regularly lopped of blood sprays in hosepipe spurts ensuring that it never gets too heavy. At the same time the make up effects are all fantastic and really add to these scenes especially the design of the zombie Sinterklass which really has a presence on the screen especially when accompanied by his horde of loyal foot soldiers.

The downside of the film comes with its weak ending which lacks any form of conclusion apart from giving us a nice big explosion, which somehow drives Sinterklass away rather than give us any proper kind of showdown which is only made the more disappointing when Goert is seemingly being built up for this climatic showdown which ultimately never comes. Still if you can get past this what we get here though is another fun international horror and one to file alongside the likes of “Rare Exports” and “Troll Hunter”



Saturday, 10 December 2016

Krampus



Title: Krampus
Director: Michael Dougherty
Released: 2015
Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler

Plot: Max (Anthony) is losing faith in Christmas and while his dysfunctional family clash over Christmas plans he decides to not bother with the holiday at all while unwittingly summoning Krampus who plans to punish all the non-believers in town.



Review: Riding in on a surprise wave of popularity for the Krampus mythos that unsuprisingly saw a huge number of these films being released, the majority straight to DVD with this one unquestionably being the standout film, no doubt thanks to director Michael Dougherty being attached to the film whose best known for directing the cult holiday horror “Trick ‘r Treat”.

Now switching holiday’s to Christmas as he opens to slow motion crowds battling for holiday deals while introducing Max as he brawls with a portly bully during a nativity play which really sets the playfully chaotic tone of the film. Of course the tension between the family is only added to when Sarah’s (Collette) sister Linda (Tolman) and her redneck family roll into town for Christmas while also bringing aunt Dorothy (Ferrell) in tow.

Linda’s family are an amusing counter to Sarah’s who on the surface seem to be living this suburban dream in their perfect house. Linda’s family meanwhile are crass and slovenly which makes the casting of David Koechner as Linda’s husband Howard all the more perfect especially when he’s spent the best part of his career playing these kinds of characters. Thier kids meanwhile are no better as their daughters are a pair of tom boyish bully’s who when not wrestling in the lounge are tormenting Max making you wonder if they are playing the role of the sons that Howard wished he has, especially as his only son Howie Jr. (Flack) is an almost permanently mute lump.

This mixed bag of characters are of course forced to put their differences aside as a mysterious snow storm blows into town bringing with it Krampus. Now for those not familiar with the mythos of Krampus he is a character of Germanic folklaw who takes the form of a half-goat half-demon who like Santa rewards good children with presents while punishing those who have been bad. Needless to say its the punishing of the bad which takes the main focus here with Dougherty bringing a truly monstrous vision of the character to the screen and whose legacy is explained by Tom’s (Scott) German mother Omi (Stadler) with the flashback to her childhood encounter with Krampus being delightfully told via old school stop motion animation so that it resembles a twisted Rankin / Bass Production but its a great way to sell the mythos of this fantastical character.

In something of a switch-a-roo here Krampus is largely kept to the background as he plays the prankster taunting the family inside the house while unleashing various demonic toys aswell as his troupe of creepy masked elves. This might prove something of a disappointment for some especially with Krampus being shown as this hulk of a creation you’d expect him to be laying siege to the family home rather than tormenting them from afar. What makes up for it though are the demonic toys he unleashes on the family including a man-eating Jack in the Box aswell as a fantastic were-bear! The real standout here though are the killer gingerbread men who as soon as I saw them welding a nail-gun capturing that same anarchic sense of fun that made “Gremlins” such a blast.

The character design of these various demonic beasts are incredible as well as highly original in their contruction with Krampus for the most part seen in the distance of cut off by the screen, though by the time we do get to see his face at the end he still can be seen wearing a Santa mask, playing up the idea here that Krampus is Santa’s shadow / dark side. The elves keeping with the theme are also wearing creepy masks which really keeps with the dark theme and I appreciated the fact that they where kept to the final quarter making their sudden appearance all the more surprising and ultimately effective when they did appear.

While the film might not be heavy on splatter and gore it is none the less still an effective piece, with Dougherty building the tension for the first half before unleashing all kinds of chaos in the second half. While there might not be much in terms of gore, here is still manages more than a few surprising moments thanks largely to the demonic Jack-in the box while at the same time the order he chooses to despatch characters is far from as predictable as it might seem and certainly caught me by surprise when a character I expected to be there till the end was suddenly dispatched and its only the more credit to Dougherty that he will happily remove one of the children as willingly as any of the adult characters slowly whittling the group down to its key players as he builds to his biblical finale.

If I had one nagging point it would the ending which while it could certainly be perceived in a number of ways, my main issue came with the fact that it felt so tacked on and almost as if it has been added further to a note from an unhappy studio exec unwilling to let the film end on a potentially downbeat ending. Thankfully the ride up to this point that it makes it easier to get past especially when it ultimately isn’t taking anything away from the film as whole.

Dougherty really has created something special with Krampus and while part of me would love to see him follow it up with a part 2, the other side of me doesn’t want to do anything to risk ruining or watering down the experience he gives us here, let alone take away any of the mistique of his take on the creature. Needless to say this is one film I’d happily add into my year alt. Christmas rotation of films.
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