Krampus~ 2015, Michael Dougherty, USA



Oh boy. Everybody is just SO excited for Krampus. Krampus this, Krampus that, for years, this has been going on. I had my reservations with this one, but  Krampus actually starts off on the right track, and that temporarily eased my concerns, and had me thinking, “hey, maybe this is going to be a good movie after all.” What I found, however, was that while all of my initial gripes with the film quietly began to fade into the background, a new list of unexpected, yet equally fatal flaws began to form, and these left Krampus dead on arrival anyway. I swear I have never seen a movie that so expertly lined up the nail, raised the hammer, took aim, and then just all-out refused to drive it home in all my days. Krampus has absolutely no guts, it’s all set up and no execution. This movie is a spineless insult to its Alpine Bogeyman source material, and to movie-goers alike.


Krampus is the newest Holiday themed horror jam from director Michael Dougherty, the same dude who brought us Trick R Treat back in 2007. This time around Doughtery, goes after Christmas, and gives us a film based on America’s new-found love affair with a Centuries old folk custom from Bavaria and Austria, which the Internet culture of 2015 has mangled and debased, so that it could better fit the role that America requires of it, not unlike an impatient child, forcing a puzzle piece into a spot where it doesn’t belong. It completely sucks as hard as anything possibly could, which is neither here for there. At this point, Krampus isn’t even the first of these movies to have been made,  and it won’t be the last. This trend will continue for years. This is my private Hell.

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 22.58.31This kid knows what I’m talkin’ about.

THE PLOT~ As said above, Krampus starts strong, real strong. The first act of the film is centered around exploring just what a despicable, irredeemable race of shit heads human beings really are. Doughtery wisely makes use of the now all too infamous annual Black Friday shopping Massacres, which showcases many of humanity’s worst qualities, and which, ironically, also heralds the start of a Holiday season which is meant to stand forever as a testament to the inherent goodness inside all of us. Let’s give Dougherty credit; this is a fantastic place to open on for a film about a an ancient, Yuletide Demon who punishes the wicked for their crimes. He’s made his point loud and clear, we all deserve a Krampus. So far so good.

From there, though, we lose quite a bit of traction, and the film quickly devolves into a more cookie cutter horror scenario. We’ve got a family full of selfish, hideous troglodytes, who find themselves barricaded inside their home, fighting to survive as a fierce and unexpected blizzard turns their once peaceful neighborhood into an innavigable hell-scape of darkness and frost. Of course, we all know that this blizzard is actually Krampus’ doing, he’s here with his army of Christmas helpers (the hell?) to slowly murder each member of this family, one by one, just like the real Krampus does (no he doesn’t.). From there, it’s all formula. They get picked off one by one, all the while learning to appreciate one another more, which is a major theme of the film: when time gets tough, you understand how important family really is. Which is fine.

The acting is actually really great across the board, and the movie is well made, the practical effects especially. This isn’t a movie that didn’t do anything right, and that’s actually what’s so frustrating about the whole ordeal, It was well within Krampus’ power to be really, really good. There are a lot of Christmas themed horror movies out there, but not all of them are all that great. Krampus could have done it, this could have been one of the best of the batch, even taking into account how foolishly mishandled the source material was, but they just won’t cross the threshold. Krampus makes it all the way to the finish line, stops dead in its tracks, and just stares blankly into space. “This is as far as I go, audience,” the movie says. And it’s not far enough!

MV5BOTY1OTE5NTAxMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjY3Njc3NjE@._V1_SX640_SY720_See how cool that looks? How did this manage to suck!?

The biggest drawback, as I mentioned above, is just how spineless this movie really is. There are moments throughout the picture when Krampus is briefly very awesome, the introduction of The Krampster himself, for instance, stands out as being pretty excellent, but these moments come and go, and they’re never as potent as they ought to be. Krampus displays an offputtingly blatant hesitancy to go “full-horror,” and there are added measures taken throughout to soften the blow each and every time the film get’s a little bit too scary. A great example of that would be the introduction of the Jack In The Box monster, which is actually terrifying as all fuck, except that when they hit us with the big reveal; the movie plays it for laughs, which totally ruins the moment. That’s one example, but the entire movie works that way, each and every time things get awesome, Krampus defeats itself with a flimsy joke, and that might have been just fine, except that this movie isn’t at all funny. So, what we have is a film that is neither fish nor fowl, Krampus is forever caught between two polar opposites and unable to satisfy the requirements of either. It totally sucks!

Here’s maybe the best way to say it: In this movie, Krampus has been made more similar to Santa Claus than he actually is in Germanic lore, and this is because these added similarities draw attention to the startling ways in which these two characters differ, and it’s that off-kilter familiarity which makes him scary. This is a fitting metaphor for the film as a whole. Krampus stings extra hard, because as much as it sucks, it frequently reminds us of the awesome film it could and should be, but isn’t.

Bear-1That thing looks like it was purchased at a damn Hot Topic… And by now, it probably can be.

And the ending is easily the most maddening part. As strong as the first act is, things fall apart super fast as we reach act three, and Doughtery concludes the film by Freddy Krugering us as hard as we’ve ever been Freddy Krugered before. It’s a cop-out, plain and simple, and it’s profoundly, appallingly lame. Really and truly, you guys, this is the weakest shit I’ve seen in a VERY long time. I walked out of Krampus bitter and dissatisfied… Although, to be fair, that’s also how I walked in.

All things considered, the real tragedy of Krampus is that this film absolutely reeks of “cash grab.” I know we all want to have fun, but let’s face the facts, this movie is a clear and transparent attempt by a director who saw an opportunity to advance his career, and took it. By any and all logic, this should have been a wildly different product; but instead of the horror movie we wanted, what we got a studio friendly attempt at crafting a commercial product, which would capitalize on America’s love affair with Big Papa Kramp, and elevate Dougherty’s career out off the slums he’s been stuck in ever since Superman Returns valiantly shit the bed. And it worked, lo and behold, as I did my rounds on the internet this morning, I see that Krampus is, in fact, the number one movie in America as of today. Certainly, the reptilian brain of the Producers to whom Dougherty is indebted must be pleased; and now he won’t have nearly such hard a time financing Trick R Treat 2. Can we blame him? Hell no, but we also don’t have to like the neutered, humiliated mess of a movie he crammed down our throats.

As it stands, I’d recommend that you avoid this one, for it is ever so ho-hum. Instead, check out Rare Exports; a movie which is thematically similar enough, but which is also indescribably superior to this mess in every conceivable way.



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Rare Exports

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale ~ 2010, Jalmari Helander


From the land of folk metal and cell phones comes Rare Exports, an awesome and refreshingly original horror/fantasy film ideal for the Christmas season. Typically, these reviews get funnier the more I hate a movie… That being said, you may want to just skip this review now, because unfortunately, I don’t hate anything about Rare Exports. This one is a real keeper.

THE PLOT- Pietari and his father Rauno live in the rural Lapland region of Finland, in a valley bordered by an icy mountain range. Recently, a British dig team has taken up some sort of excavation atop a nearby mountain, and Rauno, who works as a reindeer farmer along with his friends Aimo and Piiparinen (no shit, that’s what Finnish names sound like) assume this to be some sort of geological study. Pietari and his friend Jusso know better. After sneaking up to the dig site and spying on the supposed Geologists, the two boys discover the truth; this is no mountain at all, but instead; a giant, ancient, burial mound long forgotten by human history. The occupant of this incredible, man made structure? A frozen, still living Santa Claus.

Horrified by the implications, Pietari immediately conducts research into the history of Santa Claus using ancient books which he somehow obtains, even though I can’t imagine where in the hell he found those, and what he discovers is that Santa has not always been the happy, jolly old man we now know him to be today. On the contrary, the original Santa bares a closer resemblance to a damn monster, and focused mostly on punishment, rather than reward. Freaking typical. Although no one takes him seriously, Pietari becomes concerned that a full-on Yuletide home invasion may nearly be upon him, and therefore begins taking safety precautions to protect himself from Santa’s impending reign of terror. This involves wearing butt-shielding inside his pants to protect him from Santa-administered spankings, and loading up the chimney with a bear trap, which he fails to warn his father about. Life in Finland looks really fun, you guys.

Meanwhile, for Rauno, Aimo and Piiparinen, things are looking horribly grim. The entire herd of reindeer, upon which their survival is entirely dependent, have turned up dead, a disaster which will financially devastate all three families. The men blame wolves, thought to have been driven down into the valley by commotion atop the mountain, but Pietari suspects Santa’s involvement right from the start. Furious, desperate, and not at all interested in Pietari’s Santa theories, Rauno rigs up an illegal trap to catch whatever wolves he can, for revenge, I guess, but much to his shock, he catches something else; a grizzled, naked old man with a long, white beard and a menacing disposition. With tensions high and no alternative solution to their crushing financial woes, Rauno, Aimo and Piiparinen decide to ransom this man, believing him to be one of the geologists from the mountain, even though he is clearly a monster older than human history, and also nude. From that point out things get progressively crazier, and it’s awesome.

So, at the root of Rare Exports, which was based loosely on a short film made by the same creative team, what we have is a coming of age story for young Pietari. When we first meet him, Pietari is childish in an exaggerated way, he carries a stuffed animal at all times, his best friend Jusso taunts him for still believing in Santa, that sort of thing. In general, Pietari is loved, but not respected, and the general consensus is that whatever it is, Pietari is too young to do it. Actually, we kind of get the feeling that he’s told he’s “too little” so often that he’s bought into the hype himself, and that what’s really keeping him from developing into an adult is how constantly people write him off for not being one already. This prolonged state of childlike open-mindedness actually gives him an edge, where Jusso would reject Santa outright in an attempt to appear as mature as possible, Pietari’s youthful perspective allows him to piece the situation together long before anyone else. When the time comes, Pietari bravely rises to the test, while Jusso’s posturing is revealed to be all bluster and no substance.

The film is told from Pietari’s perspective, which was a good choice. It adds to the charm significantly, and it gives the movie a modern fairy tale vibe, not unlike E.T. or Pan’s Labyrinth. Pietari’s exchanges with Jusso almost remind one of The Lost Boys, but in a good way, but the most impressive thing Rare Exports manages to do is that it makes us like Pietari, when it would have been so easy for him to come off as too whiney, or too much of a sudden know-it-all when the film climaxes and he’s  so much better informed than all of the adults. That’s such a tough balance, and if they hadn’t pulled it off, this thing would be dead in the water. They pulled it off wonderfully, though, and actually, pretty much all our characters are super likable. Aimo, Rauno, and Piiperinen are all solid dudes, and honestly, each time I come out of this film I do so wanting to spend more time with them. They’re well written, well acted, and believable, and even when their desperation pushes them to do bad things, we feel for them enough that we don’t end up hating their guts.

One weird thing about this film, however… I don’t think there’s a single woman in it. Pietari appears to have no mother, and, unless I missed someone, not a single female appears on camera, ever. I believe at one point Pietari phones the mother of another child, but we don’t see her, and as he checks to see if other children are okay, his little list does have some girl’s names on it, but we never meet any of these characters. I believe Rare Exports to have an entirely male cast. Is it just a major sausage fest over in Finland? What’s the deal? I’m not sure what this might be in liu of… Perhaps to exaggerate the lack of a female presence in Pietari’s life? Living without a mother in the harsh, frozen Finnish tundra can maybe make you feel like the world is just swarming with scruffy, old dudes, exclusively? Could having only one parent somehow have contributed to his immaturity? This is all speculation, but I thought it was worth bringing up, because it is admittedly pretty weird.


The ending is maybe a little overly sentimental and convenient, but it’s easy to forgive this after how charming the rest of the film is, and even at it’s most hokey, Rare Exports is great experience. I recommend it!