Category Archives: 2015

Worst Films of 2015

Now that I’ve gotten by Best Films of 2015 out of the way, here are the worst.

Special Mention

Southpaw – I kind of wish I gave it a lower rating than 2 stars because it deserves a place on my list. Okay, so it’s not one of the top 10 worst films of 2015, but it certainly is my most disappointing film of that year for all the lazy boxing cliches and complete lack of real-world authenticity. Read the full review by clicking on the title because I don’t want to go through all my grievances again.

Dishonorable Mentions

Aloha, The Boy Next Door, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Lazarus Effect, Unnatural, The Vatican Tapes, Deep Dark, Blunt Force Trauma

Some of the usual suspects here, but also a lot of low budget horror movies.

The List

10. Point Break

Huge budget. Huge stinker. This film deserves a spot on my list for destroying the memory of one of my favourite films growing up. They really should have changed the name of the film and the characters and marketed it as a different movie. Wouldn’t have made it less shit, but it would have made it less offensive.

9. Extraction

Bruce Willis is heading toward Nicolas Cage territory. This vanilla action-thriller offers virtually nothing new, interesting or exciting.

8. The Transporter Refueled

Was never a big fan of the Transporter franchise, even when Jason Statham was headlining it. Exchange him with significantly less charismatic Ed Skrein (he was OK in Deadpool as the villain), make the production shittier by 40%-50%, and this is the film you end up with.

7. Poltergeist

I recall the original 1982 Poltergeist was scary. I will recall the 2015 remake as laughably bad. Zero tension, zero atmosphere, zero scares. It’s a complete and utter mess.

6. Area 51

I was a little excited by this movie because I used to be obsessively fascinated by Area 51, the place where the government stashes all the secret alien stuff if conspiracy theorists are to be believed. But they really dropped the ball on this one. Part of it is the low budget (looks and feels cheap), part of it is the awful found-footage trope, and part of it is that it’s just plain bad. I almost feel bad for putting this film on the list because it’s so amateurish.

5. Hot Pursuit

In any other year, this might be the worst comedy of the year (see below). I like the actresses (Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara), but this was just so lame and cringeworthy that I couldn’t help but feel extremely disappointed — for them and for myself.

4. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

This entry should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed my Worst Of lists, as Paranormal Activity is always bound to make an appearance. The scariest part of this film is that it could actually be the worst of the entire franchise. Shudder.

3. Mortdecai

I didn’t believe in the rumours so I checked it out for myself. Huge mistake. This was one of the few times in my life that I’ve actually felt embarrassed for the actors in a movie. It really is that criminally unfunny.

2. The Gallows

The premise of a death haunting a school play seemed like a decent idea, and yet somehow the filmmakers made the worst of it. The result was a shoddy, nonsensical production and an unwatchable horror flick without any scares.

1. Lost After Dark

If there is one thing this year’s Worst Of list has taught me, it is that I need to stay away from low-budget horror movies. This sorry excuse of a slasher movie that tried to pay “homage” to the crap slashers of the 80s was the worst of them all. This film was so bad that it went beyond “so bad it’s good”.

And there you have it.

Best Films of 2015

I know. We’re hours away from 2017 and I’m only doing my Best Of list for 2015 now. That’s just the way life goes sometimes. Anyway, I finally tabulated all the films I’ve watched with a 2015 release date, and the total number has come to 151! That’s 0.41 movies a day, 2.9 movies a week.

The highest rating I gave was of course 5, and the lowest was 0.5. The average score was 3.05 and the median score was 3, suggesting I was either too generous or the average 2015 film I watched was “pretty decent” (my definition of a 3-star film). And honestly, I feel like that’s a solid assessment of 2015, which garnered the most 5-star scores in I’ve had in a single year since (probably) I started reviewing movies online. The hardest part about this list, as always, was deciding which movies with the same score should be ranked before the other.

Without a further ado, here are my (subjective) top 10 films of 2015, with a few honorable mentions tossed in for fun.

Honorable Mentions

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Steve Jobs, Creed, Inside Out, Spy, Kingsman: The Secret Service

These were movies I enjoyed a lot and I even thought some of them might make the list (until I realised how many other good movies I watched).

Just Missing the Cut

Straight Outta Compton – Never much of a rap guy, even in my youth, but this true story was gripping and explosive.

The Big Short – Sharp, informative, insightful and witty. And that superstar cast is a pure delight.

Spotlight – Superbly made film about an important true story, with brilliant performances all round.

Room – Harrowing, terrifying, yet beautiful film about love and hope.

Amy – I’m not much of a Winehouse fan, but this was one of the best documentaries I had seen in a while. Wish I could have included a doco on the list but I couldn’t push any of the others out.

The List

10. The Stanford Prison Experiment

This was the closest to being replaced with by one from the honorable mentions list, but I really wanted to highlight this film rather than just putting in another lauded movie that appears on most critics’ lists. I was so captivated by this bizarre true story about a university experiment in which some students were cast as inmates while others were cast as prison guards. It was frightening to see how far things went, which was both surreal yet strangely believable. Nice young cast too.

9. Anomalisa

This was one of the most unusual movies I’ve ever seen, and certainly one of the most memorable. The stop-motion animation, the authentic yet purposely fake appearances of the characters, the awkwardness and razor sharp black humour, and the strangely poignant love story — I adored this movie from start to finish. In any other year this is likely in the top 5.

8. Ex Machina

There have been many films about robot, AI and consciousness, but this was just such a brilliant idea and executed so wonderfully. The film rightfully won the Oscar for best special effects and featured a performance by Alicia Vikander that I personally thought was more Oscar-worthy than what she delivered in The Danish Girl (which she actually won the Oscar for).

7. Sicario

Not sure about the sequel coming up because I felt it was near-perfect as a standalone film and should be left alone. This was the only movie I gave 4.75 stars to in 2015 and I still don’t know why I didn’t give it a perfect score. It was intelligent and stylish, and above all, it was so tense and so riveting that I was on the edge of my seat all throughout. This movie is the reason that Arrival (also directed by Denis Villeneuve) is the film I want to see more than any other at this moment.

6. It Follows

The most original horror film of the year. A simple idea but a smart one that takes an otherwise typical horror trope and twists it around— and the execution is incredible. The type of film that makes you put yourself in the shoes of the characters and sticks in your mind long after the end credits roll.

5. Goodnight Mommy

The only foreign film on the list this year, and a highly deserving one for being by far the creepiest movie experience I’ve had in quite some time. It’s slow and not for everyone, but if you like atmospheric horror and want to be creeped out, this is the flick for you.

4. The Martian

My most enjoyable film experience of the year in terms of pure fun and entertainment. I still haven’t read the book, but the film totally nails it, from the performances to the humour to the science (I don’t know how legit it is, but the important thing is that it feels legit). One of the more rewatchable films on this list too.

3. Bridge of Spies

I know some people aren’t that high on this movie, though for me, it’s as close to perfect storytelling as you can get and demonstrates again why Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time. I went from being not very interested in the idea of the film to absolutely loving it. Well-deserved Oscar to Mark Rylance too. Humble brag: I called it as soon as I saw the film.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

This was so close to being my No. 1 of the year. Having never watched the original, I had no idea what to expect, and what I saw blew my mind. The action, the strangeness, the intrigue, the horror—it was simply a jaw-dropping spectacle that has been etched into my memory. Can’t wait to see what George Miller does next.

1. The Revenant

In the end, despite all the great films on this list, the choice wasn’t that hard. The all-time spectacular visuals, the exhilarating, brutal extended action sequences, the Oscar-winning performance from Leo, and of course that memorable bear attack — everything combined to propel The Revenant to the very top of my Best Of 2015 list.

Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Okay, so I’m blaming Beasts of No Nation as the reason why my Best Of and Worst Of lists of 2015 has STILL not been published. I held off on doing the lists because, based on the word of mouth and buzz I had been hearing, I thought there was a possibility it might end up on my Best Of list. And then I watched it but never found time to review it properly. And before I knew it, December 31, 2016. So before it’s too late, here goes.

Beasts of No Nation is a harrowing coming-of-age film about a young boy (Abraham Attah, who is going to be in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming) who becomes a child soldier in Africa, fighting under a terrifying warlord played by the brilliant Idris Elba. It’s written, shot, and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, the genius behind the first season of True Detective, and you can see shades of his style and flavour all throughout this film.

It’s a traumatic and uncompromising film in many respects, and yet comes across as authentic. Idris Elba, in particular, is spectacular, really lifting the film into another stratosphere. It was a total-package performance, from the look to the voice (including accent) to the subtle expressions and body movements. I knew I was watching Idris Elba on the screen but the character he was playing on the screen genuinely made me uneasy and afraid.

That said, the film does follow quite a predictable progression and lacks the gut-punches that would have made it a much more memorable film. I’m doing this review a few months after I watched it, and yet there aren’t many scenes or moments that stand out. I feel like the first half of it, when the boy is being initiated into the militia, comes across as more gripping. The expected fall from grace in the second half wasn’t quite as convincing.

Beasts of No Nation is a very good film, a hard-hitting, well-shot and well-acted movie. There was talk that the film, or at least Idris Elba of receiving an Oscar nomination, but when it/he didn’t (he did get a Golden Globe nomination), there were suggestions that it was slighted because it was released globally on Netflix. I don’t quite agree with that assessment. As much as I liked the film, it didn’t wow me or floor me like I thought it might, and for me there were easily better films and performances that year.

3.75 stars out of 5

Careful What You Wish For (2015)

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I was a little concerned I didn’t have enough material for my list of worst movies of the year, and so I decided to watch Careful What You Wish For, an “erotic thriller” about a teenager (Nick Jonas — apparently he was in some boy band with his brothers) who gets more than he bargained for during his summer vacation when he enters into an affair with the trophy wife (Australia’s very own Isabel Lucas) of a grumpy middle-aged douchebag (Dermot Mulroney). Sounds like Oscar material, right?

Sadly, despite seemingly possessed with all the elements of a terrible movie, Careful What You Wish For won’t be featured on my 10 worst movies list for 2015. I know, I’m as stunned as you are.

The movie starts off pretty much as you would expect. The teenager and his family head to their vacation home and he sees a beautiful woman moving in next door. Some casual flirting ensues and for contrived situations are created to give them opportunities to spend more time together and, most importantly, for the teen to take off his shirt, revealing a buffed bod at odds with his book-loving, virginal persona.

Up to this point, the film is as bad as any B-grade movie you might catch on late night television. It’s an erotic thriller that’s neither erotic nor thrilling. The performances are mediocre even though you can tell Jonas is really trying — Mulroney is clearly in it for the cheque, while it’s kind of sad watching Isabel Lucas relegated to these kind of roles (I think the last two films I saw her in were The Loft and Red Dawn). Perhaps its the Transformers curse. I mean, how many good roles have Megan Fox, Rachael Taylor and Rosie Huntington Whiteley had since?

Somehow, however, Careful What You Wish For redeems itself a little after a major turn in the story that’s not unpredictable but at least better than what I had been expecting. From there, the plot has a bit more intrigue and stops merely going through the motions. In the end, the film turned out to be a cautionary tale for me — don’t watch a movie expecting it to be one of the worst of the year. Instead, it wasn’t bad enough to be on the list, nor was it bad enough to be in the “so bad it’s good” category. Unfortunately, it was just another typical bad film.

2 stars out of 5

Dope (2015)

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I’m certain I’m the first person in the world to come up with this original line: Dope is a dope movie.

Written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa (Talk to Me, Brown Sugar) and starring up-and-comers Shameik Moore, Kiersey Clemons and Zoe Kravitz, Dope is a fresh, smart and energetic coming-of-age comedy about a clever high school senior named Malcolm (Moore) who lives in a run-down part of Los Angeles. While attending a party, Malcolm and his friends somehow get mixed up shootout involving drugs, kicking off a wild adventure full of laughs, wackiness and insights into modern black culture and racial and social politics.

I had a blast with Dope despite going into it thinking that it wasn’t going to be my kind of movie. Famuyiwa does a fantastic job of creating characters we can root for and infusing the narrative with a sense of originality mixed with a retro feel.  The beginning scenes of the film made me think that it was set in the 80s — Malcolm has a retro haircut and listens to retro music and wears retro clothing — but soon you realise that he’s just a geek who appreciates the good stuff.

There’s a sense of craziness  and mayhem to everything that happens in the film, though Famuyiwa never loses control of the material as the story shifts seamlessly between comedy to drama to crime to action to romance. There’s just never a dull moment in this entertaining movie. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and twists and turns in the plot so you never know what is coming next, though things can get a little complicated towards the end if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on.

The soundtrack and the performances are kick-ass. Moore delivers a star-turning performance as the likable protagonist, while Kiersey Clemons is also a standout as his tomboyish friend. She’s set to be in the Flatliners remake next year and DC’s The Flash the year after.

All in all, Dope is intelligent, fun and refreshing. While it’s not without problems, I applaud its ambition, confidence and cheerful, optimistic vibe. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it one of my favourite movies of the year, but it absolutely is one of my biggest pleasant surprises.

4 stars out of 5

PS: I didn’t know this before, but the film is produced by Forest Whitaker and executive produced by Pharrell and Diddy.

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2015)

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I’ve got way too many movies to review, so I thought I’d start with the remaining 2015 films first so I can at least fulfill my promise of punching out my Best Of and Worst Of lists.

Kicking off the home stretch is The Taking of Deborah Logan, a recommendation from my sister. It’s a found-footage horror movie that has received surprisingly positive reviews from critics (83% on Rotten Tomatoes, though only from a sample size of 6) but also one few people have even heard of.

The premise is interesting at least — a PhD student (played by the familiar face of Michelle Ang — I had to look her up to realise that she was Cho Chang in the Harry Potter movies!) decides to record the everyday life of an Alzheimer’s patient (Jill Larson). Things start off innocently enough until strange shit starts to go down, and it seems Alzheimer’s might not be the correct diagnosis after all.

The Taking of Deborah Logan is not bad as far as found-footage horror flicks go. There are moments of genuine horror, and the special effects are done well enough (despite the low budget that they don’t stick out like a sore thumb). There’s one image near the end that The performances, especially from Larson, are also unexpectedly decent.

That said, it’s still a found-footage horror movie, and at the end of the day, it’s just a variation of the same old crap. There’s the slow build up, the filler moments, the little scares here and there in the beginning that rely on well-trodden horror tropes, etc etc. And of course, there’s some unnecessary and convoluted explanation for everything and you have an “all hell breaks loose” climax at the end.

While the film is definitely not as infuriating as other found-footage horrors in recent years, The Taking of Deborah Logan still doesn’t do enough to fully separate itself from the pack. A nice premise, a couple of decent shocks and scary images don’t make up for the shittiness of the gimmick.

2.5 stars out of 5

Mortdecai (2015)

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I was curious as to just how bad Mortdecai is — so, as any idiot would do, I watched it. Well, all I can say is that critics and audiences weren’t lying when they declared it one of the worst movies of 2015, and likely the nadir of Johnny Depp’s career. After this embarrassing performance, the former two-time “Sexiest Man Alive” is now officially just “Man Alive”.

Based on the British novels of the same name that few are familiar with, Mortdecai tells the silly adventures of the eponymous aristocrat (Depp), who runs into financial troubles and strikes a deal with a detective (Ewan McGregor), who is in love with his wife (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) to assist recover a stolen painting in return for 10% of the insurance money. And so begins a bunch of criminally unfunny stunts as Mortdecai and his tough man-servant, literally named Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany), set about trying to locate the whereabouts of the painting while saving his marriage and fighting off goons.

The whole feel of Mortdecai is one of a bad sitcom. It’s supposed to be light and tongue-in-cheek, but there is simply no charm or wit to be found. Depp has done the eccentric character thing for so long now, but he’s generally been able to find the right balance between character and caricature. Without anything to cover him up except for a badly glued-on moustache (which is actually one of the running gags in the film because he thinks it looks good, much to the chagrin of his wife), Depp delivers a shockingly pathetic performance that makes his acting in The Tourist seem Oscar-worthy. At times I wondered whether he gave a shit at all about this film.

Throw in Gwyneth generally amplifying her unlikableness, Bettany embarrassing himself with his laughably lame character, and Ewan McGregor not really doing much of anything, Mortdecai struggles to eke out even one funny joke. There  wasn’t a single joke in the film I found funny, and I doubt this was just a mood thing — I don’t think I could have found it funny no matter how I was feeling, which was actually being ready to be pleasantly surprised by this movie. Instead, it was worse than I had feared. From the very beginning I was already like, Oh no, so this is the tone they’re going with? This is going to be the annoying, over-the-top character Depp is going to be playing for the entire movie?

I won’t lie — I lost interest pretty quickly and never got it back, even when Olivia Munn popped up for a little bit as the nympho daughter of a potential buyer of the painting. The film was just flat all the way through, and it was one repetitive gag after another, all with the same cheeky, spoofy tone, but without any punch to the jokes. With no character to root for, silly action sequences and a meandering plot, Mortdecai soon became unbearable.

I wanted to see the film and say it’s not really that bad. But it is. I almost felt bad for these supposedly good actors embarrass themselves by appearing in what is meant to be a comedy, but I felt much worse for myself having sat through this shithouse movie.

1 star out of 5

The Walk (2015)

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To be honest, I’m a little surprised at the overwhelmingly positive reviews received by The Walk, the true-story retelling of Frenchman Philippe Petit’s daring wire walk between New York’s Twin Towers back in 1974. It’s not that the film is bad — it’s just that it had so much going against it.

For starters, Petit’s story was already told in the 2008 Oscar-winning documentary, Man on Wire. Usually when there’s a brilliant documentary on a subject already, especially one mingled with well-received re-enactments, the dramatisation is inevitably compared, and usually unfavourably.

Secondly, Petit is played by American actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I love the guy and think he’s a great actor, but the self-confessed Francophile is still not French. He apparently speaks fluent French and got the seal of approval from his French co-stars, but of course there will still be those who say his accent (either in French or his French-accented English) isn’t genuine enough.

Thirdly, despite it being the story of a Frenchman, the movie is still made for English-speaking audiences, meaning the majority of the movie will still have to be in English. This means they had to find ways to make the French characters speak a lot more English than they otherwise would, and to some that could come across as forced.

Notwithstanding these disadvantages, The Walk received a scores of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and 78% on Metacritic, with many praising the performances and director Robert Zemeckis’s ability to create and build tension when the majority of audiences already know the outcome.

I agree that Zemeckis and Gordon-Levitt both did a fantastic job of dramatising the true story. Petit is a likable protagonist, a dreamer with dreams of grandeur, and his journey is craftily developed, with energy and thrills, to make us care about him and his plight. I was worried that the film could be boring given that it is largely focused on the Twin Tower walk, but it does a good job of not making it feel like the process — of scouting the premises, finding the right people and equipment, evading authorities and ensuring safety — was merely time filler before the climax.

And yes, the climax is an impressive piece of modern-day movie wizardry, much longer than one would expect and filled with more tension than I had imagined. There is of course ample CGI in all their aerial scenes,  and fortunately the special effects are realistic enough — for the most part — to not take you out of the moment.

Having said that, I personally felt the disadvantages I listed above did take away something from the overall experience. I haven’t seen Man on Wire, so I can’t compare, so my main qualm about the movie is the fact that they are forced to speak so much English. The idea is that Petit is trying to learn English for his Twin Tower walk, so he says it as often as he can, but I can’t help but think of it as a little contrived. I understand the delicate balance between appealing to English-speaking audiences and authenticity, though in this case I feel authenticity took a big hit.

The other problem is of course the sense of inevitability that comes with a true story. You know he’s going to end up walking on the wire, so everything that happens beforehand, as well done as it is, doesn’t quite have the same intensity. And I’m also terrified of heights, but the scenes of Petit walking the wire didn’t scare me as much as I thought they would. I don’t know if it’s because of some minor, almost unnoticeable flaws in the CGI or because I know the outcome — either way, it just didn’t quite get there for me.

So ultimately, The Walk wasn’t quite the captivating and eye-popping experience I had hoped it would be. Despite strong performances from a great cast that also includes French actress Charlotte Le Bon (from The Hundred-Foot Journey), Ben Kingsley and James Badge Dale and the usual impressive direction from Zemeckis, I felt the movie just had too many inherent obstacles to overcome. Perhaps I would have had a different impression had I seen the movie on the big screen and especially in IMAX, which by all accounts is spectacular stuff.

3 stars out of 5

Our Brand Is Crisis (2015)

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I thought I was done with 2015 movies, but I was on a short flight today and Our Brand Is Crisis turned out the be the only movie I hadn’t yet seen, so I thought, “Why not?”

I had very little interest in this movie when I saw the poster and trailer for it. Basically, Sandra Bullock plays a crazy political fixer who will do whatever it takes to help her candidate win. She’s apparently “the best”, but for some reason she has stepped away from the game for years and lives out in the middle of nowhere.

So when two American campaigners played by the fantastic Ann Dowd (from Compliance) and Falcon (ie, Anthony Mackie) are hired by a Bolivian candidate (Joaquim de Almeida) for a struggling presidential campaign, they decide to entice Bullock out of retirement so she can go up against her arch nemesis, a skeletal, sleazy SOB by the name of Candy (played by Billy Bob Thornton). Joining the team are the marketing guru (played by the guy who recently lost his legs to Superman, ie, Scoot McNairy) and a miraculously good investigator who can also speak Spanish (Zoe Kazan).

And so begins a battle of wits between the two fixers, who continue to raise the stakes and become more relentless in their pursuit of victory at any cost. It’s a film set on the campaign trail, tackling one sneaky tactic at a time, and with periodic updates of poll numbers to let us know how far away we are from the climax.

So I’ll just come out and say it: Our Brand Is Crisis is a weird film. First of all, it’s a fictionalized account of a true story and actually shares the same name as a 2005 documentary. In other words, pretty much everything is fiction except for the broad premise of an American campaign team working on a Bolivian election. So it’s kind of real but not real, and the film is kind of a drama, kind of a comedy and kind of satire, but it’s not really any of those either. It doesn’t really know what it wants to be. The film begins with a serious vibe, making me think that we were going down the route of something like say The Ides of March or Primary Colors. But then it goes all goofy and jokey, with fairly standard gags and slapstick humour. There’s even the impassioned (campy) speech by Bullock’s character that made me feel like I was watching Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal. And then at the end, political commentary competently takes over and tries to convince you that it’s deeper and more meaningful than it really is.

Secondly, as the film is set in Bolivia, you have the politicians and locals speaking Spanish, while the American campaigners speak English. I’m sure that’s what actually happened in real life as well, but it just seems like a lot of work for everyone involved, including the audience.

Thirdly, Billy Bob’s Candy is a weird antagonist. He starts off as a caricature, and you only get more and more surface with him, but never any depth. He’s kind of just there to irk and egg on Bullock, because by the end of it all you still don’t really know what to think about the guy.

Having said that, the film is passable from a entertainment perspective. Bullock does her usual thing and it works to a degree, though her character isn’t likable enough for you to want to genuinely root for her. Her team is actually where the fun is at, but unfortunately there’s not enough screen time to go around for everybody. They all get a nice little intro but then get shoved to the side and basically forgotten. Scoot McNairy was a lot of fun but doesn’t get much to do, which also goes for Dowd and Kazan. Mackie, in particular, is under-utilised and you never get a proper picture of who he is.

Instead, much of the story is spent on a wide-eyed Bolivian youngster who is a fervent supporter and works as a campaign assistant simply because of a brush with the candidate as a child. We’ve seen the “enthusiastic young man gets disillusioned with politics” angle countless times in movies like this, and while this one wasn’t badly done, it just felt like time could have been better served on what makes the movie different, rather than the same.

In all, Our Brand Is Crisis is a shade-above-average politics film that never ends up as intriguing, funny or profound as it wants to be. It’s watchable for a flight film, but that’s about as far as I’ll go.

2.75 stars out of 5

Krampus (2015)

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I don’t know why, but I was really looking forward to seeing Krampus, a Christmas horror movie reminiscent of the fun classics of of my childhood like GremlinsThe ‘Burbs, The Gate, Evil Dead, House, The Lost Boys, and Fright Night, just to name a few.

According to Wikipedia, Krampus “is a horned, anthropomorphic figure described as ‘half-goat, half-demon’ who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved”. I love this kind of folklore, and I’m a fan of horror films that don’t take themselves too serious and like to have a little fun. Plus I am a big fan of the four leads — Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Allison Tollman (from TV’s Fargo) and ubiquitous funnyman David Koechner. What’s there not to like?

Krampus kicks off by getting the atmosphere spot on.  It’s 3 days out from Christmas the a suburban family are gathering to celebrate. Adam Scott and Toni Collette play the homeowners, who have a teenage daughter (Stefania Lavie Owen) and young son (Emjay Anthony), as well as an elderly grandmother who lives with them (Krista Stadler) . Tollman plays Collette’s sister, while Koecher plays the former’s husband. They’ve got four children of their own, including a baby. Coming along uninvited is the family dog and an annoying single aunt (Conchata Ferrell).

When one of the kids inadvertently kills the Christmas spirit in that family, Krampus descends on their house with a bunch of his minions. And so begins a night of terror where no one is safe and things will get crazier and crazier until Krampus gets his way.

The thing I liked most about the film was the fun atmosphere. You could tell from the humour right from the outset that Krampus knew what it was aiming for and never wavers from that position. And it’s a very funny movie. All of the four leads are hilarious in their own ways, delivering sharp dialogue and witty lines all throughout, even as the tone grew darker and moments of horror are introduced. In many ways, Krampus is more black comedy than genuine horror.

On the other hand, this meant that the film wasn’t as scary as it needed to be. Perhaps this was intentional, but I wanted more genuine frights to keep me on edge a little bit. A lot of the scares come from the creepy designs of the monsters, but in terms of scare tactics the film was a little lacking. And some of the choices of creatures were too wacky — and the CGI special effects not good enough — to be truly frightening.

Nonetheless, if you’re after a bit of alternative Christmas fun, Krampus delivers. I like that writer and director Michael Dougherty (who is listed as a writer on the upcoming X-Men: Apocalpyse) had the balls to make audiences feel that no one is safe in this movie — even the baby. If you’re in the movie, you’re fair game. Demons don’t discriminate. On the downside I felt like there were too many characters to keep track of and that the ending was deflating (even though it redeems itself a little before the credits roll). It won’t be remembered as fondly as the classics it pays homage to, and I wish it could have had a little more bite in terms of the horror elements, but on the whole, I still had a good time with Krampus. 

3.25 stars out of 5