Tag Archives: Christmas

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

Mega Catch-up Movie Blitz (Part 5)

A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (2011)

I have always been a fan of the Harold and Kumar series despite its tendency to be very hit-and-miss. And you really can’t go wrong with any film that features Neil Patrick Harris.

In this third installment, Harold (John Cho) has married his dream girl Maria (from the first film) and works on Wall Street. Kumar (Kal Penn) is still the same old stoner who failed to become a doctor after flunking a drug test. It’s Christmas, and of course, the dynamic duo team up for one more wild adventure. This time, it’s finding a Christmas tree.

To be honest, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas is perhaps the lamest of the trilogy. It doesn’t quite have the freshness of White Castle or the outrageousness of Guantanamo Bay. This is a “family” film, so to speak. But you know what? It’s still freaking funny a lot of the time.

As usual, there are some dud jokes thrown in there, but the good thing about there having been two earlier films is that you know Harold and Kumar’s personalities so well now that the laughs all come fairly easily.

Great to see Cho and Penn back in awesome form. Penn, in particular, had to resign from his post in the Obama administration to take the role, and there is a cracker of a joke about that in the movie. Needless to say, Neil Patrick Harris, who is supposed to have been fatally wounded in the second film, is back, and in peak condition. The always intimidating Danny Trejo (I last saw him in Machete…actually, in the PS3 game, The Fight) is also pretty good as Maria’s dad.

3D Christmas will probably go down as the weakest film in the series but fans of the two stoners will no doubt still be able to find plenty of amusement from it.

3.25 stars out of 5

Haywire (2011)

Okay, so Steve Soderbergh, the Oscar-winning director of Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Oceans Eleven and Contagion is a pretty big deal. No wonder he managed to get guys like Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas and Michael Fassbender to be in an action flick headed by an MMA star, Gina Carano.

Basically, Carano is a government agent who gets set up. Bad idea, because she knows how to kick some serious male ass. The story is a little convoluted for my liking but part of it has to do with Soderbergh’s distinctive style. Whenever the film gets into the fight scenes, however, the story is happy to take a back seat.

I don’t know much about Carano and I don’t care much for MMA, but I suppose the action in Haywire is pretty cool, somewhat Bourne-like in its pace, brutality and supposed realism, except with a less shaky camera and an actress that really knows what she is doing when she’s bouncing off walls, bashing heads in and choking people into submission. As a thespian though, I think Carano still has some work to do. Not horrible by any means, but could be better.

At the end of the day, Haywire is a decent action flick – but it just won’t be a very memorable one.

3 stars out of 5

Hesher (2011)

I’m a huge fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Tremendous talent and versatility. And there’s no one quite like him in Hollywood. I was recommended Hesher by a bunch of people and I had a ball with it. The big surprise is that the screenplay was co-written by Aussie David Michod, the genius behind one of the best films from last year, Animal Kingdom.

It’s a highly-random, WTF kind of movie about this dude, Hesher (played by Gordon-Levitt), who intrudes the life of a weird little boy called TJ. He’s dirty and scruffy, walks around bare-chested, has awesome tattoos, smokes a lot, and does heaps of crazy and random things. To be honest, he doesn’t do a lot, and the things he does don’t always make sense. He’s just…there.

It’s really hard to describe what this movie is about or why it is so compelling to watch. The comedy in it is jet black. It’s not for everyone but I laughed out loud frequently and ferociously. Unbelievably, it has Natalie Portman in it. And she’s funny too, in a strange kind of way.

Towards the end, the movie moves ever so slightly from its path of irreverence to toss in some unexpected poignancy. It was something I had dreaded but surprisingly, it worked, in a Hesher kind of way. It’s not the kind of movie I would put in any “best of the year” lists, but it’s one I could definitely see becoming a cult classic.

4 stars out of 5

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)

This was a film that divided critics and viewers alike. Some thought it was a heartfelt tribute to those who lost loved ones in 9/11. Others thought it was a pretentious, manipulating tear-jerker that failed to hit the mark.

I belonged to the latter.

The idea, based on a 2005 book of the same name, is not bad. A kid (Thomas Horn – who, amazingly, became an actor after competing on Jeopardy) loses his father (Tom Hanks) in 9/11. He finds a key in his father’s belongings and sets out on scavenger hunt through the five boroughs of NYC to find out what it opens, meeting a bunch of people along the way.

For starters, you need to be able to buy into the whole premise about there being something magical about this kid’s adventure. I didn’t have a problem with that. What I had a massive problem with was the kid, who comes across as someone who will grow up into one of the most annoying and obnoxious adults on the planet. I’m not entirely sure if it is the character or the performance, but it’s probably a lot of both.

For me, the whole thing just felt wrong. I didn’t find it entertaining or exciting. I found it desperately trying to elicit an emotional response, one that I could not squeeze out. I was surprised, because the director, Stephen Daldry, was previously at the helm of The Reader, which had its flaws but was on the whole pretty good.

The film was not poorly made, but personally, I hated it. It must be one of the worst Best Picture nominees at the Oscars – ever.

1.75 stars out of 5