Friday, December 04, 2015

HOLIDAY HORRORS: Welcome to the Year of Krampus

"Mom? There's a drunk cop at the door."

Forget Michael Meyers, Jason, Freddy and Evil Santa.

The hot face of horror this holiday season is Krampus, the fire and brimstone bad cop to Santa's ripe jolly old elf-cop. A horned Hell-spawn tasked with punishing bad European kids on the terrifying sounding Krampusnacht, he (it?) even has a festival in which torch-bearing drunks dress up and scare the bejeezus out of kids and grownups alike.

Who says the holidays are no fun?!

All but forgotten in America, Krampus is making a comeback of Red Sox-like proportions thanks to a bevy of Krampus-related movies infesting your local multiplex, Redbox and streaming service.

Naturally, the big gun is KRAMPUS, the PG-13 horror comedy being released theatrically today. Complete with a not quite all-star cast (Adam Scott, Toni Collette and Champ Kind... whammy!), KRAMPUS looks to deliver family-friendly Holiday Horror big screen chills the likes of which we haven't seen since – what? – 1984's GREMLINS?

But in the best horror fashion, low-budget filmmakers have hopped on the Krampus Karavan and delivered decidedly non-family friendly fare like the Arizona-lensed KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING (2015), not to be confused with KRAMPUS: THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL (2013), even though Google clearly has the two mixed up. (Don't worry, we'll get to KRAMPUS: TCD in a few days.)

Dr. Rachel Stewart (Monica Engesser) is a psychiatrist tasked with breaking down the barriers to Zoe (Amelia Haberman), a surly adolescent whose foster parents were burnt to cinders after a night of sex, drugs and booze. While cliché-riddled detective Miles O'Connor (James Ray) ponders the connection between Zoe, her foster parents and a dead kiddie-porn dealing hospital nurse (played by co-writer/co-producer Owen Conway), Stewart traces Zoe through the state's foster care system and unearths far more questions than answers.

Unfortunately, for a movie called KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING we get very little, well, Krampus. Like those HELLRAISER movies that play like a generic horror script with Pinhead jammed in every twenty minutes, KRAMPUS feels like a random ghost revenge tale with "Vengeful Spirit" crossed out and "Krampus" pencilled in. And even when he does show up, what we get is frustratingly dark CGI and fleeting gore/burning fx courtesy of Borja Ortiz. (In the flick's defense the Redbox DVD I rented seemed to be darker than the retail one that Evil Monk #2 David Zuzelo picked up.)

That said, director Robert Conway delivers the low-budget goods even if the movie does come off at times like an episode of LAW & ORDER: KRAMPUS VICTIMS UNIT. There's a surprising amount of female nudity that I wasn't expecting (Happy Krampusnacht... I got you boobs!) and you can't help but like Engesser and Ray as they boozily flirt their way through the flick like a liquored up, D-grade Mulder and Scully.

Where does KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING stack up in the pantheon of Krampus sinema? We'll have to wait a few weeks to decide that but for return on investment ($1.29 at Redbox) I'd give the flick two-and-a-half candy canes. – Dan Taylor

When he's not watching the endless parade of horror anthologies and working on the new issue of Exploitation Retrospect, Dan Taylor can be found slicing and dicing his way through holiday horror flicks. Stay tuned for more Holiday Horrors in the coming weeks and be sure to follow ER on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and reviews.

KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING is available at Redbox and Amazon.

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