Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its sixth year in October! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down to my favorite horror film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days. That said, there were more on this list that DID have a theatrical run than in previous years which means the horror genre does seem to be on the upswing. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video On Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay or digital download.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st, 2015 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column five years ago!) and worked and reworked the list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth nothing or missed being on the list by a little bit for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
KRAMPUS (2015)Directed by Michael Dougherty
Written by Michael Dougherty, Todd Casey, Zach Shields
Starring Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Emjay Anthony, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Stefania LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler, Lolo Owen, Queenie Samuel, Leith Towers, Maverick Flack
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While I’m going to have to get some perspective on it, I will say that Michael Dougherty (TRICK R’ TREAT) has made yet another (mostly) great holiday horror film.
Christmas these days seems more of an arduous task than an actual holiday with so many traditions to uphold, it’s hard to just sit back and realize what it’s all about. That’s pretty much the message KRAMPUS is trying to tell you as it follows young Max (Emjay Anthony) the sole believer in Christmas spirit in his family which is comprised of father Tom (Adam Scott), mother Sarah (Toni Collette), sis Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen), uncle Howard (David Joechner), aunt Linda (Allison Tolman), drunk great aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell), three horrific cousins, and sweet grandma Omi (Krista Sadler). Max is growing up and seeing the way his family acts around Christmas time makes the young boy sad as he remembers when Christmas was the most magical time of the year for him. Writing one last note to Santa asking for everything to be like it used to, Max becomes frustrated and tears up the note and tosses it into the night sky, unknowingly unleashing the fury of the Krampus; a not-so-mythical Anti-Santa who punishes the naughty rather than rewards the nice. Trapped without electricity or heat by a sudden blizzard, the family must band together (and maybe learn a little bit about the important things about Christmas) as the Krampus and his minions attack their not-so-happy home.
There’s an overall sense of sweetness that goes on through this entire film. From the slo mo montage of shoppers barreling through the doors of a store and running a violent gauntlet to get the latest Christmas deals in the opening, to the bucking of all holiday traditions because people are too busy or self absorbed to care, this is a film through the eyes of a child. Often referred to as an Amblin-esque sort of film, KRAMPUS feels more along the lines of TIME BANDITS in tone than anything like EXPLORERS, because there is a undercoating of pure evil to this film that those with more starry eyes may refuse to admit. People die in this film…horribly. And it really is a rather true and sad reflection of the times we live in that the actions of many of the characters in this film are pretty realistic. The ending especially is pretty diabolical in nature and had Dougherty chosen not to go this way with the wrap up, I might not have had such a favorable feeling about this film for its conviction to stay dastardly all the way through.
From a story perspective, I think there are some problems here. Dougherty seems to have a lot of fun highlighting the Griswald-esque shenanigans that are going on and illustrating why these folks are Krampus worthy. I don’t want to say it’s not entertaining. I laughed quite a bit at this portion of the film as it did, sadly, hit close to home numerous times. But while the film takes its sweet time soaking in the talented and comedic character actors playing these horrid people, it kind of forgets to establish what the Krampus is and what its powers and limitations are until later in the film. This makes things feel rather rushed in the climax in order to catch the viewer up as well as come up with the Krampus’ “undoing” in the end. In doing so, things get rather murky at the end as what’s left of the family take on the Krampus. Add that to the rather quick way each of the family members meet their end in the last half hour and things begin to feel a bit uneven here.
It’s not for lack of trying. There’s a fun animated bit in the middle as Omi (Sadler) explains what the Krampus is. I loved the animation in this film which looked like Christmas cartoons of old mixed with folksy paper puppetry. But this again seems to come a little too late in the game. This discourse as to who the Krampus is and how he was once defeated needed to be earlier so things could have felt a little more organically.
Effects wise, the film is pretty amazing. They seem to go practical for a lot of the effects which is a lot of fun seeing the monsters in the frame and attacking out horribly family. The toys and elves who accompany the Krampus were seriously awesome and nightmarish and Dougherty does a great job of both working in some creative and terrifying scenes highlighting each of Krampus’ monsters.
I have mixed feelings about the Krampus himself. While I love the overall design and silhouette of the monster with its hunched back, hoofed feet, and swirling horns, the face of the Krampus, which is hidden from us for most of the movie and from the public eye until its release has some issues. The main problem is that the face of the Krampus is simply another mask. So basically the movie keeps us from seeing the face of the monster for the entire thing and then when it does show it, it turns out to be a mask. This looks menacing in stills, but whenever the camera lingers on the Krampus’ face for too long, the fact that it’s a mask covering up the real face makes it look kind of goofy. So while the form of the Krampus works, the big face reveal is a bit of a letdown.
That said, despite the fact that there’s a hiccup in the pacing and some snags in the Krampus face, KRAMPUS is a crowd pleaser of a film. It’s not too scary as to frighten away mainstream audiences, but it does have a diabolical kick to it that will make hardcore fans appreciate it. Filled with fun action and horror sequences and an even portion of sugar and spice, just as Doughtery’s TRICK R’ TREAT was something fun to find in your candy bag on Halloween, KRAMPUS is just as much a fun surprise to find under the tree.
#10 - KRAMPUS
#11 – AVA’S POSSESSIONS
#12 – BODY
#13 – THE WAILING
#14 – THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE
#15 – DEATHGASM
#16 – 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
#17 – DER BUNKER
#18 – HUSH
#19 – HOLIDAYS
#20– CARNAGE PARK
#21 – THE CONJURING 2
#22 – THE MIND’S EYE
#23 – DARLING
#24 – SUN CHOKE
#25 – THE HALLOWS
#26 – OVER YOUR DEAD BODY
#27 – SUMMER CAMP
#28 – EMELIE
#29 – BASKIN
#30 – I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
#31 – SOUTHBOUND
2015 #1 – THE CANAL
2014 #1 – PROXY
2013 #1 - MANIAC
2012 #1 – THE WOMAN
2011 #1 – THE LAST CIRCUS
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 15 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller and on his new website collecting posts for AICN HORROR as well as all of the most recent updates on his various comic book projects on MLMillerWrites.com.
A quick plug for my own work. I have a new comic book coming out this December called THE JUNGLE BOOK HOLIDAY SPECIAL: BAGHEERA’S SECRET. It’s a one shot reteaming my original JUNGLE BOOK artist Carlos Granda and myself (the same team who created PIROUETTE) and it is available to order now via Previews order# OCT162113. I’m getting pages of this book by the day and this book looks absolutely amazing so far. Fans of jungle adventure are going to love it! Please support me by telling your local comic book store to order tons of issues of this comic! Much appreciated, folks.
Look for Johnny Destructo, Stephen Andrade, Christian DiBari, and my own ramblings about random horror films on CultPop/PoptardsGo and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday (or so…)!
Finally, if you’re having problems with the texts going over the image in this article, refresh the screen and that should do the trick!