Saturday, December 5, 2015

December to Dismember: KRAMPUS THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL (2013)

Since we all know that Christmas is actually a pagan holiday and not Christian at all... Wait, let me rephrase that. Since we all, who are not members of the Republican party, know that Christmas is actually a pagan holiday and not Christian, it only makes sense that there is more to the myth than just a jolly old bearded fat guy. Matter of fact he was never really a fat guy until he came to the New World and, from what I understand, ordered his first combo meal.

The origins of the holiday had no patron saint at all. It was a Roman festival called Saturnalia, that allowed all manner of harm to people or inanimate objects to run free without penalty of law. Frequently this entailed heavy drinking, eating, sexual indulgence (consensual or otherwise), and culminated in ritual human sacrifice in the belief that this would purge the evils from the rest of the year. Even worse, people were encouraged to sing naked in the streets (presumably after the heavy drinking). When Christianity began it's campaign of opiating the masses, the festival underwent a name change to Christmas and decided to arbitrarily attribute Jesus' birthday to it, but was unsuccessful in changing the behavior of the celebrants. In the 1600s Christmas was actually outlawed by the Puritans, as they knew damn well Christmas had nothing to do with Christ. Be sure to remember that the next time you hear some assnugget bitch about Starbucks cups.

Several hundred years after the Christian revision of the holiday, a Turkish Saint was thrown into the mix, in another attempt to change the nature of the holiday. Be good all year and Saint Nicholas will bring you some fruit. Hmmm, get hammered, eat too much and screw everything that moves for two weeks, or get a fruit-basket on one day. Tough call. Because lawmaker Sir Issac Newton decreed that any action requires an equal and opposite reaction, we know that Christ must have an anti-Christ. Or as Butthead said, "you need stuff that sucks to have stuff that's cool". So we have St. Nicholas who gives edible prezzies to the good little kids, but in parts of the German-speaking world (where else?) the anti-Santa is Krampus. Originating in the 1600s, Krampus is a horned demon with cloven hooves and long tongue who whips naughty children with birch branches and throws them into a basket worn on his back to take them to hell, or in some cases to be drowned. I bet there were some really well behaved kids in Vienna. No wonder Freud got his start there. While Krampus was popular through as late as the 1950s, his popularity fell away during our modern times... until now.



A whole host of Krampus movies have descended upon our allegedly enlightened civilization this year, but the first modern attempt at a feature-length Krampus movie, aside from the appearance in the excellent RARE EXPORTS (2010), was released two years earlier.

Fair Warning: I know this is going to sound like entertaining cheese, but I assure you it is not. Really not. Because of this, I am spoiling the shit out of it.

Opening in 1983 a little boy is slowly dragged off to a hole in the ice where a figure in a Santa hoodie dumps the kid in the icy water and promptly wanders off, not noticing that the kid simply hops out of the water and goes home.

Flash forward to present day, where the little boy is now police detective Jeremy Duffin (A.J. Leslie), aka "Duff" (as in the beer?), who is all keyed up about a rash of child disappearances.

Working on his own time in a special missing persons room that all good cops have, Duff has discovered that the disappearances are not just local, but have been happening all over the world every 10 years. Of course his captain (Richard Goteri) is more concerned about another kid that has reported missing this morning. So urgent is this that Duff jumps on it, by putting together his team of AMERICAN CHOPPER rejects that night at a bar, so that they can go out in the morning to look for the kid. Remember this is urgent so we want to get started while the trail is fresh... a full day later! Basically Duff's planning consists of telling the guys to only have two beers, then going home and hitting a bottle of whiskey while looking at his missing chidren's posters. Oh and because he is supposed to be a rich guy who is only a cop because he loves the job, he drinks the good stuff - Gentleman Jack. Yeah, I too thought that was the shit too, back when I was a teenager.

With planning like that how can this search fail? A team of three guys, no dragnet, no dogs, no back up. Oh, and they are all dressed in black, but to help them camoflauge themselves against the bright, white field of snow, they wear big snow-camo shirts under their flack jackets. Oh jeeze, where did they go? It's like they are invisible. Uhhh, yeah. So while trudging through a small patch of snow suddenly they see a dude in a robe with long hair who simply turns around and walks away as soon as the boys start shooting. He then shows up out of nowhere, promptly kills one by stepping on his face and takes the other two to his lair. Yes, Krampus has a lair. It's not a bad lair, as lairs go, I mean he's got plenty of books to pass the time and what appears to be an exotic dancer (Angelina Leigh) chained up for when he gets tired of reading.

Krampus talks like a Speak & Spell fronting for a '90s death metal band and realizes that Duff is the little kid that got away from him 20 years ago. Before he gets a chance to kill him, Santa (Paul Ferm) arrives. Or at least I think it's Santa. It must be some sort of pre-christian Santa as I have never seen one in modern times that has a goatee and raccoon eyes from wearing sunglasses. Santa decides that there is more important matters to attend to, because Duff's daughter is actually a serial killer who has been the cause of the missing children. WHAT?! Yep, after a long lecture to a little boy in a wooden cage, Santa says "if you ever do anything like this agian, HE is going to terminate your life!" and lets them go.

So this is when the Krampus action is going to kick into gear, right? Kramps is obviously going to settle his vendetta with Duff and capture the killer kid, right? Right? Right? Nope! Now Duff heads over to his favorite bar, where he gets his ass kicked by a bunch of cops who are mad at him for getting the other two guys killed because he had a hunch back at the office (ah, POLICE SQUAD, how I miss you). Though, I guess they never realized that the fact that the two cops were killed proves that his hunch was correct and maybe they should have gone with him. While this is going on, an ex-con child-rapist, Brian Hatt (Bill Oberst Jr.), has seen one too many home invasion movies and with his white-trash friends, one of whom is so much of a badass, he hasn't had time to finish the tribal tattoo on his arm, holds Duff's wife Rebecca (Erica Soto) hostage while he noisily eats cookies and drinks milk in her face. Forget waterboarding, this shit is torture! One of his buddies goes upstairs to rape the teenage daughter. This must be the first time he's done it because he decides the best way to go about it is to, I am not making this up, lie down on the floor in front of her!

Of course Duff arrives to save the day asking his wife "did they hurt you" to which she responds "no" simply because she hasn't seen the finished cut of the movie. Kramps arrives late to the party, strangles Hatt with his hands, strangles Rebecca with his chains, grabs the daughter and roll credits. No seriously that's it. Oh except we still need to pad out the running time some more, so let's do a blooper reel in the end credits. Note that I didn't say "with" the end credits, because we need to pad out even the padding! Interspersed with the slowly appearing credits are some outtakes that I'm sure were hilarious if you were one of the guys in the movie, but otherwise are random bits of unamusing nonsense. The highlight being when Leslie stumbles during a take and then turns it into a breakdancing routine. Uhhh, yeah.

This movie is essentially a weekend, back yard, shot on video affair that puffs itself up to be like a real movie with great poster art and lots of pretentious titles, like putting "A Jason Hull Film" in the opening credits. In addition to production values that are outclassed by the Zapruder film or any modern wedding video, writer/director Jason Hull can barely even figure out how to stretch the meager content to a feature running time. Did I mention relentless padding? The drawn-out opening sequence is interspersed with credits managing to rack up an impressive eight minutes of your life. Hull lets some scenes go on way past the cut-away point by encouraging his actors to repeat simple lines, presumably in order to lengthen the scene. Nearly every scene has someone saying something like "Understand? Do you understand? Understand? Understand?" or "Get him! Get the fucker! I want you get him! Get him!" It's like having your teeth cleaned at the dentist - at first it is tolerable, but after a while you just want a mouth to shut.

In addition Hull eschews cut-aways in favor of the amateur favorite fade-outs and fade-ins. Some of these fades are so long that I expect a commercial hawking Burl Ives albums to start up at any minute. The cynic in me wonders if the long periods of black between scenes is simply another way to pad the movie, but after sitting through the umpteenth out of focus sequence, I realize that it's just sloppy incompetence. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but if you are shooting on video you have no excuse for leaving in out of focus shots, or in one case, an entire scene!

Of course having this effort professionally distributed and purchased by the unsuspecting masses (Amazon is actually sold out at the moment) means that we've all been very naughty and Krampus is giving us something horrible next year. A sequel. We must have been really naughty to deserve such punishment.

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