25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: KRAMPUS

CAST
Adam Scott (The Aviator)
Emjay Anthony (Chef)
Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense)
David Koechner (Anchorman)
Stefania LaVie Owen (The Carrie Diaries)
Krista Stadler (Soraya)
Conchata Ferrell (Two and a Half men)
Allison Tolman (The Gift)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
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On December 22, a suburban family gets together to celebrate the holidays—Tom (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Collette), their children Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) and Max (Emjay Anthony); Sarah’s sister Linda (Allison Tolman), Linda’s husband Howard (David Koechner), their children Stevie (Lolo Owen), Jordan (Queenie Samuel), Howie Jr. (Maverick Flack), and their baby daughter; Sarah and Linda’s aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell); and Tom’s Austrian mother, who is affectionately referred to as “Omi” (Krista Stadler).
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Max wants to continue the family’s Christmas traditions, but tensions between various members of the family keep everyone from having a good time and the family lose their Christmas Spirit. Shortly afterwards a severe blizzard appears and cuts out power in the entire town. Beth, worried about her boyfriend, decides to go visit him in the storm. Upon reaching his house, she spots a strange being who then chases her. She hides under a stalled delivery truck, where she is attacked by an unseen monster. After a period of apparently being alone with no power, Tom and Howard go out seeking for Beth by going to her boyfriend’s house and find it in devastation, with the chimney split open as well as large, goat-like hoof prints on the floor. Fearing what they do not yet understand the family board up the doors and windows, promising Sarah they will look for the missing Beth when morning comes. Howard promises to stay up to keep watch during the night, but he falls asleep. As the fire in the fireplace dies, a hook is lured down the chimney, which drags Howie Jr. up and away. Omi reveals to the family what is happening—they are being tormented by Krampus, an ancient demonic spirit that punishes those who are bad at Christmas, referring to him as the “shadow of Saint Nicholas”. Omi admits that when she was young, her family’s poverty caused her to lose her love of the holidays, which summoned Krampus and resulted in her parents, and town being dragged into hell. She alone was spared by the demon, who left behind a bauble with his name inscribed and her life as a reminder of what happens when one loses their Christmas spirit.
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In the attic, a bag of presents suddenly begins shaking. The family run to the attic and witness a large, snake-like jack-in-the-box monster devour Jordan. The others are attacked by a group of monstrous toys, but fend them off and regroup downstairs. They are soon again attacked by Krampus’s elves, who abduct Dorothy, Howard, and the baby before leaving. The remaining family decide to make a run for a snow plow in the street. Omi stays behind to confront Krampus and buy time for the others. Krampus opens his bag of toys and she is attacked. As the rest of the group run for the plow, the family is carried off one by one until only Max is left. Krampus then appears before Max and gives him a bauble with his name on it, wrapped in a piece of his shredded Santa letter, before leaving. Max confronts and pleads with Krampus to give his family back and take him instead. Krampus seems to consider his request before picking Max up and holding him over a pit into the underworld. Max apologizes to the demon for losing his Christmas spirit but Krampus drops the screaming Max into the pit.
Max suddenly awakens in his bed on Christmas morning. He looks out his window and sees that the neighborhood has returned to normal, and finds his family downstairs opening presents. Believing that the entire experience had been a dream he opens a present and discovers the Krampus bauble. The family falls silent and the camera zooms out to reveal that their house is seen inside a snow globe on a shelf in the Krampus’ lair, along with others.
The film works very well in a number of ways. There is a nice balance between the comedic elements, the in-laws “from Hell”, (with Conchata Ferrell as Aunt Dorothy, doing a nice turn), and some genuinely quite tense moments (for example, when Tom and Howard go out in the blizzard to look for Beth – the significance of the ginger bread man pinned to the fridge with two knives only becoming clear later!). In addition I thought the “Jack in the Box” was genuinely quite creepy. The cloven-hoofed Krampus himself, as the “shadow of St. Nicholas” is rarely seen close up until the end, but is well done. What I also liked about the film was that it did not all dissolve in the final act into the usual too sweet and sugary ooze of most Christmas films “with a message”. It stayed true all the way through to the end.

REVIEW: THE GIFT (2015)

CAST

Jason Bateman (Identity Thief)
Rebecca Hall (Everything Must Go)
Joel Edgerton (Exodus: Gods and Kings)
Tim Griffin (Cloverfield)
Allison Tolman (Fargo)
Beau Knapp (Run All Night)
P. J. Byrne (Final Destination 5)
David Denman (Power Rangers)
Busy Philipps (The Smokers)
Wendell Pierce (Hackers)
Katie Aselton (Creep)

A married couple, Simon and Robyn Callem, relocate from Chicago to a Los Angeles suburb after Simon takes a new job. While out shopping, they run into Gordon “Gordo” Moseley, Simon’s former high school classmate. Gordo begins dropping in unannounced and delivering gifts including koi for their pond. He makes Simon uncomfortable, but Robyn sees no problem.Gordo invites the couple to his large and elegant home. He receives a phone call and leaves abruptly, making Simon more suspicious. When he returns, Simon tells him to stay away from his family. The next day, Robyn finds the koi dead and their dog missing. Simon drives to Gordo’s house to confront him, but discovers it is not actually his home. In the days following, Robyn suspects she is not alone in the house while Simon is at work. Unable to sleep, she steals prescription pills from her neighbor and one morning faints.The dog returns and Robyn receives a letter of apology from Gordo. She is puzzled by his writing that he was “willing to let bygones be bygones”. Simon says he does not know what it refers to and refuses to make peace with Gordo, telling Robyn that her pills are making her paranoid.Robyn becomes pregnant. At her baby shower, Simon’s sister tells her that, at school, Simon and his friend Greg reported that Gordo was being molested. Gordo was bullied afterwards and had to transfer. Robyn finds Greg, who reveals that the molestation story was fabricated by Simon, who was a bully in school. As a result of the story, Gordo’s father thought he was homosexual and nearly killed him. Robyn searches Simon’s home office and discovers that he has run background checks on Gordo and someone named Danny McDonald.Robyn learns Simon has beaten Danny for a promotion after troubling information was revealed from Danny’s previous job. Robyn confronts Simon about Gordo, but he denies responsibility. Simon angrily blames Robyn’s suggestions of reconciliation on her own past traumas of being bullied at school. At Robyn’s behest, Simon tracks down Gordo and half-heartedly apologizes, but Gordo does not accept his apology. Furious, Simon attacks him. Simon’s promotion party is interrupted by Danny, who says Simon fabricated the information that ruined his career. Robyn goes into labor and gives birth to a boy. The next morning, Simon receives a call from his boss telling him that his fraud has been discovered and he will be fired. Robyn tells him that she wants to separate.Simon goes home and finds another gift box, containing footage of Gordo preparing to sexually assault Robyn after she fainted months earlier. Meanwhile, Gordo visits Robyn in the hospital to congratulate her, wearing his arm in a sling; he tells her Simon injured him. Simon rushes to the hospital but misses Gordo. Gordo calls him soon after, taunting him, refusing to confirm whether he raped Robyn, and admonishing him for his lies. Robyn, furious, refuses to let Simon see the baby. With his life and marriage destroyed, Simon breaks down. Gordo watches through a window and walks away, removing his arm sling.The Gift is an excellent film. A dark, brooding, suspenseful thriller without jump scares or blood and gore, this is a good old fashioned psychological thriller with no gimmicks, just excellent storytelling