REVIEW: Krampus (2015)


Krampus has terrible posture. 


Krampus: B-

Even with its goofiness and predictability, I still found Krampus weirdly enjoyable and charming. The movie channels a Christmas-Horror Spirit more similar to the black humor in Gremlins than that of Silent Night, Deadly Night or Christmas Evil. It’s a hyper-self-aware PG-13 movie that should be filed under comedy maybe more so than horror. So if you were expecting to see some carnage, this isn’t gonna give you your fix, you sick fuck.

But if you are sentimental like me, the movie might actually bring back fond memories of Christmas and all the fun that came with it! Homemade cookies, a warm fire, being left to die in the snow by my father who didn’t love me anymore, and opening presents with my cousins.

Santa is for good kids and he brings presents. Krampus is for bad kids and he brings torture and death. Fathers are for leaving you stranded in the snow to die a lonely death. This I know.

A kid makes a wish that his family would just fuck off, exactly like Kevin in Home Alone. “Fuck off, family!” (I’m paraphrasing) he scrawls on a little note, which gets carried into the night by a stray gust of wind. Krampus gets the kid’s letter and he shows up to slaughter the kid’s family. Krampus has a crew of killers who are all Christmas themed: There are some asshole elves, some asshole gingerbread men, some asshole toys (who really remind me of the puppets in the Puppet Master movies), and some asshole snowmen.

The real asshole is absolutely the dad character, who gets scared and leaves his daughter to die in the snow. One Christmas, my dad stopped in the woods on a snowy evening, read me a Robert Frost poem, and then pushed me out of his truck and drove away. The cold was biting and ruthless, but I swore my vengeance would be colder.

The “Christmas Spirit” part of the movie happens when the kid realizes that, compared to Krampus and his homicidal throng of death-elves, his conservative uncle isn’t that bad. He begs Krampus to spare his family. But Krampus gives the kid a “fuck off” of his own. I know a thing or two about begging. Try begging, try howling, into a dark Christmas night that howls back with a blizzard. Try begging to a God who abandoned you one night, to a God who turned his back as you trudged through 20 miles of snow. Try cursing your father who left you for dead, who cast you out like so much Christmas trash!

Anyway, the make-up and effects in the movie are great. Yes, there is some cookie-cutter CGI, but Krampus looks sort of like a Guillermo del Toro creature and his elves look like something out of an R-rated Where the Wild Things Are. There isn’t really any gore in the movie. The carnage is all PG-13 and/or off-screen. No dead kids, no blood and guts. No hands and feet made blue and feeble by your long trek in the snow, by your black march to the tool shed where you can barely grasp the machete on that night that left you without a God, without a family, and gave you instead a hunger for the blood of the father who had forsaken you. The movie doesn’t have any of that.

The moral of the story is to be thankful for what you have, even if all you have are assholes, because the asshole you know is better than the asshole you don’t know. Maybe if you feel wronged by someone, even if that someone is a family member — a father perhaps — you should take matters into your own hands. Instead of writing a letter, you should creep through the house with a machete on Christmas night, filled with a darkness more terrible and hollow that the darkness of a thousand blizzards, consumed by your one promise to yourself, your promise for vengeance, for blood. I think that’s the moral.

REVIEW: The Hidden 2 (1993)


“Woof-woof! I want to die!” – The people involved in the making of this film.

The Hidden 2: F

I thought I wanted more from The Hidden, but I have changed my mind. It was stupid of me to want such a thing. It was fine the way it was and I don’t want any more Hidden. I should have been satisfied with a berserk alien movie that celebrates its own shamelessness as a ripoff of other science fiction horror movies. But I greedily wanted more and look what happened: The (fucking terrible) Hidden 2.

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but the alien from the first film left behind some eggs. The eggs hatch in this one and they do pretty much the same thing their dad did: they possess a bunch of people and go on visceral crime-sprees with all the ambition of a cracked-out Jeff Goldblum-style Death Wish goon.

The cover of the VHS says “They live for lust. They live for power. They live forever.” I assume they are talking about the newly-hatched parasites, but that makes zero fucking sense because a) they are not sexual at all, b) they just want to do stuff like eat cheeseburgers and steal cars, and c) there is no mention of any sort of immortality, and their lives are actually very easily ended with the stupid ray gun that the stupid Good Alien has.

Maybe the tagline is talking about the new Good Alien and his human love interest. They hook up, but they have about as much on-screen sexual chemistry as a pile of wet rags. And I’m not talking about those sexy rags. I mean unsexy rags. It’s Alien Seed all over again, and this is a movie that you do not want to be compared to on any level.

The guy from Carnosaur is in it. So it’s got that going for it… I guess.

I am not even exaggerating when I say that about twenty minutes of this movie are totally unaltered scenes from the first Hidden movie. They seriously edit in a LONG clip from the first movie and pass it off as an “intro” to the sequel. Then they throw in another generous clip as a “flashback.” Then (I’m not joking) they have the audacity add ANOTHER clip in the form of our heroes reviewing VHS security camera footage from the climax of the first movie. It is pretty lame. All in all, The Hidden 2 is maybe 60 minutes of original content.

And the content sucks ass.

The same brainless “homages” to Terminator and The Thing are there and they are somehow worse. There is even a scene where a dog gets possessed and there is a gross dog transformation scene like the gross dog transformation scene from The Thing. There are also some terminator-esque “files” that the Good Aliens accesses. I’m surprised there wasn’t “alien-vision” that ripped off all the first person Terminator shots. The parasites carry out some attacks outside of their hosts (like the face-huggers from Alien! Holy shit, am I just now noticing another case of plagiarism?), but they look like cheap puppets that someone threw at the actors.

The layers of meaninglessness to the movie have basically made me a level-10 nihilist. It is a shamelessly unoriginal sequel to a shamelessly unoriginal movie. The hatchlings have all the same abilities/criminal inclinations as before and there is a Good Alien with a Special Gun hunting them with the help of an “I don’t believe it!” human sidekick.

“F” City, population: The Hidden 2.


REVIEW: The Hidden (1987)


Take me to your leader… of this strip club.

The Hidden: B-

The Hidden is a weirdly charming mash-up of plagiarism and cheap 80’s tricks: It has the “Good Guy vs. Bad Guy from Another Word” thing from The Terminator and the “Who’s the Monster in the Room?” thing from The Thing. These setups are re-packaged with Chuck Norris-movie quality and come together to form 90 entertaining and brainless minutes of cassette deck boom-boxes and rocket-launcher carnage.

What’s interesting is that the movie is (pretty much) unanimously respected as a solid film (everyone from Roger Ebert to reviewers write glowingly about it) despite the fact that it consciously replicates other movies while stripping the thought from them. The movie is based on the plots/tropes from The Terminator and The Thing, but there are no deeper allegorical/philosophical messages about mankind’s fear of technology or Cold War paranoia. Now, you could argue that these things were only superficial backdrops in the films I mentioned, but they were at least there. The Hidden revels in the pointlessness of its own monotonous violence.

A parasitic alien criminal who can possess human hosts goes on a wild crime spree on Earth. The alien behaves with Id-like impulsivity; whatever looks good, he steals it. The host he possesses for a lot of the movie looks like the dad from The Wonder Years if there was an episode called “Kevin’s Dad Tries Meth.” Imagine that guy in a sweat-soaked beige business suit committing grand theft auto, armed robbery, and assault with a deadly weapon while looking like he’s having a stroke / overdosing on ecstasy.

The alien parasite causes all sorts of entertaining/hedonistic destruction – slaying characters who are basically all 1980’s stereotypes, eating steaks, stealing boom-boxes – until some fresh-faced FBI motherfucker (played by the fresh-faced FBI motherfucker from Twin Peaks) comes to town with an uncanny ability to predict the alien’s criminal activity. Surprise! He’s a Kyle Reece-style “good” alien who is trying to stop the “bad” alien. He’s got a ray gun and no sense of humor, which goes great with his wisecracking city cop partner who “can’t freaking believe” everything that happens in every scene.

The Hidden starts off as an action/sci-fi and evolves into an insane buddy-cop movie that celebrates all the things you expect from bargain-bin 1980s VHS flicks: automatic weapons, mullets, cocaine, minorities using weird slang created by white people (This is Danny Trejo’s second movie and although I didn’t watch the credits, I bet his character was named “Mexican Guy who says ‘fuck!’” or something), and strippers with big hair.

Is it original at all, like even for one minute? No. But it’s pretty fun. All of the make-up was detailed enough and the alien itself (a three-foot phallic slug) is super-gross when it forces its way down the throats of its hosts. Before watching, lower your expectations accordingly and I think you’ll have a good time.

REVIEW: Clown (2014)

Haunted clown suits: How the fuck do they work?

Haunted clown suits: How the fuck do they work?

Clown: C+

There isn’t really anything fresh about this movie. Everything in it has been done a billion times, but it was compelling and silly enough to keep me interested. As far as clown movies go, it is funnier than Patch Adams but less funny than It. All three movies have dead kids though. So there’s that.

A guy finds a haunted clown suit, which he dons in order to amuse a battalion of annoying brats at his son’s birthday party. BAM: He’s cursed.

As explained by the Wise Elder character, Peter Stormare (the guy who feeds Steve Buscemi into a wood chipper in Fargo), clowns were originally not balloon sculpting ding-dongs, but cave dwelling Nordic demons who would feast on children. The costume is haunted and infested with demonic energy. Stormare even has a leather bound ancient text complete with Guillermo del Toroesque clown monster sketches, so you know he’s legit.

Dude can’t get out of the clown suit; it’s bonded to him like the Venom symbiote or the Goosebumps haunted mask and it is slowly transforming him into the Icelandic variety of Bronze Age kid-munching clowns. The only way to get him out of the suit/stop the clown-demon is to chop his head off or let him eat five children. Once he gets started munching on kids, you’d think they would just let him finish, but the other characters are committed to decapitation despite the pileup of child corpses.

To the guy’s credit, he tries to decapitate himself, but he quits trying once he realizes how fun it is to eat kids. Once the dust from the exposition settles, the rest of the movie is pretty typical possession/demon/slasher stuff that borrows from other popular killer clown stories: He has the fangs of It, but none of the one liners; he has the charisma of Gacy, but none of the sodomy; he looks just like a juggalo, but doesn’t dump Faygo all over himself or rap about titties.

The origin story of the actual movie is more interesting than the clown mythology in the film itself. A couple of guys made a fake trailer for this movie with no (clear) intention of ever filming the thing. In their mock trailer, they start with “From Master of Horror, Eli Roth…” which I guess flattered/interested Roth enough to track these guys down and invite himself on board as the producer. No one probably thought of this movie as “theirs”; the trailer-makers probably thought their inside joke got scooped up as Roth’s new pet and Roth probably thought his semi-pandering to internet horror nerds and attachment of his name would be enough of a contribution. What emerges is a pretty “meh” horror movie with some cool cinematography and make-up that follows a played out formula.

REVIEW: The Thing (1982)

Hello, comrade!

Hello, comrade!

The Thing: A+

This movie is about an Arctic research scientist and flamethrower enthusiast named Kurt Russell fighting a homicidal alien. It’s also about the Cold War. It’s also one of my favorite movies ever, so I’m not fucking around here.

The Thing came out in 1982, before I was born, and was one of the first rated-R horror movies I ever saw. It was made a few years after Alien and the two share the same dark atmosphere of isolation and paranoia although I would argue The Thing is scarier because the monster’s infiltration is much more intimate than in Alien. Imagine that radar scene from Alien, but now it is 80 minutes long!

Scientists dug too deep in the ice and they found the Thing. The Thing murders the shit out of all the scientists (as imagined in the forgettable CGI orgy that is the 2011 Thing reboot/prequel) and flees to a nearby research station run by Kurt Russell and friends.

The biology of the Thing is sort of confusing; it can mimic other organisms, but it can also “absorb” them, assimilating living things cell-by-cell until the organism has become a part of the Thing. The Thing is one sentient creature, but each cell has an independent survival instinct and is able to exist independently from the central Thing. It’s a hive-mind alien with self-replicating abilities. I don’t know if I’m making any sense; Wilford Brimley does a better job explaining it in the movie with Atari-esque computer models that represent the alien microbiology.

Since the Thing can shapeshift and absorb its prey, it decides that the best thing to do is enter the base disguised as a stray dog (in Antarctica?) and assimilate the crew one-by-one. All it has to do is get a guy alone in a room, and then it can Thing-ify him.

The Thing is also a communist; it is a foreign power posing as your neighbor. The 1950’s Cold War paranoia that barbeque owners Bill and Natalie next door might secretly be KGB operatives Boris and Natalia is ballooned to intergalactic proportions. And while the Thing personifies American fears of communism (like forced “equality,” total homogenous conformity, and just being foreign), Kurt Russell’s handsome ass represents the rugged individualism of blue blooded Americans. He looks more like Wild Bill Hickok than a fucking Arctic research scientist (he even wears a cowboy hat for much of the movie).

The Cold War undertones are pretty consistent, even to the point where, in the final act, K-Train is ready for some Mutually Assured Destruction. This part is foreshadowed brilliantly at the beginning of the movie when Russell loses at computer chess and responds by dumping a glass of scotch on the motherboard. The Thing is content executing a methodical takedown of the base, calculating its moves and taking people (pieces) one at a time, but Russell decides that the best move might be to torch the entire base; if he can’t get the Thing in checkmate, he wants an incendiary stalemate. Take that, you fucking pinko!

Some people think that there is no Cold War allegory and this is just a movie about an alien and Kurt Russell and glasses of scotch and flamethrowers. Pay no attention to these people. They will go away if you ignore them. I am so all-in with this allegory, that I think you could make the argument that it has a timeless quality; to the original audience of the film, the Thing is a communist. Or maybe it is an AIDS patient. Now, he’s a terrorist cell. “Snake Plissken Fights a Monster, The End” isn’t good enough. There’s more here.

Critics of the movie will also pick apart Kurt Russell’s ham-handed Thing-hunting and, yeah okay, he is pretty Kurt Russelly the whole time, I’ll give you that. But who did you want in there instead? This is The All-American Computer who Wore Tennis Shoes! Sorry stool admonisher Clint fucking Eastwood wasn’t available to squint at the Thing for 90 minutes and instead you are stuck with a guy who has done a pretty good job making a career out of running around yelling like a lunatic.

The film has legitimately revolting special effects, probably the most impressive horror/sci-fi makeup ever. If you read some other reviews for the movie, they will likely spend more time on it than I did, which is the right thing to do. For instance, you know that scene with the arms? They got a guy who has no arms for that scene. And it’s fucking gross. There is dismemberment, reanimation, people getting sprayed with parasitic Thing goo, and all sorts of other horrifying shit.

I cannot recommend this movie enough. See it right away.

REVIEW: Dracula Untold (2014)

A moment from the film that was not 100% CGI.

A moment from the film that was not 100% CGI.

Dracula Untold: D

This is an outrageous clusterfuck of superhero origin movie clichés and Transformers 3 levels of CGI nonsense. I seriously couldn’t understand what was happening during the gushers of CGI, and when the camera stopped spinning long enough for me to get it, I was sorry that I did.

There is nothing “Dracula” about this movie. All of the seduction, complexity, and horror is erased completely. What remains is a seriously pathetic Dracula reboot attempt where the character is reimagined as a Batman (pun actually not intended) kind of avenger who, like the protagonist of every kung-fu movie and side scrolling video game, fights bad guys of increasing difficulty until the final battle scene with the “boss”. I suppose if you enjoy vampire movies and want to see a worse PG-13 version of one of those Underworld movies, where vampires do kung-fu, you might like this one. I think this is the only movie I have seen with Dracula in it where Dracula is just not fucking cool at all. He looks/behaves like the lead singer of Creed.

Tywin Lannister plays a cave-dwelling Nosferatu-ish vampire who gives Vlad his CGI abilities. This part is pretty cool. It’s a “deal with the devil” setup where Vlad has to gamble his soul in order to gain vamp-power. Lannisterferatu performs some CGI magic on him and then Vlad is able to do stuff like turn into a CGI swarm of bats, CGI heal from CGI attacks from CGI weapons, and movie at CGI super-speed. He can even create CGI tornados. The only thing he does that is not created by computers is his slow-motion walking/brooding in his trench coat that will make even devout Boondock Saints fans cringe.

There are a lot of “what have I become?” scenes and there is virtually no blood/gore in the battle scenes that interrupt Vlad’s pity party. Like another wretched monster reboot attempt, I, Frankenstein, the fight scenes are CGI-ed into blobs of spinning confusion and virtually all the killing blows are cropped out so that they can score that ever-sought-after PG-13 rating.

If you are someone who is generally unbothered by gratuitous CGI, and you like PG-13 action movies, give this a shot. But I just felt like I was watching a mixture of video games and sadder-than-John-Snow whining woven into what barely passes as a story.

REVIEW: Under the Skin (2013)

"Come with me if you want to not live."

“Come with me if you want to not live.”

Under the Skin: B-

Yes, this is the movie where Scarlett Johansson gets naked. Yes, it is also a pretty good movie that you should watch for reasons other than just the nude scenes. Again, yes, this is the movie where Scarlett Johansson gets naked.

What an extreme “don’t talk to strangers” cautionary tale. Johansson plays a seductive alien who drives around looking for dudes to lure back to her lair where she leads them into a vat of black goo that dissolves everything except their skin. You never see her do anything with their skin, but you know at some point she is going to wear it, or one of her alien homies is going to wear it. Underneath all that Johansson, is a really grotesque alien.

At first glance, the movie is really repetitive; the driving/seducing/goo takes up a good half of the film and the scenes are all really similar: Johansson drives up to whomever looks the loneliest, charms them into her van (and then to her lair), and then the next thing you know, the poor guy has a raging boner and is following naked Johansson (did I mention there are nude scenes?) until he realizes he’s in black goo, sinking like rock in quicksand. His face melts into disappointment; this was NOT covered in sex-ed!

What’s fun about this repetition is the tension. After you see one guy swallowed by the black goo, the rest of her seductions are rife with fucking evil dramatic irony. We know that if she gets a dude in the van, it’s black goo time, but all he can think about is naked Johansson, even though there is something sort of… off about her. All you can think about naked Johansson too, but you know there is also black goo. The music during the black goo parts is eerie and there are some uncomfortable first-person shots. I liked it.

What’s extra fucked up is the fact that a lot of the footage of her failing to convince a guy to hop in the van is actually footage of her asking real pedestrians, in real life, to hop in her van for a ride. A lot of guys turned Johansson down for a weird van ride and their nervous refusals are included in the film. So when you see her hungrily asking a dude to get in her van to hang out, and the guy says, “no Scarlett Johansson, I do not want to hang out with you,” it’s real! Fucking idiots.

Like I said, the drawn out and suspenseful seductions take up a lot of time, but the formula changes when the alien starts to have what appears to be an existential crisis. “Why am I getting naked and luring lonely guys into black goo?!” It doesn’t end well.

The majority of the director’s credits include music videos, which winds up being a good thing. The movie looks fucking awesome (Even scenes that don’t involve naked Johansson. There, I said it.). The shots are all carefully framed, there are those gnarly first-person sequences, and Johansson fluctuates between flawless and grotesque, angelic and demonic through isolating tracking shots and unflattering close-ups.

See it.

REVIEW: 976-EVIL 2 (1991)

“Here is an ancient text that discusses 976-EVIL.”

976-EVIL 2: D-

976-EVIL 2: Spike, the wise-cracking, barely shaved motorcyclist is back, battling a haunted jerk-off hotline for another 90 minutes. This time, instead of Spike’s cousin getting mixed up with the demonic forces of erotic landlines, it’s a dickhead teacher (played by a guy who looks like he’s a dickhead in real life) who dials 976-EVIL and projects himself onto the astral plane so he can murder people.

Professor Dickhead has a thing for killing blonde co-eds, which he demonstrates in the opening scene where he impales one with a fake stalactite backstage at the school theater. “Welcome to my Hell!” exclaims Professor Dickhead, and then there is an eruption of red corn syrup and an abrupt cut to Spike riding his motorcycle.

Spike has presumably been on a nomadic bender since the end of the first 976-EVIL movie, where ostensibly harmless occult phone sex led to him throwing his cousin through a portal to Hell. Now wherever Spike goes, phones ring ceaselessly, which makes him glare like a badass. At a crusty bar in a small town, he finally picks up the phone, right after befriending… a blonde co-ed…

Spike, the blonde co-ed, and Professor Dickhead are quickly entangled in a deadly triangle of evil jerk-off astral plane warfare.

From here, the movie showcases an array of unoriginal ideas. Just like the last movie, using 976-powers eats away at your physical form, so Professor Dickhead gradually starts to resemble an “after” picture of a decade long meth addiction. The Professor is very Freddy Kruger-ish (a nod to Englund, who directed the first 976-EVIL movie, or just unoriginality?); he likes to make jokes, laugh, and teleport around while he kills people.  From there, the similarities start to resemble borderline plagiarism; nothing that is straight-up theft, but the lack of ideas is clear: there is a scene where a room gets possessed, just like in Evil Dead 2 (talking animal head and all); a scene where someone is zapped into a black & white TV show, just like in Pleasantville; the owner of the Satanic bookstore is a clone of Elvira with bleached hair. I suppose in the first place, you shouldn’t sit down to watch 976-EVIL 2 with very high expectations, but there was literally nothing new to see here.

After some research at the Satanic bookstore, Spike winds up killing himself (they actually blow up a truck for this scene; how they got the budget to do so, I couldn’t tell you) so he can become Ghost Spike and save the co-ed from Professor Dickhead. He (very anti-climactically) succeeds and then explodes into a multi-colored constellation of floating dots which dissipate into the heavens, much to the glee of the unscathed blonde co-ed. Lucifer’s phone sex avatar has been defeated and the main character looks like a fucking Dark Side of the Moon laser light show. I guess that’s a happy ending?

Oh and then the co-ed is arrested for all of Professor Dickhead’s murders because, no blonde co-ed, we don’t believe that some jerk-off phone sex ghost killed everyone until some guy you just met became an anti-jerk-off phone sex ghost and stopped him.