Featuring: Monica “The Encounter” Engesser , Amelia “The Toy Soldiers” Haberman , James “Match.Dead” Ray
Director: Robert “Exit to Hell” Conway
Writers: Robert “Exit to Hell” Conway & Owen “brother(?) to Robert” Conway
Before we start, here’s my statement on the death of Stone Temple Pilots front man Scott Weiland, as posted via my private facebook account – “The shock isn’t that Scott Weiland died at 48. The shock is that he didn’t die at 38. Or 28. He outlived most rock tragedies though. Meanwhile, that painting Keith Richards keeps of himself in his attic has to be nothing but a skeleton and a pile of cocaine by now… “
Take THAT, Keith Richards! Now, back to our regularly scheduled cinemockery.
So Saint Nick’s demonic hench-beast of Germanic folklore has been gentrified by mainstream Hollywood with last week’s theatrical deliverance of Krampus. The Wicked Warden and I saw it during Phase III of our Sweet 16 Hype-aversary Weekend, and despite my mild reservations to the contrary, Legendary once again disproved my paranoia and delivered a new holiday classic. It’s like something that was started by Charles Band, but was finished by professional moviemakers with a decent budget who knew what the fuck they were doing. Anyway, the thing I personally hate most about the monster-of-the-month mentality is the guff I get from people calling me a hipster because I knew about Krampus years before they did. Fucking shitsters have made it impossible to declare that you were a fan of something prior to its popularizing without getting mislabeled like a Sikh in Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim “Days of Future Past” America. It’s gonna happen all over again when Tinseltown (pun intended) finally gets their Cthulhu movie all sorted. Just you wait.
As with any notable wide release (especially one based around a mythological character immune to the laws of copyright), we all recognized the inevitability of at least one jerry-built knockoff coming to a RedBox kiosk near you. Well, whether you’re picking up off-brand cheese curls and Old Milwaukee at the supermarket or just getting your Valtrex refilled at the drug store, the omens were true – Krampus: the Reckoning lives. For those seeking The Asylum’s cursed brand upon this imperfect clone though, you’ll be disappointed/relieved to find your search fruitless. Could they not find a few days between Sharktopus and Sharknado sequels to throw something together? Especially for the all important “holiday horror fiends” sub-sub-(sub)-market? Whatever the case, nature has some longstanding personal vendetta against vacuums (no doubt due to one of those puberty specific “Bissell mishaps” we all had), so somebody had to fill the void. Enter FunHouse Features and the Conway Brothers. Well, don’t “enter” them. I’m neither attracted to men nor am I into putting my pecker in strange holes (no matter the moisture) as a general rule, so that’s just out of the question.
I have zero experience with the Conways or their presumed production company (they don’t even have their own webpage!), which means I’ve got nadda to say about them or their movies, anecdotal or opinional. I considered coming up with an outlandish origin opus for the siblings a la the Adam Minarovich tirade from my Ankle Biters review, but I ran out of powdered caffeine for my Kool-Aid, so that’s not happening today. I’m guessing they’re barely functional mouth-breathers given what they’ve shown me here, so let’s leave it at that.
For those still in the dark about who the Big K is, here’s a flashlight: Krampus is the Satanic satyr of Saturnalia, with the legs of a goat, the face of a demon, and a tongue that gives Gene Simmons envy boners. He is Santa’s red right hand. The vessel through which Saint Nick exacts his punishment upon wicked children (hence the alternate title for today’s episode). He’s the Eastern European embodiment of coal in your stocking, if coal were to kidnap you in the middle of the night, lock you in a cage, and whip you mercilessly before baptizing you in frothy goat piss and sending you home with no shoes. If you’re lucky.
With that said, let’s see what this “Reckoning” thing is all about, shall we? No? Well, suck my sugar plums, because I’m doing this fucking review!
Zoe (Amelia Haberman) is one of those smarter-than-average, cynical girls that everybody thinks is weird. She reminds me of a friend of mine at that age, both in look and attitude. If I weren’t allergic to children, I’d want a daughter like her. Speaking of parents, Zoe’s a foster kid. In horror movies, foster relationships work out less than 0.45% of the time. Either the kids are Satan’s bastard offspring or the parents are the shittiest castoffs of the human race imaginable. Nobody wins. In this case, the Weavers are drunken coke heads who lock her in her bedroom at night, and Zoe has the couple burned alive by her skull-faced subservient fire demon (who, nicking a cue from Marvel’s Man-Thing *snicker*, burns them with his touch), so it looks like Krampus: the Reckoning is having a Buy One Get One sale.
Granted, the duo were selfish assholes who no doubt took advantage of the foster care system to feed their cravings for sinus snow, but there weren’t any signs of physical or sexual abuse at work here. Zoe was reprimanded for changing the channel during mom’s soaps and later locked in her room after she was caught peeping on the pair while they were summoning the beast with two backs (“You mean fucking?”). Not exactly the kind of reprehensible parenting that deserves to be punished by flame-broiling the two like Whoppers at Burger King. Then again, most kids lack empathy and the ability to comprehend the long term scope of their actions, so good luck getting them to understand why setting people on fire just for annoying you is rarely the best course to take. Believe me, my mother used to work at a daycare. If any of those mini-jerkoffs had turned Firestarter, that place would’ve looked like one of Hitler’s Easy-Bake Ovens by afternoon nap time.
Having blackened her fos’rents like Cajun catfish, Zoe is sent to a children’s hospital while the police investigate. Child psychologist Dr. Rachel Stewart (Monica Engesser) is assigned to her in the hope that she’ll be able to talk some info out of the little girl that the police couldn’t. Zoe-Zo-Zo agrees to answer Dr. S’s queries, but only if she brings the pint-sized terrorist her box of yarn and dolls from the house first. The doc does just that, violating the crime scene with the approval of her friend-on-the-force, Detective Miles O’Connor (James Ray). What’s so important about these dolls? Well, it turns out the brothers Conway have a 3rd grader understanding of voodoo, because Zoe has a doll that resembles Krampus (actual Krampus, not ghetto Ghost Rider here), whose tiny adorable slave shackles she removes when she wants her computer generated ghoul to enact her little kid hissy fit vengeance upon evil adults (represented by little yarn dolls she makes) who don’t let her interrupt their TV viewing and won’t let her underage eyes gawk with voyeuristic intention at them while they’re doing the ol’ pump ‘n grunt mambo. Trust me kids, there are some curiosities you shouldn’t be allowed to pursue outside of PornHub and awkward experimentation with your friend that one summer that you both promised never to tell anyone about.
During their back-and-forth, Z-Dawg asks R-Dogg about a gnarly burn scar on her arm that the lady’s clearly not comfortable talking about. She redirects the conversation faster than Marky Mark when someone brings up The Happening or the whereabouts of the Funky Bunch. Dr. Rachel tries to connect to Zoe over their shared history as foster kids and her own adoption, Lamar (Sean Anderson), while Zoe tells her that impostor Krampus was responsible for leaving the Weavers on the stove too long. Rachel looks into the mythological kiddie disciplinarian while also delving into Zoe’s own inconsistent background, balancing being a good mom to Lamar, and exploring a budding, complicated, “more than business” relationship with Detective O’Connor. Or, as Lamar refers to him, “Some drunk cop at the door”. Meanwhile, having reacquired her not in any way magical voodoo yarn, Zoe sends her Purgatory Pet (from the company that brought you Tickle Me Mephistopheles and Cabbage Patch Creeps!) out to flambe a few more ancillary sinners, including a beardo that bears a striking resemblance to a guy I used to work with. I should’ve liked him more (my co-worker, not this character) given our common interests, but he was way too faux-cheerful for me not to push out that window…I mean, not to want to push out of a window.
During the final act, this pooch contracts a surprise case of Shyamalaphobia (“twist-ending rabies” for my fellow laymen and laywomen) and just bashes its skull against a wall until its swollen, feverish brain turns to figgy pudding and oozes all over its own cloven hooves. It has to be one of the most fuck awful “ignores the entire movie up to that point!” finishes I’ve ever made the mistake of irradiating my corneas with. The whole thing throws itself down the metaphorical staircase, crashing battered and broken at the bottom, where we finally get the merciful abortion finale and our end credits eulogy. In short, it stinks. Amen.
In fact, the finish breaks the movie so badly that I’m actually going to contravene my vow of spoiler silence and explain why it’s such a seizure-inducing brain hemorrhage! First, though, I’ll be sticking needles in the feature’s many other shortcomings, so if you’d like to keep me from ruining the experience of letting Krampus: the Redemption floss your central sulcus with thistles itself, feel free to continue reading until you get to the big “SPOILING AHEAD!” warning below. Right now, it’s time for everybody’s favorite part of the procedure – the rundown! In which Anubis tumbles through a downward spiral of bitching, moaning, and cursing about what’s wrong with this direct-to-DVD trail of tears.
Actually, scratch that and reverse it. First, we’ll get the good news over with and let the bad news bat clean up on this one. Though a muddled and plodding mess (it’s a clusterfuck on Quaaludes), the movie’s not bottom of the barrel sludge…until that fucking ending. The direction actually isn’t terrible. It’s competently shot, so I’ll give Bobby Conway a scoop of credit on that one. To quote Dr. Stewart, I’d call it “Nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing to brag about.” The cg beastie is Krampusy in as much as he has horns, a furry body, and goat legs, but that’s the extent. The graphics work itself is acceptable for the presumably limited capitol on hand, so I can let it slide. I would’ve preferred something in the realm of a tall person in a Chinese Chewbacca costume wearing a hoodie, but given how affordable halfway decent digital imaging work is in this high-tech era, it was probably more budget friendly to do it as is. It’s better than most of the eyeball cancer The Asylum pelted us with in their early days, at least.
These less-than-agonizing elements were going to be enough for me to originally let the movie squeak by on a solitary heart rating. Then the ending happened…but that loaf of moldy monkey bread known as the story will have to wait a little longer. Before that, the under-card bitching and moaning first.
The acting. Uggh. This isn’t one of those “so bad, it’s funny” instances, either. This isn’t the campy equivalent of 12 cheese nachos. No, the performances on display here are instead bland as a Slush Puppie without the syrup. Our female lead, Monica Engesser, was blessed with all the personality of a popsicle stick. And not one of those sticks with the jokes that have the pun-punchlines so bad that even a hyena on nitrous wouldn’t waste a laugh on them. The woman’s lines dribble out of her mouth as if she was doing hits of novocaine between scenes. James Ray isn’t much better. For starters, he looks like George Eads from “C.S.I.” after a bad stretch of life choices, including shaving his head to cover up the fact that he’s going bald, but not being diligent enough about it to convincingly cover it up. He attempts to deliver his lines like Clint Eastwood, but instead sounds like he’s struggling with a sore throat and is trying not to exacerbate it. Or like he’s whispering his lines so as not to disturb director Conway, who was constantly sleeping off hangovers just off screen. As for Amelia Haberman, well, I feel bad shitting on a child this time of year (mostly because fecal transference is a gray area in the realm of sexual assault laws, all the more so in cases where kids are involved…don’t ask why I know that). The good thing is that she has plenty of time to get some coaching and improve herself, so should she choose to pursue a career, there’s still hope. Good luck, Amelia. Merry Cthulhumas
The music is basically bullshit. Ironic given that one of the tunes, “Modern Metal Theme Zombie”, is composed by someone(s) calling themselves Studio BS! Other notable tracks include the lawsuit skimming “Jingle Bells Christmas Rock”, “Hip Hop Love Beat” by someone who actually chose the moniker Happy M, and a selection by the multi-untalented Conway brother Owen titled “Kick”. The performers for these tunes? They are “Means 2 an End”, who likely didn’t opt to use the number 2 for their name in an effort to be cool, but because they couldn’t figure out which iteration of to/too/two was applicable and didn’t want to look like idiots. Congratulations, M2anE, you failed.
My final pre-spoils gripe? Christmas. Not the holiday itself, as I have no beef against Xeroxed Yule (just the assholes who claim there’s a “war” against it and the willfully ignorant who refuse to acknowledge its origins). No, my venom here is being projected at the holiday’s inclusion in this movie. Krampus: the Reckoning has nothing in it that hinges on the inclusion of the holiday nor the titular terror upon which it’s named. Christmas is only utilized through decorations, references to gift-giving, Santa, and the easy case of “explain away” for the beast’s backstory. I hated Krampus the Christmas Devil, but at least it stuck closer to the mythology of Krampus (or at least his role in Santa Claus’s bullshit) instead of warping it so much that the makers may as well have just invented their own monster and spared those of us expecting something more tangential to the toddler terrorizer’s tale. I wanted something actually Krampy, but just like Highway Patrolman Harland Williams in Dumb & Dumber, I wound up with a mouthful of piss instead.
Cum one, cum all (hope you’ve all got socks handy), cuz it’s SPOILERS time! For the benefit of those with flash photography get your cameras ready, because much like a certain Canadian duo’s vaunted “5 Second Pose” gimmick, this is a one-time event, never to be seen again! Because of the potential shitstorm such an occurrence could possibly result in, I’m going to ask YOU, the reader, to take full responsibility for your part in this. To wit: I will be posting the text of the next few paragraphs in black to camouflage it from unprepared eyes. Those wishing to peek behind the protective curtain of this gruesome Grand Guignol can do so (at their own discretion!) by highlighting said paragraphs to make them visible. Apologies to my EDB editor for the long-winded intro, but my inner-pitchman needed some air! (Editor’s Note: your apology is not accepted. In fact, back to Solitary with you!)
The wrap-up act of Reckoning sees Zoe declaring that it’s finally Rachel’s turn to suffer the vengeful touch of Krampus. But why? What could Dr. Stewart have done to deserve the broken toaster treatment? Earlier in the movie, Doc dropped the blunt foreshadowing that sufferers of childhood trauma often repress memories that may not come out for years, if ever. Though she was referring to Zoe’s experience following the death of the Weavers, when Rachel later reveals to Miles that the mysterious burns on her arm are the result of a childhood fire that claimed the lives of her parents, it’s clear that the aforementioned medical analysis was just setting us up for the rough and raw Shyamalaning we were in-store for. Sure enough, we find out that Rachel was her family’s killer, causing the fire herself by being a mean little cunt and summoning Krampus to kill them, thanks to a book that her grandmother had for some reason (a moment alluded to frequently through Rachel’s reoccurring nightmares). The demon proceeded to scorch Mr. & Mrs. Stewart and Rachel’s sister, whom Rachel had forgotten even having, due to the memory being locked in the darkest recesses of the doctor’s mind because of all that trauma…even though she conjured the demon with the full understanding (and presumed intention) that it would kill her family! I mean, she had to make the little dolls, so I don’t quite get why she’d be traumatized by a situation she willingly caused?! Fuck you, Conways!
One guess as to who Rachel’s little sister was. If you said Zoe, give yourself sixty-four silver dollars! Yep, Zoe was a ghost this whole time. That’s the testi-twister reveal. Sounds stupid, right? We haven’t even gotten to all the reasons this is bullshit. Get ready for the aneurysm part, kiddies, cuz here it comes.
Up to this point, the movie had been establishing that Zoe had been in several foster homes in her time with the first instance being 20 years ago. When Rachel visits the family’s home, she learns from the household’s shotgun wielding son that the matriarch has been a mental vegetable since Zoe’s time there, during which time she had told people that the little girl was evil. Pa went missing during said time, only to be found later, a crispy critter. What dad did to deserve his comeuppance is never explained, but I’m guess he wouldn’t buy Zoe a My Little Pony or made her go to bed without ice cream because she refused to eat her peas. The info about this case was actually in the local government’s foster kid database (hence how Rachel found out about it), but the file was mysteriously wiped from the system the next day, meaning that ghost Zoe must have some kind of supernatural “ghost in the machine” hacker powers in addition to never aging and having Krampo at her beck and call. Kids from those days these days.
Now, when Zoe finally confronts Rachel, she informs her (and us) that she did indeed perish in the fire caused by big sister’s amateur demonology (as did their grandma, who’s seen in the opening scene). Where do I begin in trying to untangle this motherfucking Gordian Knot that the Conways have put before me?! I can’t just pull a sword out of my ass like Alexander the Great, but let’s see what I can spelunk outta there. For starters, if Rachel’s the one that summoned Krampus in the first place, WHY does Zoe control him?! Did her ghost take form and redo the ceremony herself, or can ghosts just control demons through physical dolls at whim?! Speaking of ghosts, despite being one, everyone can see Zoe. So she’s a phantom that can take physical form. Fine. Whatever. If that’s true though, why would she get involved with the other families in the first place?! She was in the foster care system, so she had to have been entered into it by a social worker who paired her with the families she destroyed. Also, she interacts with several other kids in the start of the flick, so not only can she take a solid form, but she’s willing to live the life of an actual foster kid for a while and put up with other asshole kids while working out which people to murder?!
WHY EVEN GO THROUGH THE WHOLE PROCESS OF A CONTRIVED PLOT, KILLING PEOPLE AND GOING THROUGH THE SYSTEM FOR TWENTY YEARS JUST TO GET TO RACHEL?! WHY DRAW OUT THE ENTIRE FUCKING MOVIE IF SHE COULD’VE JUST TAKEN HER REVENGE ON BIG SIS AT ANYTIME IN THE 20 YEARS SINCE ACQUIRING KRAMPUS’S SERVICE ANYWAY?!!?!?!?!? IT’S THE WORST KIND OF ENDING, BECAUSE IT NEGATES EVERYTHING THAT THE MOVIE SPENT 80 MINUTES ESTABLISHING, MAKING THE WHOLE DAMN MESS RETROACTIVELY NONSENSICAL!!!! FUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOU, ROBERT AND OWEN CONWAY!!!!!
This movie just slingshots spherical, disgruntled, colorful birds at the structure of my brain and laughs while it crumbles, killing the little green pigs that represent what’s left of my sanity. The first time I saw that ending, my mind had to shut down and reboot. Fortunately, my gray matter autosaved everything up to that point, so I was able to free up additional memory to handle the load the second time around. I was also properly prepared to fast forward through the sex and shower scenes featuring nude people nobody asked to see nude. Don’t worry, I just had to erase some useless files from my childhood. Of what I haven’t a clue. Like I said, they’ve been erased. Pay attention.
It’s not worth the time, money, or effort, but if the last 20 minutes were re-written, any association with Krampus altered, and the actors given some classes ahead of time, this could’ve been a not-the-worst-thing-I’ve-ever-seen monster movie. As it exists in its current state, this flick would be better suited for the moniker “Kramped-Ass: the Rectuming”. Yes, that was a horrible joke, but it’s pretty much all this movie deserves. Much like the actual Krampus (I know him, he’s a rather affable gent unless you’re an a-hole kid), The Reckoning should be used as a punishment for misbehaving children and full grown douche sacks. It’s not so much for cinemasochists to watch as it is for cinesadists to inflict.
With that, this exercise in tedium has come to its close. Despite the Conways spiking my nog with Nyquil and giving my holidaze cheer a severe case of Hepatitis X(mas), it’s nothing a trip to the local cinema for another viewing of the good Krampus can’t cure!
Our next ep will continue the seasonal scheming of the slightly-to-completely irredeeming with a very special quasi-celebrity guest to this holiday mess! Put on your red shirts and reindeer antlers and get your ass back here for homemade milk and cookies, motherfuckers! For now, I gotta go out and pick up our Cthulhumas tree, then figure out what the Hel I’m getting Set for Secret Satan this year. Oh look! Here’s a copy of Krampus: the Reckoning! Problem solved. Until next time, may your egg nog always be spiked and have a holly jolly go fuck yourself.
“Yes, I can see the picture just fine, dearie. Now get your hand out of my face or you’ll be pulling back a stump. Got it?!”
“I can’t believe Male Character A would cheat on Female Character A with Female Character C! This is the most devastating season of ‘Generic High School Drama Show‘ yet!”
For all you parents with tight purse strings who can’t afford Monster High dolls for your kid this year, try the Dollar Embargo knock-off “Creature Secondary School”! Millie Mummy (pictured here) will be their new favorite affordable friend while you’re waiting for the results of your latest frivolous lawsuit against McDonald’s!
Yikes! Don’t stare at those too long or you’ll go wall-eyed! I hear that’s what happened to Marty Feldman.
Wait till you see the part where Krampus makes her sing while he drinks a glass of water. Amazing!
No matter how hard they all tried, the cast always regretted the day’s efforts when it came time to review the dailies. Ouch.
Milhouse Van Houten – age 35.
Damn it! Clearly this proves that the Conways knew what Krampus was supposed to look like! They were just fucking with us the whole time!
“Merry Christmas, sir! We’re the ho-ho-hoes you ordered from Big Poppa Claus! We brought festive, peppermint flavored condoms in case you’re out! Where should we start?”
Scott Summers’ first pair of glasses before switching to ruby quartz lenses.
It’s the Ghost of Rob Riggle Yet to Come!
“I told you not to come around here no more! We don’t wanna be in your shitty Krampus movie, and you can’t use our house or yard to shoot scenes in!”
Uggh. Some people just shouldn’t be shot in HD. He looks like he washed his face with old pizza grease!
Your Freddy Krueger cosplay’s coming along nicely, Sheryl! Keep at it, kiddo.
Huh. Well, evolution clearly didn’t plan for Krampus to procreate…
Speaking of procreation, my wife will be happy to hear that this scene just made me sterile. Next time anyone asks me if I’m positive I’m not gay, I’ll pull up this screenshot and throw up all over them.
“YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?! YOU’RE IN THE JUNGLE, BABY! YOU’RE GONNA DIIIIIIIIIIIE!”
“Roger, you know I joined the Sherman Oaks Bald Men Society because I believe in your vision. But… I don’t think anyone’s coming to our Christmas mixer. It’s been four hours… I think we should call it a night.”
Anubis will return next time in
“Tales From the Cryptsmas”
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