Krampus

Slay Belles

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On Christmas Eve three friends decide to explore an abandoned holiday theme park for their online adventure show. Their fun is interrupted by a large, murderous, hairy beast known as Krampus. As the three women try to hide, they come across a man who claims to be the real Santa Claus. It’s up to these friends, Santa Claus, and a park ranger to defeat Krampus to save Christmas and the world.

Slay Belles is by co-writers Jessica Luhrssen and SpookyDan Walker, with Walker also directing the film. Both have worked on films in the past in other capacities, but this is the first feature film either has headed. The duo worked to create a campy, fun, low-budget holiday horror comedy mash-up. This film will likely appeal to many horror fans and individuals who frequent conventions. Two of the three leads are women who dress up in cosplay and go on adventures for their website and fans. This is what leads them to the abandoned holiday theme park on Christmas Eve. The characters feel like real people because they fit in so well with geek culture.

Another interesting and fun aspect of the plot is the new Christmas mythology it creates. Everyone knows Santa Claus, and by now, most people (or at least most horror fans), know Krampus as well. Slay Belles gives audiences a new image of what Santa is up to in this day and age. It paints a unique picture of Santa not as the holly jolly fat old man we know and love, but instead he is a bit of an eccentric hermit who looks like he could be part of a biker gang. It gives audiences something they haven’t seen before. The updated mythology for both Santa and Krampus lead to some hilarious and bloody shenanigans. There are even a few unexpected twists sprinkled throughout.

The film has an array of performances ranging from hilarious to not so great. Luckily, the three leading ladies of Slay Belles all gives highly entertaining performances.  Kristina Klebe (Tales of Halloween) stars as Alexi. She’s the hardworking, more practical friend in the group and the only one not technically part of the “Adventure Girls.” Despite the relative cheesiness of the film, Klebe delivers a solid performance. Susan Slaughter (Ouija House), a well-known paranormal investigator, plays the sassy Dahlia. Slaughter is part of the horror culture so her portrayal of Dahlia feels very authentic. Hannah Wagner (The Devil’s Carnival) plays Sadie, who is a bit ditzy and very spunky. The fact that Wagner has experience as a YouTube personality likely helped her to play Sadie in an entertaining yet realistic way. The trio not only act well individually, but their dynamics work great together as well. Of course, what would a Christmas horror film be without Santa Clause? I want to give a very special shoutout to Barry Bostwick (Rocky Horror Picture Show) for giving audiences one of the most unique portrayals of Santa I’ve ever seen.

A holiday B-horror film would be nothing without some memorable effects. For the most part, the film utilizes practical effects to create Krampus (as well as some delightful blood and gore). The Krampus makeup does a great job of creating the more classic look. He’s a hairy, horned, cloven-foot beast that wants to attack all the naughty children of the world. The overall look of Krampus is very well done, although there are a couple spots where it is obviously a hairless human arm that is simply painted. The most shocking aspect of the Krampus makeup design is the giant realistic penis. I had to rewind to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. While this practical effect would be over the top in other films, it fits in well with the overall theme of Slay Belles. One artistic aspect that detracts a bit from the film is that some of the climactic night scenes are too dark. It is one of the most exciting parts of the film, but it’s very difficult to see what’s going on.

Slay Belles isn’t the best holiday horror film, but it is still a riotous good time. The film boasts one of the more fun and original Santa and Krampus mythologies I’ve seen. All three leading ladies (and Bostwick) deliver strong performances, but there are other smaller characters who aren’t quite as good. The blood, guts, and Krampus practical effects bring thrills and laughs, although at times these effects also highlight the film’s small budget. Those looking for a more “refined” holiday horror film will likely want to steer clear of this film, but fans who enjoy campy B-horror movies will be delighted by Slay Belles.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10

Favorite Things: Christmas Horror Films

Horror isn’t just for Halloween. Over the years there have been a number of great Christmas horror films to come out. Apparently Santa and his counterparts can be just as terrifying as any witch, ghost, vampire, or werewolf. When you really take the time to look at holiday horror there is to offer this time of year you may be surprised at the wide selection available to you. Keeping that in mind, I have decided to come up with my five favorite Christmas horror films. They are in no particular order, but all are beloved for their own reasons.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

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Anyone who has read my site or looked at my social media knows that I count kid horror ever chance I get. It deserves as much attention as the scariest movies. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a classic film from my youth that not only encompasses both Halloween and Christmas, but it’s a great way to get younger audiences into horror. All Jack Skellington wants to do is get to the true meaning of Christmas and we as the audience get to watch things go wrong in the funniest ways. This is the perfect family Christmas horror film for all ages to enjoy.

Gremlins (1984)

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This is another great holiday horror flick that appeals to people of different ages. It is equal parts adorable, creepy, funny, and festive. While you may think this is another kid horror movie, keep in mind that there are actually a couple fairly gory scenes and many people die horrible (albeit funny) deaths. It’s hard not to love the fuzzy little creatures that multiply and become scaly green monsters that wreak havoc on the poor little town. Just try watching this film without wishing you had your own mogwai.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

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This is one of the most iconic Christmas horror films out there. I just saw it for the first time earlier this month and it is already one of my favorites. After seeing his family brutally murdered a boy grows to be a teen before witnessing another crime that makes him snap. This leads to an often times hilariously cheesy killing spree, all while wearing a Santa suit and telling his victims that they have been “naughty.” After one viewing, this film has already been added to my required holiday films that I will watch every year.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

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This Finnish film is not just a great holiday horror film, but an all around great movie. A group of workers accidentally unleashes the first Santa upon a small settlement in the countryside of Finland. The first Santa is not the fun-loving, present-giving Santa we have come to know and love. This one comes to punish bad children by whipping them and kidnapping them. Of course there is only one child that figures out what is going on, but it doesn’t take long for the adults to catch on. This film is exciting and creepy with a lot of dark humor thrown in. It also has one of the biggest “WTF” endings I have ever seen in a horror film, but it is an absolutely perfect way to end the story. One could argue that this is another film that could be watched with the family, but it all depends on your nudity comfort level (there are a lot of naked men, but the vast majority of nudity is in the shadows).

Krampus (2015)

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This film is probably the most frightening on my list, but this is also one I will likely show my kids as they grow up. It contains many of the same themes as A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life in that it is about a person (a young boy in this case) who loses his Christmas spirit and has to find it again. It can be terrifying at times, but there is also a lot of humor to it. I may be slightly biased about this film since it follows the German legend of Krampus, and much of my heritage is German, but it is still one of the best Christmas horror films out there. If you pay close attention you will also notice nods to other horror films, as well as other Christmas films. (Click here to read my full review for Krampus).

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD FRIGHT!

Favorite Things: Horror Films of 2015

Now that 2015 is over it’s time to reflect on the films I watched and reviewed over the past year. 2015 was a great year for horror. There were so many great films that came out. I wish there had been more time to watch them all, but of the ones I watched there were definitely some stand outs. My New Year’s resolution is to make more time to watch the horror films coming out in 2016. Here is my list of my 5 favorite horror films that came out in 2015 (in no particular order):

It Follows

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This was one of the more polarizing films of 2015. Most people either loved it or hated it. Personally, I thought it was a unique concept that was beautifully shot. It was almost like watching a piece of art. Probably my favorite aspect of this film was actually the score. The score was so amazing that it will likely go down in horror history as one of the best.

Full Review: https://thebloggingbanshee.com/2015/03/29/it-follows/

What We Do in the Shadows

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Horror comedy is one of my favorite horror sub-genres. What We Do in the Shadows did not disappoint. It was such a bizarre concept that came together so well. You always see vampires as these grand, regal, ancient creatures. This film made you see vampires in a different light and kept you laughing from start to finish.

Full Review: https://thebloggingbanshee.com/2015/08/04/what-we-do-in-the-shadows/

The Final Girls

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This may be my absolute favorite horror film that I saw in 2015. It was hilarious, the story was familiar and original at the same time, the acting was phenomenal, and it had some gorgeous visual effects. What makes this film stand out is because it relentlessly makes fun of the classic 80’s slasher film, while paying homage to it all at the same time. It also did a superb job of portraying what it would be like if you were trapped in a horror movie, which is saying a lot given the likelihood of that happening. If you don’t laugh your ass off while watching this film, you might be broken.

Full Review: https://thebloggingbanshee.com/2015/10/12/the-final-girls/

The Hive

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This film was quite a surprise for me. I hadn’t heard much about it beforehand, but recognized Kathryn Prescott from a couple TV shows. I had liked her in her previous work so I thought I would give this film a try. It blew me away. The plot immediately drew me in and kept me interested all the way through to the credits. These days, that is quite a feat. The Hive also has some great acting and used some intriguing visuals to catch your attention.

Full Review: https://thebloggingbanshee.com/2015/11/16/the-hive/

Krampus

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I love writer/director Michael Dougherty.  This film showcased everything I love about his work; it used a classic piece of holiday mythology, it was creepy, it was funny, and there was never a time when I was bored. Something that I feel many horror films lack these days is character development, but Krampus definitely made sure you knew the characters before things turned South. My favorite aspect of this film, and other works by Dougherty, is that he manages to makes creatures that are adorable and terrifying at the same time.

Full Review: https://thebloggingbanshee.com/2015/12/05/krampus/

 

Krampus

These days, Christmas does not mean what it used to. Christmas used to be a time of giving, cheer, and holiday spirit. Now it’s about trampling each other to get to the best Black Friday deals and being forced to spend the holidays with relatives you hate. For young Max (Emjay Anthony) Christmas was once a magical time. This year, he has reached his breaking point. After losing his holiday spirit, Max unwittingly unleashes the wrath of the evil Krampus. Now, his family has to fight for their lives to survive this Christmas.

When I heard that writer/director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat) was making another holiday horror film, I was very excited. I absolutely loved Trick ‘r Treat so I had very high expectations for Krampus, especially since I was already familiar with the folklore. Luckily, I was not disappointed. Krampus will definitely be added to the list of amazing Christmas-themed horror flicks. What I loved about this film was that it took a sinister character from ancient folk tales, and adapted the story to fit in with the modern world.

The visual effects in this film were excellent. The CGI primarily focused around the little helpers that Krampus used to infiltrate the family’s home. The helpers were created in such a way that they were pure evil without appearing over the top. These characters are my favorite aspect of the film because they are absolutely adorable and terrifying all at once. This is the kind of character that Dougherty excels at utilizing, like he did with Sam in Trick ‘r Treat.

The characters that did not require CGI were great as well. The elves were dressed in a very smart way so that they didn’t require a lot of practical effects makeup. They were mostly just shrouded in rags with horns on their heads and glowing eyes. Krampus was of course very well done. They made him this massive horned beast with cloven hooves wearing a large cloak and covered in chains. His silhouette was so striking, and it definitely had a frightening impact when you see it for the first time. His face was probably my favorite part though. They made his face look almost like a doll or mask version of old Saint Nick, but it was distorted into a face of anger with eyes that were deep-set and demonic looking. He really was a beautifully dark character.

While the acting in this film overall was fantastic, Emjay Anthony (Chef) definitely stood out for me. In horror films I tend to find child actors to be either creepy as hell or so annoying you just want them to die already. Anthony not only did a great acting job, but he also managed to to portray a kid I could truly empathize with and I cared about his well being. Of course Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine) and Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) did an excellent job portraying their characters’ fear while also being hilarious. Another standout performance for me was Krista Stadler (Mobbing) as the wise Omi (which is German for grandma). I had never seen her in anything else before, but I loved that she brought more of the traditional German folklore aspect of Krampus and that she spoke virtually only in German the entire film.

I found this to be a very compelling tale that really dives into what is wrong with the holidays in modern times. What better way to solve those modern day problems than with an ancient evil? This film delves into the fact that Christmas has become this greedy, consumer and profit driven time of year. It is no longer about “good will toward men.” It really does seem appropriate to use a character like Krampus to teach a lesson to those who have lost what the true meaning of Christmas is. There were only a couple aspects of the story that I didn’t enjoy as much. The first being that there are a series of events at the climax of the film that seem much too rushed. It almost seemed like the filmmakers didn’t have enough time to give the events more care so they just crammed them all together in quick succession. The other aspect is the ending, but it’s not what you think. Obviously, I’m not going to give too much away. When the end finally came I felt incredibly underwhelmed by it. Don’t worry though, the film redeems itself before the credits start rolling so much so that I can’t imagine it ending any other way.

Krampus is a film that will be added to my list of Christmas movies I have to watch every year. It ties in old traditions with how the holidays are today. It has a compelling cast of characters from young Max to Krampus himself. There really isn’t much I can say about this film that isn’t good. Plus, this film is humorous enough with cutesy evil characters that you could probably introduce it to younger audiences (especially if they still believe in Santa so you can show them what happens when they are naughty). Definitely go see this film for the holiday season with the whole family, then rewatch it every year for Christmas.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10