Tag Archives: holiday horror movies

He Knows When You’ve Been Naughty


by Hope Madden

Working wisely to make the most of limitations, writing/directing partners Dan Berk and Robert Olsen mine a slight premise to examine human nature and ask: What would you do?

Their feature directorial debut Body follows three bored friends home for the holidays. When Cali (Alexandra Turshen) suggests the trio abandon the tedium of Mel’s (Lauren Molina) house in favor of an uncle’s empty mansion, the stage is set for merrymaking gone wrong.

Helen Rogers, starring as third pal Holly, is making a name for herself in horror, which is almost a shame because she’s proven a talented writer, director, and even animator. But her delicate, good-girl sensibilities make her a perfect go-to for the genre. In Body, she gets the chance to be a bit more than simply the delicate flower.

Another genre staple, Larry Fessenden (We Are Still Here), capitalizes on his screen time, managing to remain sympathetic enough to generate tension but distant enough to keep you open to whatever happens.

Molina’s authenticity is sometimes jarring in a film populated with solid but not exceptional performances, but props to Olsen and Berk for investing as much as they do in character development before submerging us in a battle of selfish decision making.

Strangely enough, it may be the time spent developing the characters that weakens the overall tension and enjoyment, as well. The girls are bored – this is important, because if they weren’t bored they wouldn’t agree to Cali’s sketchy plan. The problem is, the first act of the film is dull because of it.

Berk and Olsen’s ideas are strong, but their writing is not especially so. Though the cast delivers believably enough as one new piece of information after another alters their plans, it’s pretty clear where things are going from the first big reveal and the film can’t manage to feel fresh from that point forward.

As an exercise in making the most of meager options, Body excels. It keeps your attention, and though you know what’s coming, it manages to compel interest in the ways in which choices are made and unmade. It’s a decent genre effort – nothing revolutionary, but entertaining nonetheless.



You Better Not Pout


by Hope Madden

Hometown boy Michael Dougherty, whose 2007 directorial debut Trick ‘r Treat is a seasonal gem, returns to the land of holidays and horror with his second effort behind the camera, Krampus.

This Christmas tale – not unlike Joe Dante’s ’84 smash Gremlins – hopes to spin a weird and horrifying yet not entirely family unfriendly yarn suitable for seasonal viewing. Young Max (Emjay Anthony) secretly still believes in Santa, but Christmas just isn’t what it used to be. Sure, his German grandmother Omi shares his sentiment, but not the rest of the family – stressed out upper crust parents (Toni Collette and Adam Scott), boorish relatives (led by the ideal oaf, David Koechner), and a cranky great aunt, played by Conchata Ferrell.

When family dysfunction pushes him too far, Max tears up his letter to Santa, unwittingly inviting in his stead, the evil shadow-Santa, Krampus.

The film looks good, the performances are solid, but Dougherty has trouble finding and keeping a tone. Though Koechner does deliver a handful of decent lines, the film, on the whole, is not funny, nor is it particularly scary.

Perhaps hamstrung by a PG-13 rating (unlike the similarly themed 2010 Dutch film Saint), Krampus feels too restrained for horror lovers, too horrific for families.

The ancient demon and his anti-merry makers get too little screen time, and though a couple of them get a fantastic design, Krampus himself is never as visually articulated as he should be.

Dougherty has put together a very talented cast and crafted some interesting characters for them, the writing (duties he shared with Todd Casey and Zach Shields) feels lazy. Often the film pauses for what would be a one-liner zinger, and instead we get the talented Conchata Ferrell delivering a line no more interesting than, “I got this.”

Heavy with sentiment but light on redemption or terror, Krampus is one of those Christmas treats that doesn’t feel quite worth the caloric intake.