As we move into the secondary festive season (after Halloween, of course), it’s hard to resist being charitable to the films that come through my Google Inbox. Don’t worry though, hard as it was, I have indeed resisted.
Writer and director Thomas Smith’s Night of the Krampus starts off promisingly, with an effectively intimidating yet still humourous opening. Krampus comes down the chimney, squashes presents, abducts children. It’s obvious, but it works nicely. The Krampus himself is well realised. Nicely avoiding the Coca-Cola Christmas colours he’s often clad in (when not cutting a Devil-in-the-nude figure), he’s sporting some off-white robes very reminiscent of that other fictional character Christmas revolves around.
The rest of the film however is derivative in the extreme. The characters, writing, direction and acting are pulling solely from one source: Joss Whedon. There’s no shame in wearing your influences on your sleeve, Tarantino has made a living from it; when you only have one influence on show however, you are an imitation. Without any of its own personality worked in to give it some different flavours we can only directly compare it to the likes of Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and every aspect it comes up short.
There is one character whose’ design doesn’t come from straight from Whedon, and that’s the talking skeleton strapped to actor Khristian Fulmer’s back. And the reason he doesn’t come from from a Whedon work is because he’s lifted almost directly from Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy – specifically the character Ivan Klimatovich, another ill-tempered undead comic relief strapped to the protagonist’s back. It’s cringe inducing, almost unbearably so, to see two well respected entities in the horror genre, both known for their charming invention, completely plagiarized in any film, short independant or not (I do not believe in patronising indie filmmakers).
However the cardinal sin the film commits is regularly inserting advertising blocks into itself to break it up into episodes within the movie. Firstly, every time I have an advert jammed into my face as I am trying to get into a story, it significantly decreases the likelihood of me pursuing it. Secondly, this is presented as a whole short film, so show me a whole short film. If you want it to be episodes, break it up properly into episodes. As it stands this is a short film with lots of advert breaks.
At the end of the day this movie might be solely intended to be a love letter to Joss Whedon. But I don’t care, because it doesn’t stand up on its own. And I think that’s rubbish. Merry Christmas.