Movie Review: “Krampus”

Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Emjay Anthony, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell
Michael Dougherty

It’s been eight long years since Mike Dougherty’s directorial debut, the excellent horror anthology “Trick ‘r Treat,” and he’s back to once again raise hell on the holidays with his sophomore effort. “Krampus” is a darkly funny Christmas film that features some solid laughs, playful set pieces and a fantastic use of practical effects.

Max (Emjay Anthony) loves Christmas. His family, however, doesn’t exactly share his excitement for the holidays: Max’s dad, Tom (Adam Scott), works too much; his mother, Sarah (Toni Collette), is a worrying control freak; and the rest of his family is constantly bickering and fighting. After Max tears apart his letter to Santa, asking for his family to be happy again, Krampus – an evil spirit who’s sort of like the anti-Santa Claus – comes to town. At its side is a horde of minions, including evil gingerbread men, a bloodthirsty teddy bear and a monstrous jack-in-the-box. If they hope to survive the night, Max’s family must put aside their problems and fight back.

The villains are the highlight of “Krampus.” Dougherty’s handmade approach to the film is exciting to watch. There’s a huge reliant on practical effects, making these monsters all the funnier, scarier and more believable. There’s very little noticeable CGI in the movie, with the exception of the comical gingerbread men.

But as fantastical as the story is, the threat in “Krampus” feels real. The first kill in the movie is unsettling, and as much as this family bickers, the audience cares when they’re attacked or mutilated. The actors, especially the young ones, bring a real sense of fear and sadness to the film. It also helps that Dougherty has a great handle of tension. When Max’s sister, Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen), is running from Krampus, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, it’s wonderfully timed.

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Movie Review: “The Overnight”

Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, Judith Godrèche
Patrick Brice

The early hype surrounding writer/director Patrick Brice’s “The Overnight” has it pegged as one of the funniest films of the year. But unfortunately for the Sundance favorite, which garnered rave reviews on the festival circuit before becoming the subject of a late-night bidding war in Park City, it’s a victim of its own exaggerated buzz. This has been a recurring theme in a number of my reviews lately, and it’s not so much the movie’s fault as those responsible for overselling it, because even though “The Overnight” features a promising premise and solid work from its lead quartet, it falls well short of the acclaim that it’s received. The film isn’t even that funny, relying on a series of uncomfortable situations that drive the underlying drama more than the comedy.

Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) are a young, sexually frustrated married couple that has recently moved from Seattle to Los Angeles for Emily’s career. Alex has graciously agreed to stay at home to raise their son, RJ, but the complete lack of a social life has made it difficult to find new friends. When their family attends a birthday party in the park one afternoon, RJ begins playing with a similarly-aged boy named Max, which leads to an introduction to the boy’s father, Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), who invites Alex, Emily and RJ over to his house for dinner to meet his beautiful French wife, Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), and welcome them to the neighborhood. The two couples immediately hit it off, but what starts out as a fun get-together becomes increasingly more bizarre as the night goes on, causing Alex and Emily to question their hosts’ true intentions.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Failed Pilots with All-Star Casts

As the new TV season rolls out, let’s take a look back at a few series that never actually made it on the air. Not that there aren’t plenty such series every single year, but sometimes you look back and wonder, “How could a show with all of these talented people not get on the schedule?” Not that we have an answer to that question, you understand, but at least we can all be mystified and annoyed together.

Next! (2001)

Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Fred Armisen, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn, Nick Swardson
What you missed out on: After Bob Odenkirk and David Cross decided to put a bullet in their HBO sketch comedy series, “Mr. Show” (that’s right, it was their decision, not the network’s), the guys attempted to go their separate ways, with Odenkirk setting up shop at Fox with a pilot for a new sketch comedy series. If you think the above names are impressive, consider that several other “Mr. Show” alumni were in tow as well, including Jerry Minor, Jay Johnston, and Jill Talley, with Patton Oswalt also participating in some capacity or other. And, yes, if you’re wondering, Cross made an appearance in the pilot, too. So what happened? Apparently, Fox basically flipped a coin to decide which new sketch comedy series they’d add to their lineup, and “Cedric the Entertainer Presents” won the toss. Oh, what might’ve been…

North Hollywood (2001)

Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Poehler, Kevin Hart, and Judge Reinhold as himself
What you missed out on: Judd Apatow has never been ashamed to admit that the only reason that this pilot ever came into existence is that Fox refused to let him cast Jason Segel as his lead in the short-lived but highly-regarded “Undeclared,” but you can’t say he didn’t do his best to surround Segel with top-notch talent. Segel, Amy Poehler, and Kevin Hart played roommates, with Segel a struggling actor, Hart a struggling actor/comedian, and Poehler serving as Judge Reinhold’s personal assistant. There’s a more detailed look at the pilot here, but the long and the short of it is that, although Apatow admits that he really didn’t know if there was a decent series to be had in “North Hollywood,” he thinks the pilot’s pretty decent, but its tone didn’t match the sitcoms filling ABC’s lineup at the time, so they took a pass on it.

Saddle Rash (2002)

Starring: H. Jon Benjamin, Sarah Silverman, Todd Barry, Mitch Hedberg
What you missed out on: Created by Loren Bouchard, best known to animation fans as one of the creative forces behind “Home Movies,” “Saddle Rash” seemed to have all the elements necessary for a successful Adult Swim series, so why didn’t it make it beyond the pilot stage? Was it that westerns weren’t exactly in vogue at the time? Was there some sort of stigma attached to the project because they brought in country artists to continued voice work (including Waylon Jennings as a very special guest in the pilot)? Whatever the case, the pilot got aired – no doubt mostly because Adult Swim has a tendency to air just about every pilot it orders, whether it actually ends up going to series or not – but that was the end of the trail for the series.

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