Friday, December 1, 2017

December to Dismember: KRAMPUS 2: THE DEVIL RETURNS (2016)

 As you may have the unfortunate luck to remember, two years we talked about a few Krampus movies and leading off the much exploitable Mass of Christ was Jason Hull's shot-on-video, mind-dullingly incompetent KRAMPUS: THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL (2013). It was by far the most brutally tedious chores to sit through that I have endured in a long, long time. And I sat through DRACULA: LIVE FROM TRANSYLVANIA (1989). Well, I say that, but KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING (2015) was so bad that it didn't even get reviewed. And if you know us at all, you know that is bad.

Apparently ITN made enough money off of suckers digging though Walmart bargain bins that three years later we have been blessed with a follow-up that has no idea where it's going. Oh, and this write-up will be full of spoilers, but really, I'm doing you a favor. If you read this, you won't have to watch it.

Opening with a scene in which a couple of jackass kids are busting up an unoccupied house, after finding beer just sitting out on the counter (!), the titular devil apparently takes offence at the fat kid spray painting "Mary X-Mas" on the wall and promptly... well, does nothing because we fade to black and get a lengthy title sequence. So lengthy, in fact, that the opening and ending credits comprise almost 10 minutes of the scant 80 minute running time. I'd say that was a good thing, but the movie portion is 70 minutes that goes on so long that it makes BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017) seem like a sizzle reel.

Once again, it is a White (trash) Christmas in whatever town this is supposed to be and our biker-bearded Santa (Paul Ferm) is working the local mall or portrait studio and having bratty teenagers sit on his lap and ask for videogames. Santa is apparently one of those progressive tough-love types and says that the kid should give his thumbs a rest. After yanking on his beard, in a bizarre reference to MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947), and calling him a phony, the kid goes down on Santa's naughty list. And you know what that means! It means that eventually, when the screenwriters (yes, there are two) get around to it, Krampus is going to bag his ghetto ass! As it turns out, literally.

Apparently, in the time between films, the town has been in an uproar over the constant disappearance of children that the police have been at a loss to explain. This Christmas handfuls of people are rioting around the police station making things so bad that, yes, they have no choice but to bring back ex-officer Jeremy Duffin (A.J. Leslie). You may unfortunately remember that Jeremy's daughter was taken by Krampus leaving him an obsessed, frequently out of focus, suicidal cop who tracks down the Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber of the Bon Noel.

During the years after he quit the force, Jeremy has grown hair and a beard, setting the scene for the "back in business" sequence where he is convinced to go after Krampus and Santa (who, again, is working in a public place) because they found his daughter's cheap-ass bracelet dangling off of a bush. This could only mean one thing! She's still alive and Jeremy must shave off all his hair while muttering to himself in the mirror, for a very, very long time.

Ironically considering the title, but not so if you've actually seen the first movie, Krampus barely even figures into the plot and could have been left out entirely. Mainly he wanders around looking like a yuletide homeless guy (when you can actually see him!), peeking in windows and pissing off The Clause who reads him the riot act about his "rouge bullshit", straying off the list. These two knuckleheads hang out at an abandoned house outside of town where they keep all the kids that they have napped. Some are in cages, while some are just sitting on the floor, within easy reach of the door to freedom, just waiting for Santa and Krampus to return to dish out some whippings. Fuck it, these kids are idiots and don't deserve to escape.

Just when you have come to grips with the tedium, director and co-writer Hull decides that he's bored with these characters (possibly more so than the viewer) and decides that he wants to make an entirely different movie about a biker guy named Stuart (R.A. Mihailoff) who may be some sort of gang boss, or maybe not, we are never told. What is explained is that, in the last movie, Stuart's brother (the short, skinny home-invader who looks nothing like Mihailoff) was shot by Jeremy, so now he must have his revenge! Why has he waited three years to wreak his wrath on a guy who lives in the same freaking town? Who knows? But he does, and his master plan is to send a couple of guys and his apparently stripper girlfriend, Natasha (Melantha Blackthorne), out to a bar that is the hang out of the entire police force, to kidnap him and take him to the old abandoned house outside of town. Can you see where this is going? Yeah, after a while it'll get there.

Of course these geniuses, once in the bar, realize that trying to kidnap a cop in the middle of a thriving bar filled with cops, may not have been the best possible strategy. This leads to a female cop (Tiffani Fest) chasing down Natasha and engaging in the most embarrassingly clumsy cat-fight ever staged. Yay? It also features the most idiotic dialogue of the movie (which is saying something) during this ho down - err, I mean, throw down. Says Natasha "my mom always told me to fuck what you kill!" I'll leave you to make sense of that on your own.

During the arrest in the bar, one of the perps drops his car keys which leads to Jeremy finding a cell phone in the car with the address of the abandoned house that he was supposed to be taken to on it. If this was a real movie from the '70s or '80s they would have just had a car-chase that lead there and none of this contortionist scriptwriting. Wait, wasn't this supposed to be a Krampus movie?

Arriving at the abandoned house Jeremy is promptly knocked out and tied to a satanic alter while a topless girl in a plague mask humps him and carves an infinity symbol in his chest. After waking up, we find out that not only was it not a dream, but the girl who is doing the humping is his daughter! What? Wait, what?! This culminates with a slow-mo shoot out between the white trash guys and the, uhhh, white trash guys, that is so poorly staged and doesn't even bother to splatter any blood on the victim of a shotgun blast to the chest. Maybe Maihailoff's paycheck dipped into the squib and fake blood budget... or Jason Hull is just the laziest motherfucker ever.

After everyone except Jeremy is dead, Santa blames him for ruining his family life by shooting his daughter and the infinity symbol is representative of the fact that "this will never end". I may have started weeping in despair at this point. I really, really wanted it to end. Santa and the Krampmas gimp wander off leaving Jeremy tied to a chair and the audience dreading another sequel. No, really, that's it. You're welcome.

Brother, if anyone deserves to be on the Naughty List it's Jason Hull. He actually manages to make a Christmas horror film that is barely Christmas and almost not at all horror the second time out. It seems like he realized that nobody would pay for the pathetic cops vs biker film that he wanted to make, so he stuffed in a few scenes of Santa and Krampus and called it KRAMPUS 2. Not that the original was much better, but it did feature a little more of the X-mas villains, so I guess that's... good, maybe?

You know the old joke that goes "at least it's in focus"? Unlike the first one, I can finally say that (mostly) about this one. Yes, Hull has learned how to focus his video camera, or at least do retakes when his shots are blatantly blurry and in that respect he has grown as a film - uhhh, I mean videomaker. This time the sound levels aren't equalized. While one scene is fine, the next is will be so quiet that you have to crank up the volume to hear the dialogue and then wonder why the hell you bothered. In addition to that, he still can't write, choreograph, or really any of the other things that typically go into a writer/director's job. There are people out there who start off in video who you want to see grow as a filmmaker. Unfortunately I don't have enough time in my life to see Jason Hull grow into a competent filmmaker and neither does he.

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