Thursday, December 31, 2020

December to Dismember: SCARY LITTLE FUCKERS (2015), NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS (2013), SUGARPLUM (2017)

 Hey, remember when you were a kid and about a week after Christmas your mom would throw a present in front of you and say, “I just found this.” This is the cyber-version of that. We can’t tell you the number of times we clicked on a cool looking poster on Amazon Prime, only to be disappointed the attached film is a two-minute short. Yes, we're looking at you CHRISTMAS PRESENCE (2017) and STIRRING (2018). However, to prove we are not total micro-phobes, we end the year looking at some Christmas horror shorts.


Clearly drawing its inspiration from GREMLINS (1984), SCARY LITTLE FUCKERS opens with a drunk father stumbling into a curiosity shop looking for a gift for his 15-year-old son. “I have some kites in the back,” says the zit-marked owner, to which the dad replies, “I didn't say he was retarded. I said he was fifteen.” Ha! Okay, so it’s going to be one of those kinds of films. Instead of a tethered treat, the dad focuses on a pair of unseen creatures held in cages. The owner says they are rare creatures called Fookahs and relents on giving them to the father but with the warning they can never be put in the same cage together. At home his son Kyle (Josh Fontaine) is still despondent over his mother’s suicide last year, but invites over Peggy (Anna Rizzo) to see the Fookahs. Naturally, she immediately demands to see what happens when you put them together and soon scary little Fookahs are running amok in the house.

Running a scant 23-minutes, this short by Nathan Suher declares its maturity level in the opening crawl with the credit “...and Monica Saviolakis as Lesbian Dr. Anne.” Why on Earth would I care if she was Haha. This horror-comedy moves at a pretty fast clip and keeps the goofy jokes coming fast and furious. I liked Fontaine as the obviously-not-fifteen son and Rich Tretheway is funny as the lascivious drunk dad. One gag even got a genuine laugh out of me as the father and son head into a fallout shelter and it is the exact same living room we saw earlier. “I wanted it to feel like home,” says the dad. Clever bit and clever filmmaking cheat. The Fookahs are goofy little creatures, looking kind of like Krites from the CRITTERS films crossed with that hairy monster sidekick from THE DARK CRYSTAL. The production values are pretty solid and the flick actually ends right when things get interesting as dad and son emerge from the shelter with plenty of guns to take on the beasts. I actually kind of wish the filmmakers had expanded this into a feature film. The end credits promise the Fookahs will return, but as of Christmas 2020 these mutherfooking Fookahs have laid dormant. - William Wilson


Like so many other things in cinematic life, if you love it, then somebody else loves it and like as not, that someone else is a hamfisted idiot. If you enjoy science fiction, J.J. Abrams has repeatedly crushed your insignificant little soul. At the other end of the spectrum, if you like Krampus, there are so many hacks willing to destroy your dark Christmas dreams. Or at least completely use the character as a marketing tool, relegated to a throw-away role while the videomakers focus on what they consider to be the more interesting elements.

Rue Morgan (Khristian Fulmer) is an undead 1930's guy (I'm guessing based on his outfit), who has been cursed to be a graveyard caretaker for all eternity to keep an eye out for supernatural occurrences (other than his own, I'm assuming). Aside from the (I presume) general manager and romantic interest, Claire Renfield (Erin Lilley), not to be confused with Claire Redfield, Rue's BFF is a skeleton torso with attached skull by the name of Herbie West who wears hats and cracks wise while strapped to Rue's back. This is an awful lot of set-up and an awful lot of surmise on the viewer's part, because as it turns out this is actually a sequel to a short from writer-director Thomas Smith, titled THE NIGHT SHIFT (2009), which was in 2011 expanded to a longer short with the same title. I am also assuming that "Thomas Smith" is his government issued witness relocation name, so that nobody in Hollywood will ever be able to find him.

This time out, our supernatural guardians are investigating the disappearance of neighborhood children who have all gone missing on Christmas. Never mind that Krampus Night is December 5th. After poking around houses and interviewing a little girl who was not at all perturbed about witnessing Krampus coming down the chimney and shoving her brother Bobby into a sack, they realize that there is a Swedish Krampus worshiping cult (well, one dude) in the neighborhood who is summoning Krampus with a ritual "Alpine summoning goblet" (a Spirit store skull bowl). This all leads to Rue brawling with a hoodie-wearing cultist, who couldn't afford a robe, I guess, who summons Krampus (in Swedish!) which leads to Rue brawling with Krampus. Uhh, you guys know that the Alps are not in Sweden, right?

I have to say, there is a lot to nitpick here, with stuff like getting the legends a little wrong, not informing audiences that this is a sequel, the real villain being some random dude, and a sharp decline in jokes during the last act. That said I kind of enjoyed the first 10 minutes or so when the jokes were rolling in at a steady pace and Herbie, our semi-skeleton, was cracking wise. Unfortunately as soon as our duo leave Herbie in the car and start wandering around (err, I mean, searching for clues), and subsequently freeing kids, getting into fights, the 30 minute short starts feeling like a half-baked amateur production. I mean, it is - it was an Indiegogo campaign that only made 16% of it's goal, but still, a little bit more effort would have paid off.

Even with the flaws, I fell into its groove in the first third, before getting kicked out with what seems to be a real lack of interest in the titular subject. Sure they didn't have the money for a Michael Dougherty Krampus costume, but even so, the modified gorilla suit with what looks like a '60s housecoat, is pretty underwhelming, particularly if you've ever seen pics of real Krampus holiday costumes from the Alpine regions. Adding insult to injury, Krampus is just a stooge that gets his ass kicked by a NEWSIES extra and is basically a servant of a suburban hoodie guy. Not very threatening. Honestly, if it had been about Satanists, who actually wore hooded robes, numbered in the multiples (instead of one), and maybe were setting up a human sacrifice or something, even though that would have been more cliched, it would have been more fun and they could have made jokes about the genre. To paraphrase Willie Nelson; Momma's, don't let your babies grow up to be Krampus fans. - Thomas Sueyres


Remember that saying about saving the best for last? Well, this is 2020 and that means we are living in Opposite Land. Getting hoodwinked right off the bat, this 47-minute movie is actually an anthology of five different chapters, although three chapters are just the same segment broken up. Yeah, it’s that kind of film. “A Curious Gift” is the first chapter and focuses on Harry (Josiah Liciaga) and Marv (Samuel David Sosa) spending Christmas Eve with their wives, the sisters Claire and Ali. Doing some last minute shopping, Harry and Marv head into an occult store to get something for Harry’s mom (“My mom’s into this type of shit,” he later says). They meet Madame Zena and she offers Harry a burlap sack with the following super realistic dialogue.

Zena: “Have a look. But be warned, what you see is real and what it cautions against should be respected.”
Harry: “Who the hell are you?”
Zena: “Madame Zena.”
Harry: “I’ll take it!”

Once at home, the guys open the bag to find a tiny skeletal Sugar Plum Fairy statue. It comes to life after Harry gets blood on it and kills Ali and Claire. The second chapter “Dark Creations” inexplicably jumps to 1988 as we see Buford, his sister Maggie and her boyfriend James around a campfire. Buford tells the story of the origin of the Sugar Plum Fairies, which took place a long time ago in the European town of Olden located in an “elusive region called the North” (actual line). He tells of how Krampus attacked the village and St. Nicholas showed up to save them. He is described as follows: “a Viking-like man stood at the edge of the village, garbed in a lavishly dark set of armor and draped with the hides and furs of some ancient and unknown beast. The man’s face was hidden behind the oversized cloak and all that could be seen was a long, ashy beard pouring out from beneath the hood.” Okay, mental exercise time: Close your eyes and imagine what that bad ass would look like and then come back to this review. You’re back? Okay, now prepare yourself how they presented this in the film. Ready? Have a look: 

(insert THE PRICE AS RIGHT loser horn here) Yup, that is bad ass Ol’ Saint Nick according to this film and he gets into a totally non-epic battle with Krampus that ends with the horned beast creating the demonic Sugar Plum Fairy totems. Jeez, shouldn’t this story have been first? Anyway, chapter three is “Dead Before Christmas” and returns us to Harry’s house where he and Marv are killed by the Sugar Plum Fairy, which is now a chick with horns and big teeth. The fourth story is “Not the Loon Squad” and is the shortest. No joke, it is just three rednecks in the woods talking about how they are hunting a fairy. They read a scroll that says they have to kill it before dawn. One guy says, "Let’s just not let her get the drop on us." That is legit the whole story. Oh, it is also randomly set in December 2001. WTF??? The film returns to Harry’s house for the final chapter “Milk & Cookies” as the Sugar Plum Fairy walks through the house before she is stabbed by Santa Claus. The four dead folks wake up at the table and have a drink with Santa.THE END!

MY GAWD!? Where do I even start with this film? I hate to bash an indie filmmaker for actually making something and I feel bad being the first IMDb review, but good lord this was brutal. I guess calling it a film is being generous. Writer-director-editor-producer Brandon Tobatto jokes in the opening credits that the film was “chopped” (aka edited) by him. A more apt term could not be found. SUGARPLUM is a total mess both in terms of editing and storytelling. Why in the hell is the origin story of the fairies the second segment? Why is it set in 1988? Why did you break up one solid segment? Why does the animated Krampus/St. Nick story look like it was drawn by a 5-year-old? Why are Harry and Marv constantly talking about the former house owner having an Easter fetish? Actually, I know the answer for that as, according to the IMDb, Tobatto apparently weaves several of his films together in something called the Looniverse. I’m sure the Marvel Cinematic Universe is shaking in its boots. Matching the scattershot storytelling are the bad acting and out-of-focus shots that make this an all out attack on all five senses. Yes, even touch because you will be slapping yourself for watching this. It is easily the worst thing I’ve seen this year. If you know my viewing habits, that says a lot. If 2020 is the year that threw the entire world a swift and hard kick to the nutsack, ending with this nutcracker as my final viewing is pretty appropriate. - William Wilson

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