Thursday, August 29, 2013

Short film review: Night of the Krampus

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Blog, 2013
Images from the Internet

Night of the Krampus
Written, edited and directed by Thomas Smith
Fighting Owl Films
26:24 minutes, 2013

Despite the hot temperature out there today, September is just a couple of days away and soon all the Christmas paraphernalia will be omnipresent. So why not discuss a film about the dark side of Santa, as it were?

Y’see, according to some actual legends out of the Alps area, the Krampus is a hairy, horned, long-tongued, coven-hoofed demon that is the negative side of Santa, punishing bad children to various degrees (from giving coal to eating them, depending on local lore), sometimes traveling with Santa, other times solo. [As an unrelated side note, I was thinking a melding of Santa and Krampus may produce the clown from IT… but I digress…]

There have been a number of Krampus presentations over the past few years, and Thomas Smith takes a fresh look at it through the eyes of his stalwart center characters from his film from 2010, The Night Shift. As a reminder, Rue Morgan, who died in the 1920s, is a ghost caretaker who protects a cemetery from evil through the graciousness of the mysterious “management” who run the graveyard build on an inter-dimensional rift. Dressed like Butch from the Little Rascals, and carrying a big revolver, he is the heroic character. Played by Khristian Fulmer, he’s a cinematic stereotypical jazz-era man’s man while being easily likeable. This is due entirely on Khristian’s role playing, making Rue into a charmer rather than being smarmy, thanks to his line readings. His companion is sharp-tongued (as it were) Herbie West (get it?), an armless and legless skeleton that Rue carries in his backpack, who expresses less than subtle hints of being Jewish, voiced well by Soren Odom.

Claire Rennfield and Rue Morgan are on the case
The last (but not least) of the troupe is the only one of the three still living, Claire Rennfield, played by Erin Lilley. She is the go-between for the residents of the cemetery and management. She also fits the “Rupert Giles” (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) role, up on most of the supernatural shenanigans through a book called the Phenomicon. And she’s going to need it on this new case for our bi-worldly detectives.

Apparently, some nasty kids (about tween years) around a cul-de-sac have gone missing around the holiday season, and management, believing it not to be of a natural cause, permit Rue and Herbie off the grounds – under the guardianship of Claire, of course. It isn’t long – and I mean what seems like an hour – before they’re smack dab in the middle. Well, after all, this is a short film.

I have to say I really like these three characters, and the actors have been in quite a few films together with director Smith, so they just seem very comfortable with each other. The dialog is usually snappy, and they all wear it like a leather glove. Sure, there isn’t time for character development in such a short piece, but thanks to some quick exposition – or if seen after The Night Shift – that’s enough.

Like many small films (this one cost about $5,000, through public fundraising), much of the crew wear many hats. For example, Erin also does quite a bit of the make-up for those natural and super-, including a terrific job on the Krampus (Brendon Cooke). Plus, I am willing to bet that she helps with the storyline and dialogue in an unofficial manner. Khristian supervises and choreographs the fight scenes, of which there is a long one between… well, I won’t give it away. Soren is more of a Renaissance man: not only does he voice Herbie, but he is director of photography, does the music, and handles some lighting.

There are still some growing pains here and there on a nit-pick level, such as one of the child actors always smiling (my guess due to being new on camera), and the apparent need to verbalize the obvious. An example of this is when Claire finds something in a back yard; she holds it up and announces it as “soot,” even though we just saw the same kind of smudge a few minutes before.

But the important thing is that this is a patter comedy that probably would have even played well in the theaters in the 40s, with Bob Hope in the lead. There are some nice tense moments, but generally this is solid PG. After some of the stuff I’ve seen lately, that is a nice relief.

I do want to add that I hope these likeable characters are continued. Heck, I’d love to see this as a weekly television show. It has its chills, and yet is stylized in a pleasing way. Having seen a few films of Smith’s, both full-length and shorts, he definitely has a style, and it is one I enjoy.

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