Two films for those who need horrid stories for Christmas.
Written and Directed by Eshon and Ian Nelms
Starring Mel Gibson, Walton Goggins, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Chance Hurtsfield
Fatman is propelled by the wounded, tired but resilent performance of Mel Gibson, who plays the not quite jolly old soul with a world weary dread. His Chris Cringle is concerned with the overhead of making gifts for children and with the reality that the world is getting less and less full of kids who deserve them. His performance is balanced out by Walton Goggins’ hit man, who’s been searching for Santa for years in order to settle a score.
The tone of the film goes between dark humor and genuine darkness. This feeling is balanced with the performance of Jean-Baptiste as Mrs. Cringle. Her authentic kindness and intelligence give Gibson a levity to keep the viewer engaged when other parts of the story lag. Goggins is a capable actor when it comes to comedy, action and drama. Here as Skinny Man, he plays it almost too close to the vest to be enjoyable. He doesn’t grow. He doesn’t learn. He looks for Santa and then goes after him.
The peripheral story involving an awful little boy, Billy Wenan (Hurstfield) who has too much money and no father around works, for the most part. It’s entertaining to see how he works around his situation and has turned it to his benefit. Billy’s story provides the glue to the other two storylines. It is interesting that Skinny Man has spent so many years searching for Santa, but it takes getting a contract before he actually finds him.
The Nelms have created a memorable Christmas film, if not an altogether classic one. The ending provides a shock for those who like their Holiday films to have hugging and learning. There is learning in this film. It’s not the kind of lesson that warms the cockles of one’s heart.
(*** out of *****)
Director Michael Dougherty
Screenplay Todd Casey, Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields based on the Austro-Bavarian folk story
Starring Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owenm Krista Stadler, Lolo Owen
Krampus is a competently told tale of PG-13 horror where we get a dose of effects that work good enough, while the story brings us to the point of boredom. The first part of the story gives the viewer a rendition of Christmas Vacation, only the visiting cousins are self-aware conservative boors who terrorize poor Max (Anthony) to the point that he stops believing in Christmas. The story becomes more interesting the moment he tears up his letter to Santa.
From here, there is no real obvious way in which each family member is knocked off. To the film’s credit, they don’t over use any one source of the terror. The best sequence is the first, however, with the horrible caterpillar ranking a close second. There is no real attempt at acting here, even though no one outside of Koechner really embarrasses themselves. Since when has Koechner not embarrassed himself.
There is a nice connection between Jack-In-The-Box’s and the beast itself, but the viewer likely won’t feel they know who in the hell Krampus really is by the end of the film. Perhaps that is for the best.
Dougherty used this film as a springboard to Godzilla and it’s pretty clear why he got the gig. He knows how to build a scene around practical effects, even if the overall effect is muted by a second and third act that knows where they are going, but doesn’t know how to get the actors to believe that they are going there.
(*** out of *****)