Studio: Uncork’d Entertainment
Director: Robert Conway
Writer: Robert Conway
Producer: Robert Conway
Stars: Amelia Brantley, Bryson Holl, Caroline Lassetter, Taylor Buckley, Tim Sauer, Emily Lynne Aiken, Daniel Link, Tori Osborn, Michael Harrelson, Linda Cushma, Travis Amery
A dysfunctional family’s holiday turns into terror when a forgotten outlaw’s ancient summoning stone unleashes Krampus.
“Krampus Unleashed” comes from Robert Conway, the same writer/director responsible for 2015’s “Krampus: The Reckoning” (review here). It isn’t a sequel though, so you don’t need to have seen the previous film.
The good news is you don’t need to see this movie either. The bad news is I already did.
America’s west was still wild in 1898. After a 10-year spree of committing cowboy crimes, German-born outlaw Eric Klaus (groan) finally felt lawmen closing in for the kill. Klaus quickly buried his ill-gotten goods in the ground, but not before warning that Hell would descend upon anyone who dared to disturb his loot. Klaus’ curse was forgotten some indeterminate amount of time later. Now a group of treasure hunters searching for gold sets out to do the very thing Klaus grimly advised against.
That premise has potential for period piece action, except the movie’s micro-budget doesn’t have moolah to depict any of it. Momentarily ignoring its existence in a visual storytelling medium, “Krampus Unleashed” instead delivers all of the above information via seven screens of text. As any first-year filmmaking instructor can confirm, when the only option for introducing an audience to a setup and immersing them in a narrative is an out-of-the-gate word wall, there is a fundamental flaw in the screenplay’s structure.
Playing loose with the Krampus legend, additional background is some mumbo jumbo that isn’t half bad about a summoning stone Saint Nicholas used to conjure evil for crushing his enemies. What outlaw Eric Klaus (sigh) buried in the desert was a cursed coal lump that when touched by flame, can unleash Krampus to kill. A carelessly kicked oil lamp does exactly that and the ambiguously outfitted treasure hunters meet their promised fate in cheesy B-movie fashion. At least we get to see it rather than have to read about it.
Fast forward again. It’s present day and two sides of the Henderson clan are uniting their extended families at grandma and grandpa’s house for the holidays. Circumstances are awkwardly uncomfortable for everyone, particularly viewers, but Uncle David (not Dave) convinces his brother-in-law and their two boys to go panning for gold in a creek. Because what could be more entertaining to a teen and a 10-year-old in 2016 than swirling dirt around in some water?
Little Tommy finds the stone. Bratty bully Troy flicks a lit cigarette. The two items touch and the film’s title comes to fruition. From a pair of hillbilly hunters to some guy in an inflatable hot tub, no one is safe from the Christmas Devil, including every last member of the Henderson family.
The characters and storyline of “Krampus: The Reckoning” may not carry over to “Krampus Unleashed,” but the same sorts of technical troubles do. Sad to say that one year has not made an appreciable difference in what this filmmaking crew can bring to the screen.
Indie horror efforts sometimes struggle with inconsistent color timing, absentee light sources, and other pimples indicative of a low-budget look. Rough edges are par for the course in this territory and “Krampus Unleashed” is in it deep. But should there be a third Krampus film from this team, the only thing they should ask for from Santa is someone to show them how to record room tone and edit it into consistent ambient noise.
The audio quality in “Krampus Unleashed” is absolutely atrocious. An off-key vocalist in an opening credits Christmas carol sounds like he is singing through a cardboard tube. Characters will have conversations where crickets chirp in one person’s close-up, but not in the other’s. Sound consistently cuts so harshly between shots that there may not be a single scene whose audio doesn’t confess it comes from multiple takes.
“Krampus Unleashed” runs only 75 minutes and can’t competently fill that short span. While the ADHD storyline routinely interrupts itself to check on whatever boring thing is happening in one of seven subplots, the audience is subjected to unused background about a local lawman being one woman’s ex-boyfriend, overlong yuk-yuks with two dimwit Sasquatch trackers, and countless more minutes of ultimately irrelevant material.
As with the previous film, Krampus again has nearly no bearing on the plot. He is a guy in a horned gorilla suit standing in as a slasher that could all the same be a supernatural clown, a smoke monster, or any average demon. Lack of snow in the Arizona setting doesn’t help stir any Christmas spirit either.
Performances are marginally better this time around than they were in “Krampus: The Reckoning,” though that is a low bar to beat. These colorful characters come close to making “Krampus Unleashed” a slightly more entertaining watch. However, the horrible audio quality is such a persistent distraction that the overall viewing experience is nearly unbearable, earning a thumb pointed down just as far.
Review Score: 15