Director: James Klass
Writer: Scott Jeffrey, James Klass
Producer: Tara MacGowran
Stars: Claire-Maria Fox, Tony Manders, Faye Goodwin, Tara MacGowran, Michelle Archer, Oliver Ebsworth, Tom Bowen, Dottie James, Sian Crisp, Amy Burrows, Tim West, Penelope Read
Small town secrets threaten to tear apart families cursed by a witch who kidnaps children at Christmas.
After enduring the absolute awfulness of “Krampus: The Christmas Devil” (review here), “Krampus 2: The Devil Returns” (review here), “Krampus: The Reckoning” (review here), and “Krampus Unleashed” (review here) over a poorly spent four-day span, it was an easy matter to conclude that the only holiday horror film with the word “Krampus” in its title worth watching is Michael Dougherty’s eponymous Universal Pictures hit (review here). The arrival of “Mother Krampus” doesn’t alter that sentiment, though in fairness, Krampus has next to nothing to do with the movie.
“Mother Krampus” is actually “12 Deaths of Christmas,” retitled for its North American home video release because obviously, fright flick fans will watch anything remotely related to the infamous Anti-Claus. Look no further than my own self-inflicted sadism of continuing to abuse eyes and ears with DTV Krampus krap despite the terrible track record outlined above.
“Mother Krampus,” or “12 Deaths of Christmas” depending on your distribution region, takes inspiration from the urban legend of Frau Perchta, a witch said to steal children’s souls. Perchta’s Christmas curse creatively combines with Freddy Krueger’s origin story as a small English town faces the anniversary of condemning a local woman to be lynched for supposedly slitting five children’s throats. Molly Fletcher professed innocence, yet the angry townspeople cut open her stomach and hung her anyway. But not before Molly summoned Frau Perchta to come for her killers as well as their kids.
25 years later, Perchta finally gets around to fulfilling the curse. The wicked witch’s arrival coincides with some family melodrama involving little girl Amy, her newly single mother Vanessa, and grandfather Alfie, whose connection to Molly’s murder hides more than one dark family secret. Those secrets are exposed as adults start dying, children start disappearing, and Amy’s family learns its real role in bringing Frau Perchta’s blood ritual full circle.
Throughout the film’s first half, I was really rooting for it to win out as a respectable production for what is clearly a micro movie made with inexperienced actors. “Rough around the edges” doesn’t fully describe how jagged those lines are, yet a British flavour and seeming sincerity in the effort buffered tolerance for its low budget limitations.
Then the back half’s rudder falls off completely, leaving “Mother Krampus” to sputter and stall as it flails to fill a 90-minute film with only a 30-minute idea. By this point, tidings of goodwill evaporate and the warts on this witch’s nose obscure every other feature on her face.
Bluntly put, none of the kids featured in the film could act their way out of wet wrapping paper. Adult performers fare a bit better, though not by much.
Part of the blame falls on writing that isn’t synched to the staging. “I think there’s something inside,” says one boy to another after a tent five feet from them violently shakes and moans. “There aren’t many of us left,” one man says later to an assembly of nearly ten people. At this same meeting, everyone receives a warning that the witch is kidnapping children and likely hiding out in the woods. It thus makes a lot of sense when immediately after, one woman walks her nephew home alone in the dark through those woods. Guess what happens to them?
If gore lights your Yule log, “Mother Krampus” at least features several Christmas-themed kills. One mutilated corpse is turned into a festive light display. Another’s flesh is cut into cannibal cookies. One more gets carved up and baked like a turkey. So the movie has that much I suppose, although you still have to swim through a Swiss cheese screenplay, wince-inducing acting, and shoddily edited scenes to get there.
Way off timing fails to create any tension whatsoever. One scene of the witch coming for a girl and her babysitter plays out over a 10-minute sequence alternating with a second story thread. Temptation to yell, “get on with it” rises high when the witch chokes out victims for prolonged periods, or when the camera continually cuts to someone choking on her own blood or otherwise dying slowly. For the finale, several characters die repeated deaths as though they are concluding “Lord of the Rings” in the movie’s attempt to draw out its climax.
There are forgivable sins when working within indie horror constraints. Slipshod scripting isn’t one of them. Although delightfully daffy, the eventual outcome is more absurd than entertaining because the broken pieces putting “Mother Krampus” together function even worse when they are out on the board at the same time.
Alas, the search for a second recommendable Krampus-related movie continues, as “Mother Krampus” definitely isn’t it. All the while, the quality bar for approval continues sinking lower, lower, and lower.
Review Score: 40