I didn’t think of December as a good month for horror movies, but I gotta say, December 2015 has changed my mind. There aren’t many December horror movies, since the release calendar this month is pretty much dominated by family-friendly holiday movies and Oscar-bait. However, the movies below all seem like solid efforts (at least based on their trailers) with dynamic concepts. It seems to more than make up for the scarce horror release calendar.
Enjoy! Let me know what you think in the comments!
DECEMBER 4, 2015
“While the holiday season represents the most magical time of year, ancient European folklore warns of Krampus, a horned beast who punishes naughty children at Christmastime. When dysfunctional family squabbling causes young Max (Emjay Anthony) to lose his festive spirit, it unleashes the wrath of the fearsome demon. As Krampus lays siege to the Engel home, mom (Toni Collette), pop (Adam Scott), sister (Stefania LaVie Owen) and brother must band together to save one another from a monstrous fate.”
This has been garnering a lot of buzz for a long time, and for good reason it seems. I love the kind of hokey premise because Christmas movies are kind of hokey. Christmas has always been a natural inspiration for horror movies, and a Christmas comedy-horror seems like an especially good idea. And seriously, what better setting for a comedy-horror movie than a house crowded with family members who’ve had a little too much beer and get on each other’s nerves?
To pull this movie off, it needs to achieve an Evil Dead 2 vibe, i.e. balance laughs with genuine scares/gore. They really can’t afford to pull any punches on the horror element. But oh please, Dear Lord Baby Jesus, lying there in your…your little ghost manger, please PLEASE make this movie good! I need a Christmas comedy-horror. There are some great Christmas horror movies, but I need a funny one.
The World of Kanako
“A former detective (Koji Yakusho) learns a shocking secret about his teenage daughter (Nana Komatsu) while investigating her disappearance.”
Oh wow, this looks intriguing.
A little background on this film—it was actually released in Japan last year, but Alamo Drafthouse has worked it’s magic and brought this movie stateside. Alamo Drafthouse loves to promote unique, outside-the-Hollywood-system films, especially ones it finds to be, “An operatically cinematic tale of lurid murder and revenge.”
Honestly, the plot seems a little bit like well-worn territory, thanks to the tried and true formula of an anti-hero cop descending into the seedy underworld to rescue a pretty and innocent ingénue. But the cinematography looks brilliant. It also seems like maybe this movie really goes there, to a place truly depraved and shocking. The general consensus is that The World of Kanako is unrelenting in its depiction of extreme violence.
DECEMBER 18, 2015
He Never Died
“Jack (Henry Rollins), a social outcast, is thrust out of his comfort zone when the outside world bangs on his door and he can’t contain his violent past.”
Well this is a new riff on the Biblical-Cain-As-A-Cursed-Immortal story. It’s used sometimes to explain the origin of Vampires, as Cain was cursed to wander the earth for killing his brother Abel. Personally, I’ve always loved movies about Biblical/supernatural entities moving undetected amongst humans. Think Constantine, The Prophecy, and The Seventh Seal.
I kind of like the whole angle this movie seems to be going for, since Henry Rollins has such a dry humor about him. I appreciate that there seems to be a self-deprecating edge that doesn’t soften how brutal Henry Rollins’ character will be. It doesn’t seem to be too mopey, and while this particular subgenre works with contemplative and moody portrayals, that can get old after a while, you know?
Son of Saul
“In the horror of 1944 Auschwitz, a prisoner forced to burn the corpses of his own people finds moral survival upon trying to salvage from the flames the body of a boy he takes for his son.”
This is a unique entry as far as typical horror movies go, but that’s a good thing. The subject matter, on its own, is horrific enough—the protagonist is forced to dispose of bodies of Jews murdered in Auschwitz. While performing this terrible work, he stumbles upon the body of his son and resolves to find a rabbi among the prisoners who will give the child a proper funeral. Meanwhile, the Allies are coming and the Nazis are rushing to murder as many prisoners as they can.
There’s been some question on whether this is straight horror or not. I think it is. I understand that reaction, since we tend to think of the Holocaust as material for intense dramas If the definition of a horror movie is to elicit a strong, visceral reactions by exposing and exploiting the audience’s darkest fears, then yeah, this movie is horror.
Also, this quote from director László Nemes is very telling: “The safe path for the viewer is for us to know where good and bad lies, where the guilt lies, where the bad guys lie,” he said. “There are little signals that most movies use to reassure viewers unconsciously. I wanted people not to have these signals and just to experience a direct visceral sensation.”
“A new girl in a quiet town, Tess tries to manage her psychosis while adjusting to her new life with her mom. After stumbling upon the shrine of Lucy, a hit and run victim, Tess finds herself overwhelmed by hallucinations of the dead girl.”
This looks awesome! And brutal, in a good way! Moodily shot, some impressive acting (from the trailer, so take that with a grain of salt), and some genuinely unsettling sequences. While “mentally unstable ingénue” is among the top-five horror archetypes, I’m hopeful this movie can do some new things with it, especially since director Sonny Mallhi is has a lot of experience with horror films, having served as producer on Shutter, The Strangers, and The House At The End Of The Street (with varying success, obviously).
The general consensus seems to be that Anguish is very atmospheric and nuanced, with all the expected scares and creepiness, but well-developed characters and relationships that add a pervasive sense of tension and dread. A quote from Fangoria’s review of the film called it “he creepiest and most resonant American independent horror film since It Follows.“ I don’t know about you, but I loved It Follows, so if Anguish anywhere close to being as enjoyable as It Follows, it will be a worthwhile movie.
Hope y’all enjoy these! If not, check out these other Christmas horror movies. Happy Holidays!