A Spanish supernatural horror hyped as being so scary it caused heart attacks and for viewers to switch it off. I’ve had my fingers burned by similarly worded hype campaigns before, as I recall actually being cautious to see The Blair Witch Project back in the day and well, that turned out to be a pile of shite. However this also had Paco Plaza attached as director, one half of the duo that delivered the excellent [REC] and its equally impressive sequel.
Veronica, a school girl who pretty much runs the house, looking after her younger siblings whilst their single mother works all hours, holds a seance involving a Ouija board along with two friends in a bid to contact her dead father. Predictably things don’t go to plan and soon theirs some sort of demonic entity out to claim the souls of her brother and sisters. So Veronica has to find out how to banish the demon and save the day.
Paco Plaza’s direction is moody and stylish with some clever camera work and decent gradual build up of dread. Set-pieces such as hands coming out of a bed or some ravenous kids are well done but an over-familiarity with the subject matter quickly creeps in and makes this pale in comparison to similar fair like Insidious or The Conjuring. It’s just not all that scary. The principle cast do their job but are all more serviceable than particularly memorable. Not essential then, but if you’ve exhausted most mainstream horror offerings, then there’s still entertainment to be had with this.
I can’t say these days I’m really a Christmas person and well, stopped watching Christmas themed movies a while back. It’s something about the traditions, the schmaltz and the build up that mostly leaves me cold. However outside of Christmas is watching a Christmas movie wrong? Well I did it anyway, thankfully this one spins such age old traditions on their head.
A dysfunctional family are getting together to spend Christmas eating, getting drunk and arguing. There’s a few stereotypes, such as the moody teenage daughter, the annoying brother in law, the creepy grandma and the wise beyond his years little kid. It wear’s its clichés with pride however and perfectly sets the tone for a decidedly old-school yarn – with a bit of a sting in it’s tale. You see said kid has lost all faith in the spirit of Christmas and just wishes his family were ‘like how they used to be’ and then suddenly, there’s a power cut, the town is blanketed in snow and something is lurking in the shadows.
For this one think Gremlins, a clear inspiration with a smattering of Critters and Poltergeist for good measure. We get demonic Gingerbread Men, a mutated jack-in-the-box and the Krampus itself; a horned, hooved and cloaked monster. I had a ball with this. It’s very 80’s in its look and feel, and the cast of mostly b-list actors (with Toni Collette of Sixth Sense and Muriel’s Wedding fame) all do a good job of portraying their caricature-styled roles. Along with a fun animated flashback to when one character first met the titular demon, this is packed with energy and creativity. The reasoning behind why shit-goes-down initially seemed a bit ‘really?’, and that final scene felt like a cop-out. And yes, it could have been scarier (it still managed to be creepy in the right places) and more violent … but as a fairly audience-friendly horror this still managed to deliver a quality evening’s viewing that’s worth checking out Christmas or not.
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