Before Christmas Review (Short Film)

This week I’ve been requested to review a 2016 film titled Before Christmas.

Independently written and directed by Chuyao He, the film follows a small, low income Chinese family as they relocate to the big city as a means to find work. The father (Lao Lee), along with his 18-year-old son Xiao Lee (Deyang Hou), find employment in a factory producing Christmas decorations. As the family endears the difficulties of sweatshop labor, Xiao must come to the harsh reality that his dream career may be just a fantasy.

Before Christmas displays undeniably professional camerawork, with fresh and interesting angles that still feel natural without coming off as pretentious. The film also utilizes minimal amounts of dialogue, allowing the actions of the small but talented cast to tell the story.

All throughout the film, our protagonist struggles with the underlying theme of loss of innocence, though not in a conventional Hollywood sense. Through hard work and dedication, you’d expect the main character to finally achieve his goal of becoming a professional musician. Before Christmas gives no such closure. Instead, Xiao learns the harsh reality many must ultimately face, that dreams of luxury are often just that. Dreams.

This is a message I find to be harsh and critical, but nonetheless necessary. Not everyone gets to be a coveted musician, a famous actor, or a wealthy writer. And sometimes our life situations dictate the possibilities of occupation.

Before Christmas is an incredibly well-thought-out film with a very unique message, one that’s seldom told. It impacted me emotionally in a way that was both profound and provocative. It made me contemplate the unfortunate manufacturing of Christmas, the tribulations many families face, and the unrealistic nature of stardom.

 

Check out the Before Christmas IMDB page here!

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

Krampus Review

Thanksgiving is almost here, meaning that we only have one month to go till Christmas. Since it feels to me as if Halloween were yesterday, I only felt it fitting that I watch a nice holiday horror film. Of the bunch, I chose Krampus, a gory and yet silly take on one of the best times of the year.

Krampus stars Adam Scott, David Koechner, Emjay Anthony, and many others as a dysfunctional family who seems to have lost their Christmas spirit. So on Christmas Eve they do not get a jolly visit from Santa. They instead are visited by the festive goat demon Krampus, who has come to punish them for losing their Christmas spirit. A very simple and not-so-sweet plot.

The first half of the film feels almost like Christmas Vacation. With a stressed out family having the wacky redneck relatives over for Christmas. All resorting in the dysfunctional family struggling to get along. And just like Christmas Vacation, all these scenes are very funny.

The second half of Krampus is where it becomes the holiday gorefest. This is when Krampus and his helpers make their move on the helpless family, attempting to pick them off one by one. The eerie but light mood the film is able to take on is very unusual. Even when Krampus and his helpers are onscreen I still felt this comical presence.

The designs of Krampus’s little monster helpers are very creative. There is a jack in the box that swallows people whole, like a big snake. There are also little killer gingerbread men and an evil carnivorous teddy bear. I could tell some of the designs were practical effects, which was interesting to see. Even Krampus himself was a giant costume, which made him look all the more cool.

Krampus really relies a lot on the acting talents of its stars to keep the audience entertained, which really works well! The chemistry between the cast is beyond anything I would have expected out of a horror flick about a goat demon.

In a way, that is what is so great about this film. It goes above and beyond in areas that you would not have expected Krampus to go. The filmmakers could have easily made every monster in this film CGI. Instead, they make a lot of the monsters practical, which makes the film all the more cool and realistic to the audience. The filmmakers could have also just hired random actors, thrown them in front of the camera, and click record. Instead, they worked with the cast (all of whom are very talented) and made sure they got their quality end product.

 

Krampus is an odd movie to say the least. Even at its most serious or scary scenes, there are still funny oneliners being shot off and characters treating it all like a joke. The monster designs, strong acting, and good writing all make this a very solid movie. I would definitely recommend Krampus to anyone with a love for goofy horror movies and a good sense of humor.

Zachary Flint

Halloween (1978) Review

Over time, Halloween has become an iconic film of the horror genre. It is often cited as popularizing the slasher film and creating many horror movie tropes we continue to see used today.

Directed by John Carpenter, Halloween was made on a relatively small budget of about 300,000 dollars, while making over 70 million in the box office. Proving just how financially successful independent, low budget films good be.

Halloween tells the story of an escaped psychopath named Michael Myers. Myers, whose been locked up since he was a child for killing his sister Judith (Sandy Johnson), has now broken out of his mental ward and is returning to his home in Haddonfield, Illinois. There he stalks 17 year old Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who is babysitting on Halloween night. The only one who may be able to stop Myers’s terror is Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), Michael’s psychiatrist from when he was a boy.

I know a lot of people don’t find this film very frightening by today’s standards, but I think that has more to do with how society views horror. Modern day horror flicks are plagued by pop-up jump scares that are paired with loud sounds. No longer is it about building up tension, but rather just have the film go silent, followed by a loud noise that makes the audience jump. Making them think that they were scared. Very few modern horror directors (like James Wan) pull off the jump scare in a clever and unique way.

I don’t believe Halloween has got any less scary over time. The subtle horror aspects infused with the sharp musical score (written by John Carpenter himself) make this film what it is. The very simple but effective music adds to the tension that builds from Myers stalking various people. The music will spike as you can see Myers standing in the background, surrounded by the darkness. Very creepy.

One of the biggest reasons I love Halloween is how the film was shot. Being on a low budget gives Halloween this sort of gritty look to it. It all feels very practical and real. The tracking shots that John Carpenter uses when the camera slowly moves between houses really builds up tension in a way I haven’t seen before. At least, not done as well. He utilizes simple but creative camera shots to give the point of view of Michael Myers, as the audience hears his deep breathing through the mask.

Michael Myers symbolizes pure evil, and the fact that he can get up after being repeatedly stabbed and shot gives him this “indestructible force” aspect. As if he isn’t even a human and more like an entity.

The climatic scene when Laurie makes her way into the neighbor’s house when the audience knows Micheal Myers is already inside still scares me to this day. The horrors that ensue are well done and effective. Many other films have taken inspiration from these iconic scenes between Laurie and Michael, who acted and performed very well. Again, the gritty way Halloween was shot really adds to the experience.

Finally, the ambiguous note the film ends on suits it nicely and I wouldn’t have wanted it to end any other way.

I recommend Halloween to all who have an appreciation for horror. It is a horror movie classic that will continue to be a staple of the genre for many years to come.

Zachary Flint