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My Christmas Tradition: Watching ‘Krampus’

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Some folks will watch A Christmas Story every year for Christmas. Some folks will watch A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Me? Every year I watch Krampus. It’s not just my favorite Christmas horror movie but it’s one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies. It’s up there with Elf for me.

There are a handful of good Christmas-themed horror movies—Silent Night Deadly Night, Black Christmas, the Black Christmas remake, Better Watch Out—but my absolute favorite is Krampus. The idea of a horror movie taking place during a holiday that isn’t Halloween appeals to me but this movie feels genuinely like a rotted family Christmas movie which is what makes it so absolutely delicious.

The movie opens with a slow motion scene showing folks fighting in stores while “It’s beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” plays. We pan through a department store and see families fist fighting and one pair of parents even getting stun gunned by security. We see kids screaming and crying on Santa’s lap. We end with our main character, Max (Emjay Anthony), dressed as a reindeer physically fighting another kid dressed as Jesus during a Christmas recital as his parents run in and his sister laughs while recording it.

The opening alone warms my heart. As someone who has worked retail during more holiday seasons than I care to admit, this barely feels like a parody. It rings true and that’s exactly why I love it so much. There has never been a single holiday season that has gone by where I haven’t been yelled at by some deranged parents blaming me for us not having what they’re looking for. The holiday season isn’t all beautiful decorations and fun family times.

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Another reason I love this movie is that the family barely likes each other. Which, again, rings more true than some big happy family where everyone seems to be besties and no one is awkwardly bringing up politics. As someone with an extremely liberal mother and extremely conservative father, I relate to the nightmare that is older conservative relatives voicing their bad opinions.

Toni Collette plays Sarah, a mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown who is trying to keep it together for the holiday. Adam Scott plays Tom, a nice pushover dad who is also kind of a dick. Allison Tolman plays Aunt Linda, who is well-meaning but has a family full of goblins. David Koechner plays Uncle Howard, who is basically every idiot conservative uncle. Conchata Ferrell plays Aunt Dorothy, who is basically every mean older conservative family member.

But, despite all the fucked up family relations, there’s also some heart to this movie. At the center of the film are Max and his grandma Omi (Krista Stadler)—they genuinely love and understand each other. Omi speaks German and Max speaks English—and as a kid who grew up very close with his Puerto Rican grandma, I find their relationship to be sweet. Omi watches as the family bickers and fights, giving Max knowing looks and never judging him for getting into fights. While I never got into fights as a kid, I definitely didn’t quite fit in with the rest of my family as the big queer nerd of the group. But my grandma and I would watch cartoons, horror movies, and telenovelas together whenever she watched me while my parents worked. We would also give each other knowing looks at family dinners whenever anyone was annoying. So, yes I get emotional every time I watch the grandma sacrifice herself to give her family time to get away.

The movie should feel crowded but it never does—it feels the right amount of full for a movie about a family coming together during the holidays. The first act is fully just a Christmas movie too, which completely works. It’s the perfect movie to put on while partaking in some holiday fun. It starts off chaotic, then gets warm and cozy, then delves into complete chaos. Which is basically the journey I go on when wrapping presents.

The fact that this movie makes me happy and is something I watch every December probably says more about me than anything else. But also, what fun is watching some boring happy family movie?

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The family in this movie feels more real than most in holiday or horror movies. It’s what makes each of them getting picked off feel more brutal. This isn’t a family that shares the same values, it’s a family that barely tolerates each other—but they still all fight together in the end, even if they don’t win. Even the freakin’ baby gets taken by the Christmas-themed demons.

In the end, Max pleads with Krampus—only to get thrown into his pit of fire. We end with the family waking up on Christmas morning together and they all exchange grim looks. I interpret the ending as Krampus keeping them all prisoner but it can also be interpreted as Krampus letting them go and just keeping an eye on them. I’m not normally a fan of a bleak ending, but in this instance, I kind of love it because it’s scored and shot like it’s a heartwarming Christmas movie ending.

So, grab your hot cocoa and gingerbread cookies and watch Krampus with me while we angrily wrap presents together.

Ian Carlos Crawford grew up in southern New Jersey and has an MFA in non-fiction writing. His favorite things are Buffy, Scream, X-Men, and pugs. His writing has appeared on sites like BuzzFeed, NewNowNext, Junkee, and other random corners of the internet. He currently hosts a queer Buffy and Marvel focused pop culture podcast called Slayerfest 98 and co-hosts a horror podcast called My Bloody Judy.

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HELLO DOLLY!: Ranking All the Dolls in the Chucky Franchise

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And hello to all you horror heads as well!

I’m still bounding with energy from that wicked Chucky Season 2 finale (recap here), I need somewhere to put it. We’ll be waiting a hot minute until Don Mancini brings out the next gem in the series. With my brain hollowed out and replaced with killer doll knowledge, why don’t we occupy ourselves with some rankings?

I’ve taken it upon myself to rank every iteration of the dolls in the Chucky series, for better or worse, on a set of highly scientific and measured criteria that make me objectively right.

This is for sure not just opinion and speculation.

…Probably.

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And one more thing. Childs Play (2019) Chucky is not any Chucky we recognize in this house. Lars Klevberg and Orion Pictures shouldn’t have shown that to me, but they did, and I’m not going to show that to you. It’s terrible. The one and only disqualification. Disqualified.

Would-Be Chucky Army (Chucky Seasons 1 & 2)

A moment of silence for the many copy-pasted dolls that lost their life to Andy Barclay’s self-sacrificing truck crash, and the ones lost to The Colonel’s interior decorating aspirations.

Bloated Chucky (Curse of Chucky)

I wish there were more to say, but outside of the introduction of Nica, this movie and this design committed the greatest sin of all: being boring. This version of Chucky is just very puffy, like allergic reaction mid hangover kind of puffy. I know he’s supposed to be…fleshy & intimidating, I guess? But it’s just not doing it for me. That’s basically it.

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Belle Doll Disguise Chucky (Chucky Season 2)

This one shouldn’t even be on the list since he only had about 10 seconds of actual screen time, but I’ll let it slide because it was a pretty hilarious reveal.

Chucky Trio (Cult of Chucky)

Don’t let their placement fool you, I love these and all the other dolls above them. But it’s cutthroat here on the listicle circuit.

It’s such a fun departure for the series to let Brad Douriff go nuts in a recording booth and do a one-man play between three separate Chuckys who are coordinating to possess his estranged daughter like it’s the weirdest soap opera ever put to film. The movie is a head trip, and just when you think it’s winding down into a predictable lull by the third act, the Chucky throuple reminds you that Don Mancini is no hack. The power of three, in combination with their distinct styles, weapons, gruesome kills, and drastic improvements on the Curse doll makes them stand out above the rest.

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TIE: Buff Chucky & The Colonel (Chucky Season 2)

Chucky is at his best comedically when he’s taking himself seriously, but the script isn’t. And with the floodgates opened by the war of the dolls in Season 2 of Chucky, we got two new Chucky variants that are ridiculous, and infinitely more entertaining than they should be.

If you had told me back in Season 1 that we would get a Chucky who is doing anabolics and squatting 300 on the rack every day, I would have laughed in your face; I would have laughed harder if you told me that he would freak me out. And what can be said of The Colonel? It’s Kurtz from Apocalypse Now, and just like Kurtz, he grows creepier the longer you look at exactly where he’s standing and how he got there.

GG (Seed of Chucky, Chucky Season 2)

Oh, GG. What a sweet genderfluid monarch you are, too good for your own good. While Lachlan Watson’s performance as both halves of the spiritually entwined twins Glen and Glenda was one of the best parts of Season 2, this is a battle of the dolls.

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Formerly stylized by fans as Glen/da, now going by the more neutral GG, this doll has a unique design reflecting the evolution of the nonbinary character and their identity struggle. I like that some elements of both parents got carried over to their child, and who can forget Billy Boyd’s iconic voice performance? Still, their screen time is relatively low compared to most other dolls, and we don’t see them in much action. They’re more about the talking than the killing and stalking, you know?

Grandaddy Chucky (Child’s Play)

Before you start flaming me on Twitter in front of everyone, take a moment to calm down and remember how good this movie is. This ranking can’t take that away! It’s a low spot, I know, but I still think he looks fantastic!

Honestly, he would go to the number one spot if his facial animatronics were as good as they were in any of the other films, but right now, he gets to stay where he is for 1. his icon status, and 2. his sheer durability. My god, does this doll get jacked up. Burned, shot, stabbed, exploded, decapitated, I seriously don’t think he reaches this level of superhuman (superdoll?) durability in any of the other movies. Who would have thought this was the true power of Voodoo for Dummies?

 Tiffany (Bride of Chucky, Seed of Chucky, Chucky Seasons 1 & 2)

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Okay, my Jennifer Tilly bias is showing here. Look, what can I say? I’m a man of simple tastes, I see a Tilly, I love a Tilly, and the design team making Tiff embody all the energy and character of her actress aesthetically makes me love this tiny plastic Tilly!

She might be David Kirschner and Kevin Yagher’s magnum opus in character design just for how strong her contrast is against the newer, grungier Scarface Chucky introduced in the same film. The Belle doll-turned-Blondie fan communicates all of Tiffany’s melodrama and loudness perfectly. It’s a bold but perfect partner in crime design, and with her perennial iconic style, we must stan.

“This Is the Best of The Movies” Chucky (Child’s Play 2)

Honestly, I find it so hard to pick between this design and 3’s. On the one hand, Child’s Play 2 Chucky is menacing and was the first truly upgraded Chucky, giving his motion and facial expressions a lot more credence in a film that is frankly better in all measures. Every doll owes its evolution to this one’s leap in advancement.

The doll and its kills outshine the original and do exactly what you want from a sequel. Getting a cue from Puppet Master’s Blade with that knife prosthetic in the factory finale and just becoming increasingly menacing over the runtime, he also shades his particular brand of evil with the barest hint of that humor and some very funny dry one-liners (“How’s it hanging Phil?”). He is a cut above most Chuckys.

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 Extra Chunky Salsa Death Chucky (Child’s Play 3)

But this Chucky? This Chucky was the blueprint for the silliness that would eventually become a hallmark of this series, and all the variants we would eventually see.

This was when Chucky entered his quip era and cemented himself as a goofy ass villain. His scheming and cartoony expressions in this movie make him such a lovable goober. He’s not that scary, but he is on the same level as 2 when it comes to physicality. For me, he has the goofiest and most satisfying death of any doll in the series with that face slice into industrial fan combo. This version of Chucky being so great makes up for 3 being one of the weakest entries in the series and carries the entire film on its back.

Scarface Chucky (Bride of Chucky, Seed of Chucky)

Rude f**king doll indeed. Bride of Chucky is far from a perfect film, but it has a perfect Chucky in my eyes. Does it have that late 90s edge that dates it like the rest of that movie? Yes! Does it look like Tiffany gave up on the sutures halfway through? Also, yes! Is it also the most enduring and recognizable Chucky design, not just to horror fans but pretty much everyone on earth, even when he’s been reduced to 3/4ths of a head? A million times yes!

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It’s so textured and battle-damaged, which is appropriate since it keeps things fresh for the fourth entry in the series. Also, I would have paid triple the price of admission to see another movie about Andy carrying around Chucky’s decapitated, messed-up talking head.

Hackensack Chucky, AKA, Good Chucky, AKA, Prime Chucky (Chucky Season 1 & 2)

He’s the worst…but also the best.

Spanning several functionally identical plain jane bodies, this most joyously evil era of Chucky doesn’t have any aesthetic modifications like the counterparts at the #2, #7, and #9 rankings (beyond improvements in animatronics and seamless integration). But over 16 episodes, these dolls still showed you exactly how evil a plain old Chucky can be.

Though awful in Season 1, this era’s most notable lowest low is during his stint as “Good Chucky” in Season 2. The Hackensack Gang and a good chunk of the audience were duped into thinking that the kid’s attempts at brainwashing Charles Lee Ray had worked; for our naivete, we were awarded one of the most harrowing character deaths in the entire franchise.

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Pouncing back on Jakes insecurities tenfold, attacking Lexy’s addictive nature, and exploiting Nadine’s goodhearted nature, killing off two fan favorites within a matter of a few episodes, I truly think this was the first time I wouldn’t say I liked a version of Chucky after everything. This is why Prime Chucky’s fate felt so much more satisfying, being rewarded for his duplicity by taking his own holly jolly chainsaw to the face, courtesy of Lexy. What a Christmas present!

AFTER DOLL IS SAID AND DONE…

Disagree with any of the rankings? We’d love to hear from you on Twitter, so hit us up there and stay tuned for more articles, more Chucky mayhem to come and more Horror Press.

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Slappy Was the Blueprint: How the Dummy from Goosebumps Became A Horror Icon

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The Scholastic Book Fair was a religious holiday for me growing up. It was the moment middle schoolers felt like they had real agency to make their own decisions with money, and the only time it was actually cool to want to read (the coolest of the cool kids only bought erasers and stickers to trade among each other). Entering the loud gym where the sale was housed always felt like a rush—and when it was finally your turn, you felt like royalty. 

Colorful chapter books lined the metal bookshelves like a candy store, and I had five dollars in my tiny pockets to burn. There was so much to choose from in the early 2000s—A Series of Unfortunate Events was a smash hit, Bunnicula was the underground niche pick, and you could never go wrong with the creepy Animorphs series. But for me, the second I saw the oozing font and dead-eyed dummy staring back at me on the cover, I knew I had to have Night of the Living Dummy topping the massive Goosebumps display. I handed the nice cashier five dollars (who also asked, “Are you sure?” when she noticed my selection), took a sparkly bookmark on my way out, and proudly ventured home. I was on top of the world, only to be quickly dragged down once I began reading about the doll’s evil antics later that night. Slappy would haunt my nightmares for weeks—to the point where I hid the book in my basement and locked the door behind me.

One of the quintessential faces of the Goosebumps series, Slappy the Dummy first debuted in 1993 and immediately skyrocketed to fame. R. L. Stine would write nine different Goosebumps books centering the character and created an entirely separate Slappy series called Goosebumps SlappyWorld. Slappy was the main antagonist of the 2015 live-action movie starring Jack Black as well as its 2018 sequel, got made into actual ventriloquist dolls (perfect to add to your Chucky, Tiffany, and Annabelle collections), and became a Young Adult horror icon.

Like the killer dolls listed above, Slappy would come alive in a very similar way. If one mutters the phrase Karru Marri Odonna Loma Molonu Karrano, which translates to you and I are one now, it’s all over. Slappy will then do everything in his power to make you his servant, framing you for his crimes and pushing you away from the people you love and care about. Sound familiar? 

But Stine’s influences for the undead dummy are somewhat surprising. You’d think the main one was Chucky, arguably the most famous killer doll first appearing in 1988, but Stine hasn’t cited the little menace. 

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The main inspirations for Slappy were the 1883 classic book The Adventures of Pinocchio and the 1978 psychological horror film Magic starring Anthony Hopkins. (In the Goosebumps TV series, Slappy would even don a voice that sounds the same as Fats, the dummy from Magic originally voiced by Hopkins. And as a Buffy the Vampire Slayer mega-fan, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Sid, the cursed puppet who looks eerily similar to Slappy, from season one.) There’s a callback to Chucky’s famous “Wanny play?” catchphrase in the Goosebumps TV show, which feels more like an easter egg than an influence. Regardless of where the idea for Slappy came from, Stine successfully created a horror figure for kids that would allow them to explore further into the horror genre—I would know, I was one of them. If it weren’t for Slappy or the Goosebumps franchise, would I have been comfortable seeking out more mature, intense horror flicks to discover Ghostface, Michael, or Freddy? Probably not—we all had to start somewhere.

We don’t all decide to turn on the TV and begin with Puppet Master, Child’s Play, or Dead Silence. Some of us start small and end up locking our books in the cold, dusty basement out of extreme fear (and throw their American Girl doll down there for good measure. Their eyes literally open and close). We build resilience like we do anything else—muscle, relationships, knowledge. And sometimes it takes a well-dressed dapper dummy to illustrate that.

The next book fair came around, and I ignored the Goosebumps table during my initial walkthrough. My eyes kept darting to the green and purple setup, too curious to look away. Was Slappy’s second book there? Did I actually want to know what was going to happen to him next?

I reluctantly walked over and picked up Night of the Living Dummy II. The cover was somehow scarier than the first, deceivingly pink with Slappy’s same dead eyes. I smiled, handed the same nice cashier my five-dollar bill feeling overly victorious, and rushed home to do my math homework so I could hide under the covers and finish Slappy’s latest adventure all in one night.

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