Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler December 2-8: Krampus Letters Doldrums

In Theaters.

Talk about the winter of our discontent — this is it. We get one low-interest mainstream offering, one special interest title and zero art titles. If we were still using that term “bad scene,” I’d say this is certainly one. The upside is that it offers a chance to catch up with Trumbo, Brooklyn, and Spotlight before they’re overtaken by the inevitable Christmas flood — not to mention that Star Wars biz.

A slack week also helps me deal with the three — count ’em — awards screenings headed my way. That’s not to mention awards screeners awaiting my attention and the probability of at least two more screenings before next Friday. And, no, before anyone asks, I have not seen The Force Awakens and I doubt I will be given that chance before it opens.




So first of all we have Michael Dougherty’s Krampus starting Friday (with the usual Thursday evening slots) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, and Regal Biltmore Grande. I have friends who are actually looking forward to the German folklore demon making the leap to movie screens. Why? I have no idea — except the creature has developed some kind of popularity in the U.S. in the last few years. Frankly, I find it difficult to get worked up over a demon with an unfortunate name that sounds like he’s in need of Midol. The poster with the snow-globe makes one wonder if Citizen Krampus wouldn’t have been a better title. On the plus side, I liked Dougherty’s previous film, Trick ‘r Treat (2007). Also, this stars Toni Collette, who is always interesting. The problem is that trailer. Then again, there’s nothing else going this week, so I’ll break out my goat-leggings and give it a try.




Then there’s the specialty offering, William Riead’s The Letters — doing the Friday and Thursday evening thing at Regal Biltmore Grande and UA Beaucather. I actually have no idea who William Riead is, but the TV trailer announces him like he’s Cecil B. DeMille. From what I can tell, he made a bunch of “making of” documentaries and a couple of low-budget exploitation pictures, Scorpion (1986) and Island Prey (2001). This is some sort of biopic about Mother Teresa (Juliet Stevenson) as related through letters she wrote to her spiritual adviser (Max von Sydow). (Rutger Hauer is also involved for reasons unknown.) But wait, this is apparently no mere biopic, but an attempt to jump-start efforts to get Mother Teresa her sainthood (at the moment, she’s one miracle shy of the accolade, it seems). An agenda-driven/activist biopic is hard to find, but this appears to be one. The early reviews — all two of them — are…well, not kind.

Special Screenings




This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show returns with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in Freddie Francis’ Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) on Thu., Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water (1962) on Fri., Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society takes off the month of December, so don’t look for them again till next year. The Asheville Film Society continues its seasonal fare with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray in Mitchell Leisens’s Remember the Night (1940) on Tue., Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress and in the online edition.


The best thing this week is Mississippi Grind — maybe it will find the audience it ought to have had in theaters in this incarnation. We also get the documentary Amy and the absurdly over-praised Goodnight Mommy.


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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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14 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler December 2-8: Krampus Letters Doldrums

  1. Edwin Arnaudin

    But wait, this is apparently no mere biopic, but an attempt to jump-start efforts to get Mother Teresa her sainthood (at the moment, she’s one miracle shy of the accolade, it seems).

    If the drives get wiped before they reach Asheville, she’s in.

  2. Ken Hanke

    As the reviews for the Mother Teresa movie trickle in, it looks worse and worse.

  3. mtndancer

    Hey it’s getting 7.3 from IMDB users who I’m certain have no agenda.

  4. T.rex

    I advise reading or watching some Christopher Hitchens to counter any drama about Mother Teresa. She was no saint.
    I thought the Krampas trailer was quite a fun prank. It really fooled me into thinking it was the obligatory Christmas ensemble with random celebs. It will fun. This year’s Gremlins??

  5. Ken Hanke

    Breaking news: The Letters has finally gotten a glowing review. Of course, it did come from a guy who seems to be trying to outdo Pete Hammond as the go-to “quote whore.” I expect at least one more positive review. We’ll see. Me, I’ve done the decent thing and have given it to Justin to review.

  6. Barry

    Krampus has some promising scenes early on, and the first glimpse of the titular character on a rooftop is good. But it’s not scary, and it really isn’t funny either, although you can easily see the spots where we are supposed to laugh. Worse, it is hobbled by that sort of frenetic editing that PG-13 movies love when they don’t want to dwell on anything lest they lose their precious all-encompassing rating, so frantic that we can’t really tell what is going on. I’ve never outgrown my love for monsters, so I keep going to these things, and then asking myself why afterwards.

    • Ken Hanke

      You came to the wrong guy for an argument. I’d add that it takes way too long to get going.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      the first glimpse of the titular character on a rooftop is good

      I agree with all of your points, except this one. For me, the roof hopping rendered him cartoonish for the rest of the movie.

      • Barry

        Yes, it did degenerate when he began hopping; but that first glimpse in motionless silhouette was good. And what was it with his mouth; did he have lockjaw? And we got only a tiny glimpse of that long blue tongue.

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