On Saturday, December 7th, I pulled into Saint John’s Church in Lyons, Illinois to see Sventa Claus. The holiday version of MeTV’s horror host, Svengoolie, has become a tradition here in Chicago and one aspect of our local-gone-national celebrity we can still claim for ourselves. I was looking forward to seeing him while also supporting my friend, Lozen Brownbear. Lozen’s an animal-lover like myself and I’d attended her “Mystic Market” fundraiser up in Elmhurst last year. It’s a great way to pick up some unique, hand-crafted gifts for the holidays while sending much-needed funds to her furry friends at the Sacred Space Animal Sanctuary and Rescue.
With the kids and I settled in our new place I haven’t been this excited about the holidays in years. We’ve got a new pre-lit Christmas tree that offers both color and white lights, a freezer full of homemade cookies awaiting decoration, and a honey baked ham for the big day. In fact, I’ve been feeling so festive these days I don’t even mind the local 24/7 holiday music station that usually drives up a wall.
Yet, despite all the trappings, it wasn’t until last weekend at the Elmhurst Animal Care Center that I really felt the holiday spirit. This was thanks to their annual “mystic” fundraiser/adoption featuring adorable puppies, spooky artisans, and my favorite celebrity; national horror host, Svengoolie, in his seasonal “Sventa Claus” attire! And if there’s one holiday tradition to uphold, it’s seeing Sventa.
Flying in with his red-nosed, rubber chicken, Sventa Claus dropped in on Fantasy Costumes last weekend to greet fans. I’d seen him there last October in his less festive, Svengoolie, persona and it was notable for attracting a large turnout despite inclement weather. In contrast, this December day was sunny and in the 60’s proving once again that, so far as the weather goes, Chicago’s always riding the Bi-Polar Express. This would mark the horror host’s final 2017 appearance and third as Sventa. Unable to attend the previous two, I made it a point to rearrange my schedule for this one. And so, with a camera strap around my neck and a poster tube under each arm, I made my way to Fantasy Costumes a.k.a. my 82nd Svengoolie appearance!
The Daves would like to wish our fellow American monster fans a very Happy Thanksgiving while also giving them the bird! No, not just any bird, mind you, but a “battleship” sized fowl from another dimension! I’m referring, of course, to the 1957 quintessential “turkey,” The Giant Claw. This film’s not only achieved cult status for all the wrong reasons but has since gone on to become something of a Thanksgiving movie tradition (for fun people who hate football). In fact, about seven years ago I included it as part of my list of Thanksgiving-related genre films. I remember at the time wondering if I wasn’t reaching a bit by having it on there but those doubts were all erased last July during a “Hollywood Kaiju Strikes Back” panel at G-FEST XXIV. Although the Godzilla Festival revolves around Japanese monsters, Martin Arlt and Archie Waugh gave an entire hour to some of their American contemporaries. This included such atomic menaces as The Deadly Mantis and The Beginning of the End while saving the best of the worst for last. Our moderators introduced the film by informing is it was their Thanksgiving movie tradition. So I not only walked away feeling validated regarding my list, but also with enough tidbits to offer YOU this special Turkey Day blog. And if that isn’t a reason to feel thankful, then we just don’t know what is!
It’s no surprise that after the success of last year’s Krampus more films on this subject would pop up, only with much smaller budgets. To be fair, Christmas’ anti-Santa had already been gaining steam here in the States before mainstream Hollywood decided to finally give him his big break. Personally, I loved Michael Dougherty’s film; saw it three times at the theater when it came out and another three this year at home. It’s pretty much replaced Holiday Inn (1942) as my favorite Christmas movie which is odd considering it’s dark nature. Or maybe not so strange at all. Despite the seemingly odd pairing of Christmas and horror, it’s often been a fun one. We’ve covered Yuletide horror movies before, many featuring murderous Santa Claus’, but never on any that dealt with Krampus. So this year I decided (with the amazing help of Jason Schoolcraft who works with the other Dave in Rhode Island and has been a great friend to both of us) that it was time to start sorting through all these Krampus-themed films and find out which ones are holiday gifts versus cinematic lumps of coal. Let’s get started…
It was a chilly December evening when I headed up to Elgin, Illinois to experience their annual “Krampus Krawl.” After seeing it advertised during the city’s Nightmare on Chicago Street, I knew it was something I had to experience first hand, and I’m so glad that I did! I mean, seriously, just because Halloween is over doesn’t mean we still can’t enjoy a few more sinister events before the year is out. This particular one was brought to Elgin by John LaFleur and sponsored by Side Street Studios whom I’ve mentioned before. Their shop served as Svengoolie’s headquarters during the last “Nightmare” and I swear if I lived anywhere near Elgin, I’d be signing up for just about every workshop and art class they have to offer! Though the celebration of Krampuslauf is relatively new to American culture, the recent success of the film, Krampus, along with other events popping up around the country show that it’s quickly gaining its own spot on our busy December calendars. The festival originated in the Alpine regions of Europe and honors the darker version of St. Nicholas; a horned creature named Krampus whose job isn’t to reward the good kids but punish the naughty ones. With our culture’s shift towards more self-entitled and less, shall we say, respectful children, one can’t help but wonder if the sudden rise of Krampus over the past decade is much of a coincidence. Regardless of whatever possible sociological commentary it may carry (if any) it’s definitely proving to be a lot of fun for us naughty adults!
Here’s how the night unfolded…