Adult Yule Log Review

On Sunday, December 11, Adult Swim debuted a surprise horror feature called Adult Swim Yule Log. It’s available to stream now on HBO Max.

From writer and director Casper Kelly – the madman behind the viral short “Too Many Cooks” and mandy‘s Cheddar Goblin — comes Adult Swim Yule Log. It is, as we suppose, anything but your standard recording of a looping flickering fire. In the style of “Too Many Cooks”, the traditional holiday video becomes an absurd flavor of Christmas horror on a shoestring budget. Think along the lines of ThanksKilling, especially the out of bounds ThanksKilling 3, in terms of how Kelly turns a flaming log into a Christmas horror antagonist. Adult Swim’s spooky debut is in the vein of schlocky ’80s midnights, where chaos trumps consistency. Maybe burn off that hallucinogenic strain after you’ve already had cravings?

Kelly developed Adult Swim Yule Log entirely in secret, starting out like any other YouTube loop of crackling ASMR and dancing flames. Kelly continually defies our expectations by performing in convention and then flipping the script, starting with the background sounds of a fight drowning out public domain versions of the Christmas tunes. Adult Swim Yule Log toy horrors with Airbnb home invasions (setup mimics Barbaric), unfathomable creature characteristics (like The killer tree), and out-of-this-world sci-fi probes. There’s also time travel, portals to chimney dimensions, gory deaths – it’s the guy behind ‘Too Many Cooks’ who answers the prompt ‘How do we turn a log of Christmas into a horror villain?” The answer turns out to be tied to America’s slave trade past, as clouds of comedy horror break to tell the tale of a cursed log cut from a hanging tree.

You can’t blame Adult Swim Yule Log for its ambition. Kelly confronts America’s disgusting racist past while smashing faces into bloody pulp with smoldering wood and introduces a killer named Pleatherface (Brendan Patrick Connor). Ideas ricochet off the walls like 20 racquetball games played on the same court, with the same level of understanding. Kelly leans on vacation couple Zoe (Andrea Laing) and Alex (Justin Miles), the latter of whom we’re starting to look at on camera for the first time — he’s a YouTube celebrity who produces Yule Log videos. They’re our entry into a night of brutal bashings, crazy storytelling devices, and some of the most offbeat Christmas horror concepts since Santa Jaws.

Kelly can be smart with how he reveals his Yuletide massacre, given that it starts out like countless Yule Log videos released over time. There’s a feeling Kelly’s camera won’t venture far from the fire, and all we’ll watch will be criminals and victims moving in and out of frame. This perspective widens when we enter a secluded living room with the same concept that presents characters as if we were watching a play – which would not fly for 90 minutes. So the focus of the camera jumps off Alex’s tripod and becomes the fly on the wall defined by third-person cinema – the next iteration of Adult Swim Yule Log before settling into experiential stability. The adult swimmers are present, but lively enough not to put off viewers with an hour and a half of slaughter filmed from the window in the warm glow of a Yule log.

The problem is that the hell of Kelly’s “Too Many Cooks” sitcom is 11 minutes long, which keeps the transformations gags due to time constraints. Adult Swim Yule Log embellishes subplot after subplot without the necessary substance, throwing diversion after redefinition against the wall – but the rapid-fire confinement of Adult Swim favorites like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! sorely lacking. What begins as a Texas Chain Saw riff becomes a teenage slasher, fades and wipes begin to straddle previous Yule Log victims from bygone eras, and their stories begin to clash with Zoe and Alex. Then, the Thankskilling vibes embrace the awkwardness, but the historical traumas of the slaves imbue with incredibly cheap digital and practical effects. All that to say, you’re pretty darn sure you’re watching a quirky Adult Swim – but one whose legs get more wobbly and Jell-Oy as the marathon goes on.

Kelly’s comedic fearlessness is both a superpower and a downfall.

It’s a shame because Adult Swim Yule Log is truly insane and worth some deranged seasonal laughs in fits and starts. Kelly’s comedic fearlessness is both a superpower and a downfall, leading to exquisite online deliveries that reek of chilli cheese breath or charming, homemade practical effects. Sometimes Adult Swim Yule Log feels like a VHS recording of something an older sibling or cousin introduces into your life too young – Yule Log’s horror translation had me giggling fiercely during the intro. You hate to see jokes drag on until their initial shock hilarity evaporates because Kelly’s approach is unique by Christmas horror standards, but Adult Swim’s signatures sink like dead weight long-term.

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