Casper Kelly is made a name for himself by leaning into the chaotic and bizarre. Breaking onto the scene several years ago with his viral video,?Too Many Cooks, Kelly took the traditional 90s sitcom and turned it on its ear (and then some). Devolving into chaotic madness, the short became a huge hit and established him as a credible comic force, especially for a generation that has a certain sardonic edge.?
Years later, Kelly has finally stepped into the feature-length arena with his first film, Adult Swim Yule Log. Beginning as a satire of one of the holiday season?s strangest traditions, the ?fireplace channel?, Kelly applies the same sensibilities that made Too Many Cooks a success into his latest entry. Beginning with a burning ember of a fireplace, Yule Log slowly pulls the camera back, revealing a world of insanity and brutality. In doing so, Kelly reminds the viewer that life happens beyond the frame of the burning logs, complete with people living their daily lives as the camera rolls.
Admittedly, viewers unfamiliar with Kelly?s work should be aware that there are few (if any) rules in Kelly?s world. Beginning with a brutal murder and sexual assault that takes place offscreen,?Yule Log?is more than willing to make the viewer uncomfortable from the very beginning. This is a world of ?hillbilly murderers?, floating flames, alien probing, and demonic curses that threaten the lives of everyone in this cabin. As a result, Kelly?s style of anarchistic mayhem will not find endear itself to everyone. Although it has moments of hilarious chaos, its styles of humour and violence. (However,?Yule Log?also falls perfectly within the wheelhouse of Adult Swim?s brand of chaos as well.)
Ironically though, the biggest issue with Yule Log is its runtime. Whereas Too Many Cooks managed to maintain its parody energy for roughly 10 minutes or so, Yule Log faces the challenge of actually making a film. With 90 minutes to burn, Kelly needs to move more into the world of his characters as opposed to leaning into the satire itself. In other words, with an increased length, Kelly?s furious comedic instincts have almost too much time to play, dulling the overall impact of the pandemonium by the end.
Having said this though, there?s a certain method to Kelly?s madness that makes his projects fascinating. For example, in Yule Log, Kelly seems interested in discussing issues related to generational darkness. Using time-shifting in his narrative structure, he ties together different eras with an eye on highlighting the fact that every generation has had its problems. From racial discrimination to male dominance, Kelly sees that the stain of evil continues to mark us throughout history. These sorts of conversations have become commonplace for this generation as people look for justice yet still seem to feel overwhelmed by pervasive toxicity.
And it?s this emotional exhaustion that Kelly seems interested in exploring. For instance, in one particularly poignant moment (and I use the term poignant loosely), Kelly references the famed meme of a dog who, although his house is burning to ash around him, simply states that ?this is fine.? Literally drawing the viewer into the fireplace, Kelly seems to use this to suggest that the world is a place of madness yet we are all left spinning as well. In essence, as the world burns around us, everyone wonders what their place in the mess may be.
As such, we, too, are left placating ourselves with the believe that this is fine.
These sorts of conversations are compelling on a certain level, adding meaning to Yule Log?s lunacy. By breaking down narrative structure, Kelly?s work demonstrates the unexpected chaos of our world and asks questions of what it means to respond in the process. At the same time though, Adult Swim Yule Log?s flaws hold the piece back from being something truly memorable and leave the viewer feeling that ?this is [only] fine.?
Adult Swim Yule Log is available on VOD now.