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SYFY WIRE horror films

The 'Too Many Cooks' creator built a surprise horror movie with 'Adult Swim Yule Log'

Casper Kelly, who wowed audiences with Too Many Cooks, started with a small idea and built a wild ride for his latest.

By Matthew Jackson
Adult Swim Yule Log PRESS

On Sunday night, after Rick and Morty, Adult Swim viewers got a big surprise stemming from what looked like a very typical holiday scene. Adult Swim Yule Log begins just like any other Yule Log, with a crackling fire and a little Christmas music to set the mood in whatever room you might be watching from. Since this is Adult Swim we're talking about, viewers may have gone into the program expecting something strange to emerge from the flames, but they never could have expected quite what they got: A feature-length horror film from Too Many Cooks creator Casper Kelly centered on a haunted log, a cabin that seems to move through time, and some stuff that's much, much stranger.

Speaking to SYFY WIRE ahead of Adult Swim Yule Log's surprise premiere on Adult Swim, Kelly explained that his bizarre, darkly hilarious new horror film had its roots in the 2021 holiday season when his mind started to build some action around the typical Yule Log imagery.

"It was a very small starting point," Kelly said. It was the holidays last year and I was watching a yule log and I just got an image of 'What if you're looking at this tight shot of a fire and then blurry legs walk in front and then you start to hear dialogue?' and I'm like, 'Oh yeah, that could be interesting.' You start as a yule log and then it just becomes a story of some kind, and I just started adding to it from there. But that was the genesis of like, 'Oh yeah, you kind of sneak in there, you think it's going to be one thing and then it becomes something else.'"

Adult Swim Yule Log behind the scenes PRESS

Adult Swim Yule Log begins almost exactly as Kelly's original idea began: With a blurry human shape interrupting the cheerful holiday image, a cleaning lady tidying up what turns out to be a rental cabin that's soon home to one couple trying to have a romantic getaway and several uninvited guests, including some who have murderous intentions. Along the way, the log itself takes on a certain sense of character, as its connection to the area's bloody history and even present secrets start to come to light. 

Much like Too Many Cooks before it, Adult Swim Yule Log begins with a very simple twist on something familiar, and then gets increasingly bizarre as it goes on, but according to Kelly, all the extra bizarre bells and whistles weren't part of the original pitch. He simply gave Adult Swim the seed of his idea, and asked to make something bigger than the short films that made him a favorite at the network.

"I said, 'Usually we make these 11 minutes, but what would you think if I made it as a movie? Could I go for that?' And they're like, 'If you can make it for about the same amount of money, yeah, OK.' So that was the pitch, it was just the premise, and then when they gave me the go-ahead, I wrote it and really started figuring out what happens. Luckily, I didn't have to develop all that before I pitched it."

With the script in place, Kelly had to make good on his low-budget promise to Adult Swim. That meant casting the film very quickly — Kelly recalls that some cast members began shooting just two days after landing their roles — and then shooting just as quickly, with less than three weeks to put it all together. For a film that spends much of its runtime with a static camera playing out long scenes that work almost like they might on the stage, that was a particular challenge early on.

"We didn't really have enough time to do pre-production or rehearse," Kelly explained. "These are 10-minute scenes, 8-minute scenes, or whathaveyou. And thank God the actors got together on their own. Justin Miles, the guy who plays Alex, got everyone together and they rehearsed."

Adult Swim Yule Log 2 PRESS

After the fast production process, in which the actors went through everything from a flying murder log to a strange man living in the fireplace making devil's bargains with their characters, it was time for Kelly to present his 90 minutes of pure madness to adult swim, something he'd never done on this scale before.

"I was so nervous that they would hate it," he said. "I was trying so many different things and I was worried, am I combining flavors that don't belong together? Is this wasabi and peanut butter? So, I was worried they'd be like, 'Can't you just make this just about the log, just a fun movie about the log flying around?' But to my delight, they got it and bought into it."

Now, Adult Swim Yule Log is out in the world for viewers everywhere to enjoy just in time for Christmas. For the moment, Kelly can't confirm what his next project might be, and can't speak to the possibility of more feature films at Adult Swim, but the hope of more bizarre horror odyssies is already there.

"I have some ideas and I am working on some stuff and I would love that," he said. "Yes, we'll see how this one does, but I would love that for sure."

Adult Swim Yule Log is now streaming, uncensored, on HBO Max.

Looking for a Yule Log that's not, like, all messed-up? Stream Puss in Boots Yule Log on Peacock.