The Adult Swim ‘Yule Log’ Video is Actually a Surprise Horror Movie Titled ‘The Fireplace’

Yule logs create a wonderful holiday atmosphere. Adult Swim’s Yule Log creates an even more wonderful atmosphere by being a full-length horror movie disguised as an ordinary yule log video!

Adult Swim’s Yule Log (aka The Fireplace) (2022) is a wonderful surprise holiday gift for horror fans.

Christmas came early for fans of Adult Swim and horror movies. On December 12, 2022, HBO Max released what was promoted as a streaming yule log video (footage of a burning fireplace for use in setting a holiday mood). Being an Adult Swim production, savvy viewers surely knew there would be a twist to the promised yule log experience. And what a twist there was. Adult Swim’s Yule Log is actually a full-length horror movie titled The Fireplace. Read on to learn more about this weird and wonderful holiday surprise.

The “TV-MA” rating (and the fact that it’s made by Adult Swim) is an indicator that this promo isn’t all that it seems.

Spoiler-Free Review

Adult Swim's Yule Log aka The Fireplace (2022)
The first 30-or-so minutes all take place from a stationary camera in a clever use of a found-footage style.

For the first couple of minutes, Adult Swim’s Yule Log is just that: video of a crackling fireplace. Then, at around the two minute mark, the first twist on the format happens. voices are heard, someone only partially in frame appears, and it becomes clear that this yule log exists in a space unlike any other yule log you’ve ever witnessed. We hear something disturbing occur off-screen, and we witness more characters wander in and out of the shot. Is Adult Swim’s Yule Log a found-footage movie? For a while it sort of is. But this movie, whose title is later revealed as The Fireplace, pushes itself beyond any strict genre or format definition. It’s a wild ride.

Adult Swim's Yule Log aka The Fireplace (2022)
The Fireplace doesn’t shy away from gore. The effects are a combination of practical and digital, though both are done on a lower budget (which fits the film’s aesthetic well).

For those concerned/wondering, the movie does not take place solely in a closeup view of a fireplace. Writer and director Casper Kelly did briefly consider doing the entire movie through audio as we watched a full-frame shot of a yule log the whole time, but no, that’s not what The Fireplace is. The Fireplace eventually turns into a normal movie in the way it’s shot and edited, though “normal” is probably the wrong word to use. Nothing about The Fireplace is normal.

Adult Swim's Yule Log aka The Fireplace (2022)
Interesting editing techniques are used to convey layers of story and meaning.

A succinct summary without giving too much away is that it’s like It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) mashed up with the backwoods horror of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) through the lens of David Lynch. But take all that and make it funny and modern. If that sounds intriguing at all, go watch it right now and come back for the rest of this article later because even that definition leaves out a lot of the twists and turns in The Fireplace.

Adult Swim's Yule Log aka The Fireplace (2022)
The Fireplace uses just about every cabin-in-woods trope.

For some people, the huge swings The Fireplace takes in terms of telling its story may be too much. There are tons of ideas thrown into the film, and at times it can feel like one story line is completely derailed in favor of another story line simply for the sake of surprise. Huge shifts like that happen frequently throughout the movie, but I’d argue that they all have their place. By the end of The Fireplace, every weird tangent is eventually paid off in one way or another. Some payoffs are more satisfying than others, but for as random as the movie seems at first, it definitely wasn’t thrown together haphazardly. It’s an absolute blast when things start clicking into place as the story unfolds.

Adult Swim's Yule Log aka The Fireplace (2022)
Even when the camera is stationary for an extended period of time, details like the person shown in the reflection of a wine bucket (bottom right) help build tension.

Casper Kelly states that The Fireplace began as a “4 a.m.”, which is a reference to the strange, often experimental programming Adult Swim would air extremely late at night. If you’re familiar with Adult Swim classics like “Too Many Cooks” then you’ll have a good idea of the style of horror and comedy awaiting you in The Fireplace. For everyone else, a recent example of something somewhat in the same vicinity as The Fireplace is Zach Cregger’s Barbarian (2022). If you enjoyed Barbarian, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy The Fireplace.

The creator of The Fireplace, Casper Kelly, also created the brilliant Adult Swim short “Too Many Cooks.”

To sum it all up, The Fireplace is absolutely recommended for anyone who is into weird, comical horror. The movie is deeper than you might think, but it’s also wacky enough for those who just want to turn their minds off and have a fun time. As a viewing suggestion, in keeping with its late-night-Adult-Swim inspirations, watch The Fireplace as late at night as you can without falling asleep. The Fireplace is currently streaming on HBO Max under the title Adult Swim Yule Log (aka The Fireplace).

The Cast of Adult Swim’s Yule Log (aka The Fireplace)

The Fireplace uses a fair amount of archetypes as starting points for its characters: the final girl, the oblivious boyfriend, the backwoods killers, etc. That said, the movie takes the familiar and mixes it up into something unique. Beware of minor spoilers in this section.

Andrea Laing as Zoe

Adult Swim's Yule Log aka The Fireplace (2022)
Zoe has the biggest character arc of the movie, making The Fireplace her story.

At times it can be difficult to discern who the main character is in The Fireplace, but Zoe gives off “final girl” vibes (cautious, pragmatic, the smartest person in the room) right from the start. Andrea Liang has a long list of television credits including the shows Atlanta (2022) and Dopesick (2021), and she has appeared in multiple short and feature films. Her previous horror credits include the micro-budget horror movie Chainsaw Cheerleaders (2008) in which she has a blink-and-you-miss-her appearance.

Justin Miles as Alex

Adult Swim's Yule Log aka The Fireplace (2022)
Alex is a bit self-centered, and he doesn’t always think about the repercussions of what he says or does.

Alex is Zoe’s boyfriend. Alex means well most of the time, but he’s also oblivious to Zoe’s feelings at times. Alex also makes some really awful decisions. Justin Miles has a few previous horror appearances including episodes of Swamp Thing (2019) and The Walking Dead (2015). He was also in The Crazies (2010) as Scotty McGregor, Becca’s boyfriend.

Tordy Clark as Mother

Adult Swim's Yule Log aka The Fireplace (2022)
Mother is a deranged woman who is also a pimento cheese connoisseur.

Mother is the only name given by the serial-killing woman who breaks into the cabin rented by Alex and Zoe. Her role in the film is brief but memorable. Tordy Clark recently appeared in the cosmic horror film Glorious (2022) as the wise and road-weary trucker Sharon.

Brendan Patrick Conner as Pleatherface

Adult Swim's Yule Log aka The Fireplace (2022)
Pleatherface

Pleatherface is a man-child in a mask whom Mother sends out on “dates” so he can give her a grandbaby. Brendan Patrick Conner has a varied history of roles in television and film, but his closest brush with horror was appearing in an episode of the final season of The X-Files in 2018.

Charles Green as Little Man in Fire

Adult Swim's Yule Log aka The Fireplace (2022)
Seeing the Little Man in Fire eating crow is a bit of foreshadowing for his journey towards the end of the movie.

Is the Little Man in Fire the Devil? Maybe. But maybe not. He appears to only a few characters in the movie, tempting them with promises of a better life while taking them on a journey into the past. It’s a lot to explain, but he plays a critical role in Zoe’s development throughout The Fireplace. Charles Green has previously appeared in horror films Doctor Sleep (2019) and Freaky (2020).

The Rest of the Main Cast

Adult Swim's Yule Log aka The Fireplace (2022)
The killer from “Too Many Cooks,” played by William Tokarsky, makes a cameo appearance in The Fireplace. He’s even wearing the same blue jacket as in the 2014 video.

Frequently Asked Questions (Spoilers)

Major story spoilers ahead in this section. This section is best read after watching the movie.

The Little Man in the Fire is an allusion to David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977) and its Lady in the Radiator.

Who is the villain in The Fireplace?

There are multiple antagonists in The Fireplace. Most prominently, there is a curse on the logs in the fireplace. The logs were taken from a tree used during a lynching in the past, and burning them attracts tragedy and death which we see taking place over multiple time periods. Also, one of the logs becomes sentient and, while on fire, flies around and murders people.

The characters Mother and Pleatherface are also antagonists in the film. The are a mother and son duo who go around murdering people in a slasher-movie style.

The mysterious Main in the fire is probably the main villain in The Fireplace. He has the power to move through time via an elevator in the fireplace, and he offers to help people with their personal issues. He is likely a demon or the Devil, though his true nature is never revealed.

The sheriff and his deputy are revealed to be surprise antagonists near the end of the movie. They are both part of a cult who appear to worship the Man in the fire and the deer-headed being who is seen accompanying him.

Also, there is an alien who uses a gun to suck people’s insides out through their face.
Moments like this symbolically show how the past is never really gone, and how it is intertwined with the present and the future.

What is The Fireplace really about?

To assign meaning to everything in The Fireplace would be absurd, but that doesn’t mean the movie is meaningless. At it’s core, The Fireplace is mostly about how the past affects the future. This is shown in multiple ways.

First, the lynching of Rosa in the past leads to most of the tragedy seen in the movie. Her death appears to act like a magnet, attracting evil and bringing out the worst in people. At the same time, the knife Rosa uses to kill Isaac in instrumental in saving Zoe’s life in the present (it falls out of the fireplace at the exact right moment), so it’s made clear that past isn’t always about its negative affects.

Secondly, Henry is ushered into the past by the Man in the fire, and he accidentally kills his own mother while she is pregnant with him. Henry is erased from existence, but does anything really change? Other than Henry being replaced in the present, nothing else changes. So do any of us really matter in the grand scheme of the universe?

And finally, Zoe’s character arc is based on the fact that she’s scared of repeating the past shown to her by her own parents. She also wonders if she wasn’t around, would her friend Willow still be alive? In the end, when faced with the option of removing herself from existence, she chooses to live and fight back.

What does it all mean? It’s open to interpretation, but it could mean we just have to do the best we can with what we’re given. It could also simply be a rumination on life without giving any specific answers.
The Man’s fiery room is like a cross between the Red Room in Twin Peaks and the “This Is Fine” meme.

Where can I watch The Fireplace?

The Fireplace is streaming only on HBO Max. There is currently no information on when or if it will be available anywhere else, including no word on a physical release.

Further Reading

Meet The Author

Chris Catt

Chris has a degree in film studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan. He is a renowned expert on horror cinema.