Directed by Michael Dougherty.
Starring Adam Scott, Emjay Anthony, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Conchata Ferrell, Allison Tolman, Stefania LaVie Owen, Lolo Owen, Queenie Samuel, Luke Hawker, Ivy Geoge, Maverick Flack, Gideon Emery, and Krista Stadler.
A boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon to his family home
Krampus is full of pleasant surprises, like an animated sequence in the middle of the film showcasing the origins of the titular Yuletide demons from hell. I suppose the biggest surprise is that the movie is actually good, when everyone involved easily could have went the lazy, phoned in, cash-grab route. Let’s face it, the holidays are looming, so pretty much any Christmas related movie should do enough decent business to turn back a profit.
Director Michael Dougherty (known for the excellent horror anthology Trick ‘r Treat, also serving as a writer on Krampus) dives into the basic elements of holiday grumps and dysfunctional families, elevating it into cult classic horror featuring very imaginative and terrifying, yet also lighthearted conceptual designs of different monsters. Even the opening credits depict an all-too authentic scenario, as hordes of people fight and trample each other over gifts to purchase inside a mall, which is obviously a rather funny yet unfortunately realistic jab at the mass chaos of Black Friday.
The family itself is made up of a number of great comedic actors that range from Adam Scott to David Koechner to Conchata Ferrell, whom all are successfully able to elicit unlikable qualities (neither the parents nor children get along with each other, they have awkward political discussions at the dinner table, and everyone unquestionably cannot wait to be rid of one another), but wisely never going to far, allowing us to understand and empathize with the fact that these are still good people who don’t deserve to be murdered by ancient demons. They simply just need a good kick in the ass about the true meaning of Christmas.
And so, with the first victim, our fractured family slowly comes together. There also even seems to be conservative subtext about guns not being the most evil conception in the universe; one father is reluctant at first to his in-law coming to the reunion fully loaded with a pistol and shotgun in the trunk of his truck, but slowly comes around to the idea of doing anything necessary to protect his flock. How the hell else are you going to fight a sinister incarnation of Saint Nicholas, along with his minions?
Still, it follows a fairly standard formula of confrontational relatives putting aside their differences to come to the realization that they should probably spend the limited time they can all be together wisely and productively, rather than incessantly arguing like children. Oddly enough, a child is the most mature character in the film, and it’s his frustrations of not having a happy family boiling over to a tipping point, causing him to accidentally and unintentionally wish for this terror.
It should also be mentioned that many of the creatures on display in Krampus come in varying tones. It can be awkward watching one character using a shotgun to fend off alive and violent gingerbread cookies, while elsewhere people are getting strangled and stabbed in the shoulder by much more imposing concoctions, but it shouldn’t be taken too seriously because the madness on display is always fun. Characters are often in danger, and the film accomplishes making us care whether they survive or find themselves being dragged down to hell.
A tip of the hat also has to be given to the filmmakers for choosing not to overly rely on CGI special effects, as many of the creatures are animatronics or puppets. Naturally, this gives them a little something extra in terms of actually coming across as scary. The aforementioned animated sequence in the middle of the film is also beautifully executed, not feeling out of place in the context in the narrative whatsoever.
What may turn some viewers off is the creative decision of continuously ditching comedy as the film unfolds. While there are definitely some comical encounters to be had, Krampus actually gets darker as the movie progresses, ending on a note left open to interpretations either jovial or depressing, depending on your viewpoint. Nevertheless, I admire the writers for sticking with a non-conventional ending, punctuating this unique experience with a fitting conclusion.
Even though Krampus is your average story of grinches rekindling their holiday spirit, just with an added edge of horror, it’s strangely alluring. Despite many of its predictable qualities, the film never ceases to be entertaining, and also admirably finds ways to subvert your expectations. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this one consistently being slotted on television around this season starting in the coming years; it has cult classic written all over it.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook