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 family gets together for the annual festive celebrations, but all is not well in the household and the family have all but lost their Christmas spirit, especially young Max who simply longs for things to be like they used to. This unhappiness does not go unnoticed, and after Max wishes that his family would simply go away, they suddenly find themselves under siege from a horde of festive monsters all under the leadership of the mythical creature known as Krampus.
The star of the Christmas season is undoubtedly Santa Claus; with his all round jolly old man personality, generosity and general kindness, he is Christmas personified. Yet, he’s not the only figure that comes around this time of year.
In Germanic folklore, it is said that while St Nicholas visits those who have been good and rewards them with presents, those who have misbehaved are visited by Krampus, a half goat, half demonic creature who is said to dish out the punishment. This character is still very popular and in several festivals are held all over the world, particularly in Alpine towns in Europe, in which people dress up as the horned beast and generally have a bit of fun with people, giving coal to the supposedly “naughty” children.
This history lesson brings me to the subject of today’s review, the 2015 Christmas horror-comedy Krampus, which uses this mythical creature to create a flawed but entertaining slice of holiday horror.
The film’s ensemble cast is well put together and all do a terrific job with their parts and to pick out all the great qualities of the entire cast would make this review longer than it already is, so just I’ll pick out my personal favourites.
Adam Scott gets points for his transition from clichéd suburban dad to genuinely believable action hero, making his encounters with the film’s monsters all the funnier by his reactions, such as when confronted by a demonic Jack in the Box monster, he reacts like he’s in a hurry and has accidently ended up in a traffic jam.
Emjay Anthony also deserves praise for his turn as young Max, making for a sympathetic protagonist with his desire to have a nice Christmas, while also becoming more selfless as the battle with Krampus begins to go badly.
Much of the praise should go to Conchanta Ferrell (who many will recognise as Bertha from Two and a Half Men) as Aunt Dorothy, a cantankerous and politically incorrect old had, Ferrell nails the part with her comic timing and deadpan delivery, while also getting one of the film’s coolest action moments.
The creatures that Krampus dispatches to punish the family are definitely the type of thing you’ll see if you drink too much eggnog, with all being incredibly creative, funny and terrifying in equal measures. The film’s major action scene against the monsters features some excellent mixing of CGI and practical effects, with the demonic gingerbread men being incredibly funny, while the man-eating Jack in the Box monster is something that’s likely to haunt my nightmares for the next few weeks, provided my nightmares of Chucky haven’t stopped.The Krampus himself is wisely kept back for much of the film, really only making his appearance in the final act, with his appearance being something of a dark reflection of Santa Claus, as the description personality in folklore suggests.
The film does take some time to get things moving when Krampus and his minions arrive on the scene, but once it does it’s a lot of fun.
One stand out moment that I simply have to talk about though is a brilliantly done animated sequence in which Omi, Max’s German-speaking grandmother, tells the story of her own run in with the Krampus. The sequence is brilliant in its presentation, with all the adults depicted as shadowy figures and Krampus being depicted almost like the shapes you would see on a magic lantern that would entertain people back in the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s a breathtaking sequence and is easily the best part of the whole film in my view, despite its relatively short length.
The film is very much a festive follow-up to director Michael Dougherty’s vastly underrated 2007 Halloween film Trick r’ Treat (which I stupidly didn’t spotlight in my October Horror series) so fans of that film’s darkly comedic tone should be right at home here, although, in my view Krampus is not quite as good as that earlier effort.
I feel that the film’s story arguably being better suited as part of connected anthology format, similar to Trick r’ Treat (in which several stories took place over the course of one night in the same town) rather than it having to fill up a feature length film, which I felt left the filmmakers struggling to stretch the story to fill the runtime.
Although despite its perhaps stretched story, I will admit that the film does have its fair share of funny and scary moments, again I refer back to the Jack in the Box monster. Seriously that thing is scary.
With a talented cast, nightmarish creatures and some great stand out moments, Krampus is not a bad film, far from it, but it still has some ways to go before I can consider it a great film. I have a strong inkling that like the director’s previous effort, this film is almost certain to live on as a cult hit with legions of fans, I just don’t see myself being part of that cult, at least maybe not yet.
While I have mixed feelings towards the film, I did have a desire to watch it again and perhaps this is very much a film that I think might take a few more viewings before it can fully convert me into a true believer of Krampus.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★