Krampus Origins, 2018.
Directed by Joseph Mbah.
Starring Maria Olsen, Anna Harr, Amelia Haberman, Katie Peabody, and Luke Waxman.
The first World War rages on when a group of American soldiers find a mysterious artifact that can summon the ancient evil of the Krampus.
With three different Krampus scripts to his name, might one assume Robert Conway loves making bloody snow angels? 2015’s Krampus: The Reckoning pits an atrocious CGI Krampus against naughty townies, 2016’s Krampus Unleashed sics a hairy costumed Krampus on treasure hunters, and after taking 2017 off, Conway’s 2018 script for Krampus Origins ties Christmas’ reigning devil back to WWI. What’s December without a low-budget tale of magical amulets, schoolchildren, and Krampus’ summoning? Heaven for some, but ask this film critic, and it’s a special kind of Winter Blunderland.
According to Krampus Origins lore, a group of American soldiers finds themselves behind German lines during the 1918’s Battle Of Argonne Forest (France’s Western Front). A Central Powers officer is interrupted mid-ritual; his book of esoteric scribblings confiscated by Allied forces. After the American grunts are in-turn ambushed and slain, the book – along with an encased amulet – transfers possession to one of the squadron private’s surviving widows. Josephine (Katie Peabody), now a history teacher at an Arizona school, leaves the book out to be snatched by a curious student who, unsurprisingly, summons Krampus. That’s when Christmas Eve hell breaks loose.
You know, after 40 minutes of jabbery exposition.
In Conway’s progression of Krampus character evolution, Krampus Origins goes *mostly* practical – sans fireball eyes – for an underworld demon worth double-take appeal. Medieval Krampus’ midnight-black armor, upturned horns, and blazing staff all but nukes the memory of Krampus: The Reckoning. Then we realize Krampus ain’t movin’ around much because cumbersome costume pieces restrict to a sloth’s pace. Wait, is Krampus’ mouth even opening? Did Krampus learn ventriloquism or is the rubber facemask visible? We’re gifted barely any Krampus screentime comparative to the film’s 82ish minute length, and what we do receive is largely actionless and blanketed in purposeful dimness. Mainly drawn-out speech patterns like Conway’s keyboard letters got stuck on random words throughout Krampy’s monologue.
Krampus Origins Krampus > Krampus Unleashed Krampus > N64 graphics > Krampus: The Reckoning Krampus. For what that’s worth.
Director Joseph Mbah’s cinematography background elevates Conway’s predated WWI story, at times proficient in framing – but Catholic school aesthetics are blank and characterless. Colorless walls paint boxy boredom, (non-military) costumes appropriate but drab, and techniques – uh – creative? To emulate shaking structures, a cameraman spastically jostles his device around while actors pretend to stumble with near satirical regard. All the charm of industrial concrete parking structure greys, abandoned warehouse emptiness and not even enough tables for every student to fit in a lunchroom. Scenes blend into a monochrome mush of derelict Krampus-less muttering. Halls barely decked for St. Nick’s arrival.
More confoundingly, bloodshed levels remind of Lifetime cable television in that one single sequence of Krampus death-dealing occurs completely off camera – two nuns, a cook, a priest all mauled by Krampus – while fantasy elements “highlight” students versus folklore nightmare battles. Or, sorry, not battles. Krampus locks a few chanting kids in a closet via “molten doorknob” curse, Krampus banishes children to “Inferno” – his hellscape lair we never enter – with poorly rendered lightning blasts, there’s an excruciating “on fire” CGI death – it’s like low-budget animation bingo. Zero tension or hype conjured when it’s needed most, just some After Effects slapped together in post-production and lots of standing around like wizards with outstretched arms. Don’t expect Krampus to do much more than impose stature.
Krampus Origins earns points since I have the unfortunate “wealth” of knowledge to comprehend how incompetent Xmas horror indies can appear – but that’s no forgiving excuse. Too much time passes with students reading and nuns condemning alchemy books (one easily-stolen-back book, actually). Krampus vision – thermal yellow and orange – is engaged once and forgotten. Stutterin’ Bram (Luke Waxman) loses his impediment at the end of the film to…show…how he’s developed by “fighting” Krampus? Robert Conway’s most interesting deviations into creative holiday horror territories are either unexplored (Inferno) or used once and forgotten (Krampus Predator view). Expect the kind of movie that relies on Krampus payoffs and yeah, you’ll behold Super Grinch, but what unfolds is a subpar Goosebumps spinoff where Krampus gets sucked back into the book from whence he came. Folded up and scaled like a laptop mouse dragged-and-dropped his ass.
It ain’t all sharpened candy canes and gingerbread ninja assassins in Christmas’ terror world. Mismatched audio dialogue replacement (poor sound editing)? Nicholas, Krampus’ avatar who’s barely questioned? An ending that drags like Rudolph pulling eight dead reindeer? Krampus Origins, disappointingly, is a joyless introduction to an otherwise magnificent seasonal beast. Reading is power, but a *little* Krampus chaos never hurt anyone. Maybe swapped for all the drunk priest material that adds no importance?
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★ / Movie: ★
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram (@DoNatoBomb).