I don’t know why, but I was really looking forward to seeing Krampus, a Christmas horror movie reminiscent of the fun classics of of my childhood like Gremlins, The ‘Burbs, The Gate, Evil Dead, House, The Lost Boys, and Fright Night, just to name a few.
According to Wikipedia, Krampus “is a horned, anthropomorphic figure described as ‘half-goat, half-demon’ who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved”. I love this kind of folklore, and I’m a fan of horror films that don’t take themselves too serious and like to have a little fun. Plus I am a big fan of the four leads — Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Allison Tollman (from TV’s Fargo) and ubiquitous funnyman David Koechner. What’s there not to like?
Krampus kicks off by getting the atmosphere spot on. It’s 3 days out from Christmas the a suburban family are gathering to celebrate. Adam Scott and Toni Collette play the homeowners, who have a teenage daughter (Stefania Lavie Owen) and young son (Emjay Anthony), as well as an elderly grandmother who lives with them (Krista Stadler) . Tollman plays Collette’s sister, while Koecher plays the former’s husband. They’ve got four children of their own, including a baby. Coming along uninvited is the family dog and an annoying single aunt (Conchata Ferrell).
When one of the kids inadvertently kills the Christmas spirit in that family, Krampus descends on their house with a bunch of his minions. And so begins a night of terror where no one is safe and things will get crazier and crazier until Krampus gets his way.
The thing I liked most about the film was the fun atmosphere. You could tell from the humour right from the outset that Krampus knew what it was aiming for and never wavers from that position. And it’s a very funny movie. All of the four leads are hilarious in their own ways, delivering sharp dialogue and witty lines all throughout, even as the tone grew darker and moments of horror are introduced. In many ways, Krampus is more black comedy than genuine horror.
On the other hand, this meant that the film wasn’t as scary as it needed to be. Perhaps this was intentional, but I wanted more genuine frights to keep me on edge a little bit. A lot of the scares come from the creepy designs of the monsters, but in terms of scare tactics the film was a little lacking. And some of the choices of creatures were too wacky — and the CGI special effects not good enough — to be truly frightening.
Nonetheless, if you’re after a bit of alternative Christmas fun, Krampus delivers. I like that writer and director Michael Dougherty (who is listed as a writer on the upcoming X-Men: Apocalpyse) had the balls to make audiences feel that no one is safe in this movie — even the baby. If you’re in the movie, you’re fair game. Demons don’t discriminate. On the downside I felt like there were too many characters to keep track of and that the ending was deflating (even though it redeems itself a little before the credits roll). It won’t be remembered as fondly as the classics it pays homage to, and I wish it could have had a little more bite in terms of the horror elements, but on the whole, I still had a good time with Krampus.
3.25 stars out of 5