Starring Toni Collette, Adam Scott, David Koechner, Allison Tolman
Directed by Michael Dougherty
In Alpine folklore Krampus is a half-human/half-demon figure with ram-like horns growing out from under his red and white stocking cap. According to traditional tales swirling around the legend, Krampus punishes children during the Christmas season who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved ones with gifts.
In this Hollywood movie, Krampus (Luke Hawker) is a slasher with his satanly sights set on Max (Emjay Anthony), a little boy who’s been naughty. Even though Max is actually a very well-behaved child who genuinely loves the Christmas season, he does one bad thing… and bam! No second chances. Krampus is one strict S.O.B.
The film starts out like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, when a frazzled family – dad Tommy (Scott), mom Sarah (Collette), their two kids, and Grandma Omi (Krista Stadler) – welcome their freeloading, rude relatives over to enjoy some Christmas cheer. Sarah’s sister, Linda (Tolman), is married to a jobless jerk, Howard (Koechner); and their brood of brats is matched in idiocy only to drunken Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell) and their cowardly cur, a bulldog who shrinks from its own shadow.
Once we get to know the family, Krampus segues into an homage to Gremlins and, finally, channels bits and bloody pieces of Puppetmaster and Silent Night, Deadly Night. It’s not the most original movie for sure, but it has its moments of fun thanks to writer-director Michael Dougherty (whose other holiday feature, Trick ‘r Treat, centered around Halloween, has become a neoclassic amongst genre fans). The set decoration and attention to detail are stunning, and the actors are all terrific given their paper-thin characters.
Maybe I need to see Krampus again (sometimes gimmick movies like these do grow on me), but having had a few days to absorb it at the time of this writing, I still wish I’d liked it more. I wanted to love it – it’s got all the right elements for an excellent holiday horror movie, but maybe it’s just too derivative. To me, if felt very much like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with some frightening folklore and boo-scares thrown in. It does not hold a gingerbread cookie to scary cinematic Santas of previous years: Rare Exports (2010), the aforementioned Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), Christmas Evil (1980), or even Santa’s Slay (2005).
I didn’t hate it by any means; it’s just not exciting enough to take over as my favorite gift of the year. When it comes to Krampus, you’d better watch out.