Tweetable Takeaway: Krampus entertains, but never excels at its blend of horror and comedy. Tweet
The holidays are a time for gathering with family, drinking eggnog, and of course, huddling around the fireplace in fear of the Austrian goat monster, Krampus. It’s a tradition I personally look forward to every year. And it’s a premise that’s ripe with possibilities for a horror comedy–one that this film mostly squanders. KRAMPUS doesn’t have nearly as much fun with its ideas as it should be having, which is cause for a disappointing moviegoing experience. I mean for crying out loud, the message of the movie is that if you don’t believe in Santa, a monster comes and kills your entire family! Still, the quality cast and the one fun sequence involving holiday toys and cookies come to life make for at least one entertaining viewing.
The movie begins with an extended sequence of shoppers trampling over each other during an ostensible Black Friday. This may be the most horrific thing to occur on screen, and it happens right away. Nothing is scarier than real life humans, and the animal frenzy of these shoppers is there to prove it. Soon after we meet Tom (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Collette) coming home and preparing for Christmas with the annoying family. Their son Max (Emjay Anthony) just wants Christmas to be like it once was, when everyone wasn’t stressed and yelling at each other. After seeing this family, however, it’s hard to imagine that such a time ever actually existed. And then the other half of the family arrives: Hummer-driving, gun-toting Howard (David Koechner) and his wife who forgets babies in cars, Linda (Allison Tolman). Their two daughters make fun of Max’s letter to Santa, poking him that he still believes in Santa at all. Max rips up the letter, turning his back on Christmas, and in the process summoning the dark spirit of Krampus, also known as Santa Claus’s shadow.
From then on, it’s pretty standard horror fare. One by one, the family gets hunted down and killed. We never really cared that much about any of the family members to begin with (although who can resist Adam Scott just by virtue of being Adam Scott?), they only exist as fodder for creative deaths. And that’s where most of the pleasure will come from, as is often the case in these horror movies. How does Krampus measure up? Not too merry. With every kill, the movie is held back by its PG-13 rating, first and foremost. Although a wider and younger audience will be able to see the film, the cutting around crucial moments is high and bloodsport that horror fans crave is low. Horror films can play up the creepy level without an R rating, but once tiny talking gingerbread man cookies become a major part of the film, any creepy atmosphere is thrown out the window. With the approach Krampus takes, moments of silly gore round out the ridiculous sequences that start outrageous. Props must be given to the filmmakers for using practical effects for many of the creatures in the film. This easily could have turned into a CGI-filled film, and while CGI is not necessarily bad, the impressive monsters that you can see and tell are real and on set threatening these characters, the effect is immensely more effective. And while the film does have a little fun in the monsters it conjures up for the family to do battle against, there’s still an urge for the movie to have even more fun with what it has. At one point a whole group of evil creatures show up, and before being utilized in much of any manner, they’re gone. They’re one of several ideas that are intriguing, and shortly thereafter abandoned.
Things come to a head rather quickly, with a rushed climax that exists merely to provide a mild twist–one that’s rather disappointing. When the Krampus is finally revealed on screen, his appearance isn’t exactly frightening, and in fact, is unimpressive; like many of the best monsters of horror movies’ past, small glimpses that drive the audience’s imagination tend to be far scarier. Krampus certainly entertains for its short runtime, and gives anyone who has a stomach ache from all that saccharine Christmas cheer a way to fight back in a fun, albeit small way. Will it become an annual tradition for movie watchers? Sadly, Krampus is one movie that’s better off left in Santa’s shadow.
I give Krampus 3 evil gingerbread man cookies out of 5
Wil lives, breathes, and loves movies. On job applications he will often list the movie theater as his second residence, and the usher as his emergency contact.
Wil Loper | Contributor