Published on January 5th, 2016 | by Brando Quiring0
You better watch out, you better not pout, you better not cry, I’m telling you why — Krampus coming to town this Christmas movie season.
At its core Krampus is a very traditional Christmas movie. It is about a family who has lost its holiday spirit and who then rediscover the joys of family, togetherness, and all that other great stuff through the trials presented to them over the film’s runtime. The twist is that the trials are a legion of killer toys, a mass of homicidal cookies, and a child consuming jack-in-the-box. The monsters are all led by a satanic Santa who will not rest until each and every member of the family realizes the mistake they made by allowing their belief in the true meaning a Christmas and their level of caring for one another to sag so low.
The movie starts off with a very Watchmen-esque montage of Black Friday shopping, featuring retail employees being trampled by rampaging shoppers, store shelves being stripping clean by bargain hunters, and scores of people standing around using their phones to record festive fist fights. A participant in one of these fights is Max, who is the youngest child in his family and has gotten into a fist fight with another kid who told him that Santa isn’t real. Max is the lynchpin for the film’s plot as he is the last character who still holds on to any real belief in the Christmas spirit and it is his total loss of that faith after a catastrophic family dinner that ends up summoning Krampus to take his family.
The family itself is comprised of your typical holiday movie mainstays. You have the overbearing uncle, the whiney aunt, their antagonistic twins, and a super fat middle child, along with their afterthought baby who is only there to add high-pitched wailing to scenes. Then you have the addition of the drunken aunt who no one really wants to be around and the grandmother from the old country who doesn’t speak English, but does serve as a source of information once the demons show up.
While the story does deal with a lot of very dark stuff, the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. The interaction that happens with the family early on felt more like Home Alone than Rosemary’s Baby and there were several laugh out loud moments even as the scares really start mounting. These moments of levity are fun but they do undermine the seriousness of the story and make some of the dark stuff less effective, which does add to the ‘remember, this is a Christmas movie’ feel. There were moments when I forgot that the people who were being dragged off by these Christmas creatures were actually being condemned to the fiery pits of Hell and not just turned in to funny snowmen or some other innocuous form of punishment.
Another thing that contrasts with the light hearted way the story is told are the creatures themselves. Krampus himself is a terrifying demon and each and every one of his minions are every bit as dark and scary as you would expect a ten foot tall, child eating jester puppet to be. The practical effects are top notch with only a little CGI to add a little gore around the fangs and some slime to the hell spawn as they terrorize the family. Along with the great effects the actors do a great job of being both a horror movie body count and a holiday movie group of people you root for, hoping they learn to love each other so that Krampus doesn’t take them away too. You really do want these people to make it through even though many of them are total assholes, which I would say is the mark of a strong movie character.
Overall Krampus is a really fun ride, whether you look at it as a cheesy horror flick or as a very left field Christmas special. It teaches the lesson that all holiday flicks aim to convey: the importance of family and the spirit of Christmas and giving, but obviously these lessons are conveyed in a different fashion. Rather than having their bloated vacation plans ruined, those who have lost their belief in hope and family are lured in by delicious cookies and then strung up on meat hooks and scorched in the eternal flames of damnation. It ranks very high on my Christmas season watch list and I hope to see it on ABC after the rerun of the Grumpy Cat movie.