Krampus is a odd movie. The previews started coming out a few months ago, and frankly it was hard to get a read on. A PG-13 horror Christmas movie centered around Children. Now if you watch a lot of horror, you know there are a few rules. Children can be tormented, but very rarely are they directly attacked or beaten by the evil entity. Given that and the rating of the film, it was not really shaping up to be anything amazing. I went into this one not really expecting anything great, but knowing Michael Dougherty was behind it was enough to get a ticket sale from me. Writer and Director of both this and my favorite Halloween film, Trick 'r Treat. Seriously if you have not seen Trick 'r Treat yet, go check it out. So did Krampus surprise me, or were first impressions correct?
Krampus is the story of a reverse Santa, or Evil variation. Santa is jolly and brings good will and all that, Krampus is dark and brings Death and Destruction. Krampus is better, plain and simple. A goat horned demonic Santa with Evil elves, they don't even compare. The idea is where Santa brings you gifts and I guess grants Christmas wishes, Krampus is who shows up when your desires are more conceited or selfish. The movie does touch on the legend of Krampus, but the big take away is essentially this. Lose your Christmas spirit, that's a Krampus.
The story for the film follows a family on Christmas. The father is always working, the mother is there but not present, two kids who no longer really get along. The youngest is Max and he still believes in Santa. He writes a letter with his Grandmother and prepares to send it off. The mothers family comes to stay for a few days, and as with most family gatherings, everything goes to hell very quickly. One family is rich, the other poor. They bicker about this and damn near everything else. The different Children don't get along with the others and a event where Max is bullied ends up with him ripping his letter to santa up and tossing it out the window. This is the event that eventually triggers Krampus, granted there is far more to it however. Krampus comes, fun commences, and hold hell so do the laughs. I didn't expect that, but I love it.
The first third of the film actually works as a very solid Christmas movie. Add in a very different 2nd act and you got yourself a lifetime Original. I was honestly enjoying it to, who doesn't love to see families fighting at Christmas? From a beautiful opening shot of a toy store opening for holiday sales, filled with trampling, shoving, weapons, and a wonderful fist fight between children, it really does set a Christmas tone. It makes you almost forget it is a horror film, and you start to identify with the various characters and feel for them. Max is the voice of reason, and he loves Christmas. He asks his dad why we have to love family, and in a great scene the dad really can't come up with a reason. It all sounds quite depressing, but it feels like it setting up for growth from the various characters and a great resolution that leads to a stronger family. Thankfully Krampus shows before all that can happen.
A freak blizzard traps the family in a house without power, as well as obstructing their view beyond their own yard. A freaky snowman shows up, and the fun begins. The daughter is worried about her boyfriend and asks if she can go to his house a few blocks down. Oddly enough the parents say yes and she sets off. This is when we get our first Glimpse of Krampus. She spies him on a roof and he begins leaping from building to building as she runs away in terror. This is where the movie really picks up, and it rarely slows down from this point on. Krampus and his minions torment the family while slowly picking them off. And yes he takes out the children to. The humor is on point, and the creatures all look fantastic and very very creepy. The movie continued to outdo itself right up until the ending. And with all the terror, the family does come together which fulfills the Christmas message part of the movie.
Now for the Humor. If you have seen Trick 'r Treat you know about what to expect. Various portions of the film decides to push the humor over the horror. Normally this is a horrible decision, but it really does work for Krampus. The film is not scary, but the theater was laughing quite a bit, it was odd. However when one of your monsters is a Cookie, well odd stuff tends to happen. While I was never scared, I was entertained, so I would consider the way they handled those sequences to be a success.
If you like Horror, or Christmas films, well Krampus is solid in both genres. Yes it is not very scary, but the vibes and the tone is there, and a horror fan will still find joy in that. Plus the creatures look fantastic, and Krampus himself looks amazing. I do know some people have trouble watching kids being hurt, so I would like to point out the Krampus does indeed go after them as well. Though most of the on screen violence is aimed at the adults, while most of the bad stuff that happens to the kids is off screen.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. I left thinking about how I may start a new Christmas tradition of watching it, much like how I watch Trick 'r Treat every Halloween now. That is how much I liked this movie. Was it perfect, no. But it was easily the best Christmas film I have seen, and one of the more memorable horror films I have seen in a long time.