Movie Review: "Krampus" (2015)



Tis the freakin' season yet again and my inner Grinch has surfaced for his yearly bah-humbuggery. I hate to sound like one of those jaded hipster assholes who thinks he's too clever for Christmas. I enjoy aspects of it. I love the weather (unless wet and cold; then it can go fuck itself), I enjoy the time I get to spend with people, I enjoy the decorations people go all out on and I even enjoy the joy others feel for the season. I just don't like the maddening commercialized sledgehammer over the head it's become. Like clockwork we get early merchandise in stores sooner and sooner. I've seen Christmas shit in stores before Halloween going on a few years now! The days leading up to Thanksgiving bring the Black Friday adverts on television, radio and the internet. As soon as Thanksgiving is over the Christmas music blankets the world in a volley of jingly bells and sappy lyrics. It's all so damn robotic and cloying. We're programmed to love Christmas now, instead of just waiting for it patiently so we can enjoy our families, friends, some snow and presents.

Now that I'm done being a pretentious twat, let me tell why Krampus was such a blast: It's the best genre film to give Christmas the mean-spirited wedgie it deserves since Gremlins. Yes, Gremlins. And if there's one thing I love, it's Gremlins. Writer/Director Michael Dougherty did for Christmas with this film what he did with his already classic Trick r' Treat, and that's deliver a devilishly mischievous holiday themed horror film with enough verve to make it a mainstay of yearly viewing.

Krampus' opening credits set the smirking tone for the rest of the film, as we see a store being besieged by rampaging Christmas shoppers. After, we are introduced to our miserable family as they arrive at grandma' house to celebrate the season. What first struck me about the script is how it sets ups familiar cliches (the dad who works too much, the bitchy daughter, the half-crazy uncle etc.) without them feeling worn out or tired. The entire cast is grounded and the dialogue natural. The dynamic with the family felt real, and not like it was simply ticking off development boxes just so it could get to the good stuff. By the time Krampus showed up on the scene I was already invested in this particular families form of dysfunction. 

As for the actual horror of the film, it's PG-13 fare, but it's mean-spirited enough to get away with it. The film didn't need blood and gore to do its thing, and a few set pieces were genuinely tense. The order in which people are picked off is refreshingly shocking. The first kill actually took me aback and me think: "Damn, that was legit!" In fact, the movie goes against a certain horror movie rule so confidently that I'm surprised the film isn't rated R, despite the lack of any real gore. 

Like Halloween with Trick r' Treat, Dougherty nailed the look of Christmas with Krampus. You could fell the chill in the air and smell the gingerbread baking in the oven. I love a horror movie that can so totally nail it's atmosphere, and Dougherty is proving to be a director to watch in that regard. With his penchant for holiday themed mayhem, maybe he can pull-off a definitive Easter horror or Thanksgiving horror film.


Yet another aspect worthy of praise is the use of practical effects for most of the films creatures. CGI was used, but sparingly and with perfect effect. Krampus himself and the wicked Jack-In-the-Box monster were the highlights for me. The playful glee in which Krampus's various minions tormented our family is what reminded me most of Gremlins, and boy was not upset about that.

So on top on a strong cast with equally strong characterization, amazing atmosphere, a wicked sense of horror humor and an unpredictable body-count is there anything else to praise? Yes, yes there is. The ending. I was getting severely annoyed at the seemingly perfect little bow of an ending the film seemed to be going for, but then Dougherty pulled out his last little trick and gave the audience a nice little twist of an ending that fits right in line with the themes of the film and becomes more and more insidious as I mull it over in my head. Thank you, Mr. Dougherty, for not chickening out. 

Any flaws? Nothing major. I think the film could have used a little more action and a little less build-up and I wanted a particular character to get more of an arc, but other than that I have nary a complaint.

All in all, Krampus is exactly what I was hoping it would be and now Gremlins finally has a soulmate I can double-feature it with every year. 
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