Director: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette & David Koechner
Synopsis: A boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon to his family home.
Rating: 15 Duration: 98 minutes Release date: 4 December (UK)
The best Christmas films are the ones that take the festive periods cheerful nature & feeling of togetherness and add a dash of cynicism to proceedings. The likes of Die Hard, Scrooged, Gremlins and Bad Santa all contain the spirit that makes Christmas delightful for some and miserable for others, and that is what Krampus does so well. It shows us the best and the worst of the most wonderful time of the year, without shoving it down our throats and does it all with a twisted glee.
As Christmas approaches, the Engel family are preparing their home for the imminent arrival of their various extended family. Tom (Adam Scott), Sarah (Toni Collette), Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) and Max (Emjay Anthony) are about to bombarded by Sarah’s sister and her clan. In true Home Alone style, their house is about to feel a whole lot smaller and family tensions are bubbling under the surface.
As Max attempts to get his family into the Christmas spirit, he hopes that they can continue the traditions of past Christmases, but his family’s inability to get along means that frustrations boil over. Having all but given in to the resentment he feels now, Max rips up his letter to Santa Claus, and inadvertently summons a dark version of Saint Nick; Krampus.
After Krampus has set up the family dynamic and called upon the dark forces that will make the characters next few days a living hell, Krampus really clicks into gear.
It’s easiest to say that Krampus feels a lot like Gremlins, and despite being a somewhat lazy comparison, it is true nonetheless. Krampus has the same sort of deviously playful nature that Gremlins has, and mixes a dark sense of humour with what Christmas really means while a series of finely crafted monsters terrorise a very likeable cast of characters.
Although the films characters are fairly one-dimensional, they are played well enough to make you care for what happens to them. Adam Scott and David Koechner have a strong chemistry as the opposing brothers-in-law, who have
never quite gotten along, and the two deliver some of the funniest lines the film has to offer. While Toni Collette adds a dramatic layer to proceedings, yet it is young Max who keeps the whole family together. His desire to keep Christmas special plays throughout the whole, and delivers, in its final scenes, a message that all families should abide by at this time of year.
Krampus is kept together by a tight pace,a short duration; 98 minutes, and some clever directing by Michael Dougherty. The Trick r’ Treat director improves on his Halloween anthology and has crafted a Christmas themed horror that feels like it is straight out of the 80’s. It’s simple premise, bickering family and, largely, practical effects give Krampus the feel of a film that could have been created in one of cinemas heydays.
Perhaps Krampus is not all that scary, but one would presume it was never meant to terrify audiences, rather it is there to play on our natural cynicism and our tendency to dislike those who we are meant to love. What it lacks in genuine scares, it makes up for in a highly energetic film that has all the right ingredients to make a great Christmas film.
Krampus, unfortunately, may not be to everyone’s tastes, and those expecting a straight up horror may leave mystified. But it’s hard to put a finger on any of the films faults. It’s creepy, cynical, has a slightly sadistic edge, it will make you laugh out loud and delivers the an all important Christmas message. For those who sit back and go with it, Krampus will become essential holiday viewing for years to come. For everyone else, go watch The Polar Express, you deserve to be punished.