Krampus is a Christmas themed horror comedy based on the horned monster of the same name from German and Austrian folklore. I know what you’re probably thinking, “That sounds ridiculous and silly.” It is a ridiculous tale, but only as ridiculous as the story of Santa Claus. Besides, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how effective the film is at espousing traditional Christmas values while gleefully murdering its cast in holiday themed horror. Krampus serves as a warning to anyone or any family who would dare forget the true meaning of Christmas.
The core of Krampus and the bedrock that holds the movie together is the Engel family. For a low budget horror comedy, the film has very good acting. Adam Scott portrays Tom Engel the film’s lead and straight man who works too much to spend time with his family or his superficial type A wife. Their children are, Beth, a normal teenage girl who wants to spend time with her boyfriend, and Max, as the optimistic, caring, and emotional heart of the story. Max still believes in Santa Claus despite being a preteen. And they all hate having to spend time with their extended family. Led by the amazing comedic duo of Conchata Ferrell (Two and a Half Men) and David Koechner (Anchorman), the extended family and their brood are all wonderfully obnoxious and ignorant in the best kind of way. Omi Engel, the German matriarch, who embodies a wise, yet mysterious presence, clearly knows a lot more than she lets on about the horror that will befall them. The Engels are a dysfunctional but lovable family similar to The Simpsons; and less like the callous cruelty and indiference of the Griffins in Family Guy. It's fun to watch them be picked off one by one in horror movie fashion, but unlike many horror movies with idiotic or shallow characters, we actually are rooting for them to make it out alive despite all evidence to the contrary.
For a movie that has to accomplish a delicate balancing act of horror and comedy it does a remarkable job at maintaining that razor thin line. Its success is definitely due to Michael Dougherty’s direction. His previous film was the cult hit Trick ‘r Treat, another holiday themed horror film. Using the foundation of a dysfunctional, selfish, but genuinely funny family Krampus’s tone is rock solid, easily bouncing from humorous to horrifying and often mixing the two with equal aplomb. In a lesser film this would have come off as incongruous and jarring but it works very well in Krampus. And this is a film that has suicidal gingerbread men.
One of my favorite movie quotes comes from Snatch’s (2000) antagonist, Brick Top, “Do you know what Nemesis means? A righteous infliction manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by a ‘orrible cunt.” Krampus is that appropriate agent, wreaking vengeance on this dysfunctional family who have forgotten the true values of Christmas (and by extension any family that has forgotten these values). Krampus is the polar (pun intended) opposite of St. Nicholas, right down to his own creepy elves and twisted reindeer. The movie follows the Jaws approach in revealing Krampus to the audience and it pays off. For much of the movie he’s cloaked in the shadows or hidden by camera angles. The film is more than content to share the spotlight with Krampus’s creepy underlings and living toys until his fully terrible and menacing form is revealed.
Krampus is a funny and scary tale that’s coherent and entertaining. Krampus is an antidote to those sick of the facade of “Christmas Spirit” that masquerades over rampant gift buying. The film serves up some just desserts while also espousing a celebration of traditional Christmas values like the bonds of family, selflessness, and the belief in old St. Nick. Horror aficionados might balk at the PG-13 rating or the humor aspects, but save for a lack of extreme gore/violence, the movie brings some solid scares. In addition, Krampus really does a fantastic job of maintaining the balance of humor and horror. It’s a solid tale that manages to have its fruit cake and eat it too.
TLDR: Krampus is a Christmas themed horror comedy with a rock solid tone. It’s funny and self referential without being too ridiculous with plenty of horror to go around. (3.5/5 stars)
Brevet, Brad. "'Good Dinosaur' and 'Mockingjay' Battle for First, 'Krampus' Picks Up the Scraps." - Box Office Mojo. IMDB, 4 Dec. 2015. Web. Dec. 2015.