Having previously helmed Halloween-themed horror film “Trick ‘r Treat”, director Michael Dougherty is clearly aiming to frighten people again by bringing an ancient Christmas spirit called Krampus to the big screen.
“Krampus” is both a blessing and a curse. It was obvious that Dougherty was craving for a change as the horror comedy is a breath of fresh air in the world of scary movies. Its spooky spin on Christmas is something that we haven’t seen in a long time since the 2012 horror film, “Silent Night”.
The horror comedy opens with a rather amusing slo-mo sequence that is set against Bing Crosby’s “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”. It is a well-crafted opening sequence that depicts a hell on Earth as a sea of frenzied shoppers are shown pummeling each other in a Black Friday retail store.
Amidst the chaos, we are introduced to a standard dysfunctional family spearheaded by workaholic husband/father Tom (played by Adam Scott).
Though the family is about to celebrate Christmas with their relatives, none of them except Max (played by Emjay Anthony), the youngest son of the family, seem too excited about it.
Max’s mom, Sarah (played by Toni Collette), is especially not happy about her husband as he is busy with work as usual. His sister Beth (played by Stefania LaVie Owen) is constantly keeping her eyes glued to her iPhone and like any typical teenager, she could not care less about Christmas. And then there’s Uncle Howard (played by David Koechner), the gun-crazed husband of Sarah’s sister Linda (played by Allison Tolman). The pair brings them even more chaos as they visit Max’s family with their bratty children (played by Lola Owen, Queenie Samuel, and Maverick Flack) and the obnoxious Aunt Dorothy (played by Conchata Ferrell).
Despite all that, Max still believes wholeheartedly in Santa Claus because he wants Christmas to be like it used to be. But of course, things don’t always go as planned.
When the fractured family clashes during the Christmas dinner, Max is convinced that his Christmas is officially ruined. In the heat of the moment, he decides to rip up his handwritten letter to Santa and toss it away. Little does he know, his action unleashes a series of terrifying events.
First, a freak blizzard leaves Max and his family completely isolated in their home without heat and electricity. Instead of getting stuck in the house with them, Beth decides to brave the horrible weather to visit her boyfriend. However, she never returns and it turns out that Beth’s disappearance is only the beginning of the family’s nightmare. Unbeknownst to the family, a greater threat is lurking outside their house and there’s no way for them to escape it.
As described by Max’s grandmother Omi (played by Krista Stadler), Krampus aka “the shadow of St. Nicholas” is out to get them.
For those who are unfamiliar with this European folklore, Krampus is known as the evil and twisted counterpart of Santa Claus.
The horned figure is every non-believer’s living nightmare, as he would punish him/her in the worst ways possible. Though the mythic figure remains largely unseen until the 3rd quarter of the film, Dougherty made sure that his appearance is worth the wait by emphasising on its dark, playful side.
Despite its PG-13 rating, the film did not shy away from showing us some immensely disturbing and violent sequences. From gingerbread men to the Christmas tree angel, a plethora of holiday icons are being turned into sinister underlings for Krampus. Demonic elves are featured in it as well, but only for a few fleeting seconds.
Kudos to Dougherty as he chose to use mostly practical effects and puppets for his movie. You can tell that the cast’s reactions towards most of the Krampus minions are legit because they were looking at the same “monsters” as we did, not some glossy CG creations. It’s the kind of sheer terror that we absolutely enjoyed from watching this film.
Speaking of the CG creations, there’s one particular sequence in the movie that I was pleasantly shocked to see. I won’t tell you in details, but I felt that it fit into the film perfectly, especially since the story was told from Omi’s perspective. The prominent cast members including Scott, Collette, Tolman, and Koechner, truly excelled at portraying their respective roles as they gave us some honest and deeply genuine performances.
“Krampus” is not the best Christmas horror-comedy film, but it certainly has the potential of becoming a cult favourite. Similar to Joe Dante’s cult classic “Gremlins”, the film is both horrifying and hilarious at the same time.
The movie didn’t exactly frighten me into thinking that Krampus is real, I must admit there were a few suspenseful scenes that actually freaked me out.
“Krampus” is out in cinemas nationwide. Go watch it! 🙂