“Krampus” Is a Fun and Terrifying Twist on Christmas
I loved Krampus. Sure, it isn’t an artistic masterpiece, but it is loads of fun, and will probably become a staple for me in my future Christmas movie rotation. Yes, it was that good. Between the lush Christmas decor, the terrifying elves, and the hilarious comic relief, I had a huge grin on my face the whole time. And you will, too.
Christmas horror is a genre that does not get picked up very often — traditionally Christmas films are feel-good romps that have a message about family and hope. Luckily, Krampus also has the message of family and hope, just with evil elves and a terrifying villain. The thing I liked most about this film is that even though it is firmly planted in the horror genre, there is enough comedy infused to make it attractive to a wide audience.
A lot of this comedy comes from a wonderful cast which is rounded out by mostly comedic actors, including Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, and Conchata Ferrell. They kept the mood light when it could have easily gotten dark very quickly. Most of the other members of the cast are children, with our main protagonist being Max (played by Emjay Anthony). After Max gets frustrated by his family’s lack of Christmas spirit, he tears up his sweet letter to Santa Claus and throws it out the window. The pieces are quickly picked up by a cold wind and swept upwards into the night sky. Almost immediately, the wind begins to blow, a blizzard forms, and the family home loses electricity. As Omi (Max’s grandmother, played wonderfully by Krista Stadler) realizes what is happening, she shares that Krampus (the punisher of naughty children from Alpine folklore) is visiting them this year instead of Santa since they have lost the meaning of Christmas.
I will say that the beginning of the film is funny and bright; it reminded me a lot of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, with seeing the Christmas decorations and the traditional holiday meal together as a family. That warmth takes a sharp turn, but even throughout the film with the family being terrorized by evil gingerbread men and a murderous teddy bear, the focus keeps going back to family and that even though we all have our differences (and different ways of handling things), it is what matters most in the world.
Going back to the family being terrorized — this is really where horror fans will have a great time. The terror starts out small, with giggling gingerbread men who just want to shoot staple guns at peoples’ heads. Then the toys start coming to life. The most grotesque of these is a demonic jack-in-the-box clown who swallows children whole. If you don’t like clowns, you should probably avert your eyes. Luckily, nothing is too graphic or gory. We do get a close up of a wound, but there is surprisingly little blood or graphic injury for a horror film. Because of this, and the fact that there is such a build-up to the truly terrifying elements, I think that even audiences who get scared at horror films won’t find the film nightmare-inducing. But let me be clear — there are some scary parts!
As always, I need to mention some of the technical aspects of the film. For me, I like to pay special attention to the music when I watch a film. As you can expect, Krampus had its share of loud booms and crashes, but there were particularly special moments in the score that I loved, especially the jingling of bells in quiet scenes. I also liked that the score had so many throwbacks to Christmas carols, but twisted them into terrifying backdrops that really added to the Christmas feel of the film. There is also a flashback sequence in the film that, instead of being done in live-action, was created using computer graphics, but in a vignette style that reminded me of the “The Tale of Three Brothers” from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One. It was a special touch that had a strong impact and did not take away from the present action. The special effects were also great and everything seemed super realistic, especially the elves (I won’t divulge too much here, just watch the movie!).
Overall, Krampus was a lot of fun. It was dark, scary, and had a hell of a twist ending. However, there was enough Christmas mythology infused that it actually put me in more of a Christmas spirit after watching it. I definitely recommend going to see it, especially if you are a horror or dark comedy fan. Maybe leave the little ones at home, but I can see pre-teens and older really loving this film. It is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but was very well-made, well-acted, and has something for everyone. Merry Christmas!
Erin reviews Orphan Black, iZombie, Penny Dreadful, The Expanse, and many many movies. She has a keen eye for on-screen chemistry, and loves to tackle the subject of casting. She is also our horror aficionado. She live tweets shows, and loves to share her feelings. Erin has a BA in History, and likes to analyze the lore behind historical fiction and horror. She attends San Diego Comic Con and C2E2 every year.