Krampus (Movie Review)

Krampus (Movie Review)

For centuries, the European legend of a “Christmas Devil” has had children terrified of ending up on the naughty list. In contrast to sweet and generous St. Nicholas, an entity named Krampus was conceived, who has a very different nature. The folktale surrounding Krampus changes with each generation and region, but the premise still stays the same. Instead of leaving candy, the half-goat, half-demon creature lashes wicked children with sticks and carries them off to his lair in the underworld. Director and writer Michael Dougherty, along with co-writers Todd Casey and Zach Shields, brings this monstrous creature to life in Krampus, released on December 4, 2015 by Universal Pictures. Dougherty, who wrote and directed the cult film Trick ‘r Treat (2007), is no stranger to adding Horror to the holidays.

Still from Krampus

Opening in slow motion to Bing Crosby’s classic tune, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” a crowd rushes into a department store for holiday sales. In Black Friday fashion, the shoppers trample, punch, and fight to get the items they want. The scene then shifts to a school play as young Max (Emjay Anthony: The Divergent Series: Insurgent 2015, Rake 2014) fights with another boy as his parents, Tom (Adam Scott: Parks and Recreation 2010-2015, Sleeping with Other People 2015) and Sarah (Toni Collette: United States of Tara 2009-2011, The Sixth Sense 1999) run to the stage. His teenage sister, Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen: The Lovely Bones 2009, The Carrie Diaries 2013-2014), stands by recording and laughing. Arriving home, the family find Tom’s Austrian mother, Omi (Krista Stadler: Mobbing 2012, Clarissa’s Secret 2012), baking and preparing for Christmas. Referring to the fight, Max explains that the boy told younger children that Santa does not exist, while trying to hide the fact that he still believes. Omi tells him that she also believes and he should write his letter to Santa, which he does. The family is soon joined by Sarah’s sister and brother-in-law, Linda (Allison Tolman: The Gift 2015, Fargo 2014) and Howard (David Koechner: The Office 2005-2013, Piranha 3DD 2012), and their four rambunctious children. Adding to the chaos is Sarah’s Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell: Two and a Half Men 2003-2015, K-PAX 2001), who constantly complains and drinks.

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Still from Krampus

During the family’s dinner the first evening, Max’s cousins find his letter to Santa and teases him for still believing. Following yet another physical altercation, Max goes to his room and rips his letter into pieces before throwing it out the window. That night, a harsh blizzard blows in, cutting off power, radio, and cell service, as well as making the roads undrivable. The next day, Beth is frustrated over not being able to communicate with her boyfriend and walks to his house nearby. Along the way, she sees a large menacing figure on a roof and runs back towards her house. The creature jumps from rooftop to rooftop, chasing her, until she hides under a van. Large hooves come down next to her with a “THUD” as a jack-in-the-box is placed next to the van. Screams are heard as it pops open. Realizing that Beth has been gone too long, Tom and Howard set off to find her, but they are met with trouble on the road and return to the house. After yet another child disappears, Omi darkly says, “Saint Nicholas is not coming this year. Instead, a much darker, ancient spirit. His name is Krampus. He and his helpers did not come to give, but to take. He is the shadow of Saint Nicholas.” She explains that she first encountered Krampus as a child after World War II as her story is shown through an animated, yet emotional, scene. The family soon realizes that they are in for the fight of their lives as the creature and his minions approach the house.

Although Krampus traditionally travels alone, Dougherty put his own twist on the folklore and added demonic toys, beastly reindeer, and a terrifying version of elves. Although some CG is used, the amount of practical effects is impressive. All of the evil toys were actual puppets, while Krampus was created by a professional creature designer and played by actor and stunt performer, Luke Hawker (Avatar 2009, Contract Killers 2014). When CG was used, it was cleverly done and never overused. That seems to be a rarity in larger budget films today.

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Still from Krampus

The cast includes many well-known and talented actors, so it was somewhat surprising to see Krista Stadler (playing Omi) and Emjay Anthony (playing Max) have such standout performances. They stole every scene they were featured in, although the acting was strong across the board. There was quite a bit of sarcastic and silly humor throughout the movie, keeping it from going too dark. The writers definitely channeled other comedic Horror films, such as Gremlins, to keep their family-friendly atmosphere, hence the PG-13 rating. Their method obviously worked since the movie was a surprise box office success, coming in second opening weekend. Make room St. Nicholas, because Krampus is finally getting the spotlight he deserves. CrypticRock gives Krampus 4 out of 5 stars.

Universal Studios

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Melissa Ann
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Melissa is a freelance writer and Horror fanatic, with an emphasis on indie, foreign and 80s horror. She appreciates practical effects and bloodshed--lots of it. "Always make the audience suffer as much as possible." ~Alfred Hitchcock

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