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Krampus Review


In 2007, Michael Dougherty made his directorial debut with Trick r’ Treat, a love letter to both Halloween and the horror genre as a whole, that went on to become a deserved cult classic. But we have had to wait till now to see him step behind the camera once more, which he does with Krampus, another horror themed holiday movie which evokes the darker side of the season of giving.

From the opening frame, it’s clear to see that Dougherty has set his humour to satire with Bing Crosby crooning “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” over scenes of a mall stampede, angry shoppers fighting each other over the last must have toy while security guards gleefully taze those who went a tad too far. The tone of the opening scenes are so perfectly pitched that this could have easily worked as a mean spirited Christmas family drama with no supernatural elements (along the lines of Bad Santa with a family full of Billy Bob Thorntons), as Tom and Sarah (Adam Scott and Toni Collette), their son Max (Emjay Anthony), and daughter Beth (Stefania LeVie Owen) must endure their boorish cousins, led by Howard (David Koechner) and Linda (Allison Tollman). But one excruciating family dinner too many sees Max, the only beacon of Christmas cheer in a sea of cynicism and downright loathing, lose the spirit of the season, which sends the titular festive boogeyman of German folklore their way to teach them the error of their ways in particularly brutal fashion.

Breezing through the set-up, Krampus wastes no time in unleashing its own brand of terror, evoking welcome memories of other alternative Christmas classics, Gremlins especially. It’s a horror comedy with emphasis on the comedy, but there is an unsettling atmosphere that carries through the movie from the first time we Krampus’ horned silhouette on a distant rooftop. The laughs come followed by nervous squirming in your seat as the cast of characters are picked off one by in ingeniously festive ways by Krampus and his minions, eaten by a Jack in the Box here and perforated by nail gun wielding Gingerbread Men there. Dougherty pulls off the amazing feat of making you fear for every character, each one is to be punished in Krampus’ eyes, and it makes that feeling of dread you feel growing inside you that much stronger.

The jewell in Krampus’ crown is the creature designs, twisting everything cheerful and comforting about Christmas and twisting them in terrifying ways. The stand out is the aforementioned Jack in the Box, a giant anaconda like monster that seems to have learned a thing or from Blade 2’s Reapers and could very well have a starring role in your nightmares for months to come. The monsters may be unsettling, but there is still an air of whimsy and the scene where they take centre stage have a wonderful old school feel to them, again bringing to mind Gremlins and even Army of Darkness. As for the titular monster himself, he is another gruesome creation, but his description as “Santa’s dark shadow” is taken quite literally which stops hims just short of truly terrifying. However, the much needed exposition scene detailing his origins is handled perfectly with a n animated sequence beautifully laying out everything we need to know.

With the third act in full swing, Krampus delivers the absolutely perfect ending (there’s even a fade out and everything), but then makes the mistake of going on for ten more minutes. The true ending delivers a wonderful kick in the pants to the audience, but the final scenes feel like a chore, and do nothing more than show off more of the wonderful creature designs. That being said, Krampus is the perfect concoction for those looking for a break from the manufactured Christmas cheer and endless songs about the holidays, and deserves to become alternative holiday viewing in  years to come.


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The Movie Bit: Krampus Review
Krampus Review
The Movie Bit
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