Naughty or Nice?

You better watch out, you better not cry. You better not pout, I'm telling you why. No Santa Claus is not coming to town... instead it's his bizarro German counterpart Krampus, who spreads holiday dread and misery as opposed to holiday cheer. There aren't many Christmas horror films out there...not to mention many Christmas horror comedies (save Gremlins), so director Michael Dougherty (best known for Trick 'R Treat, the horror indie that celebrates everything Halloween) takes it upon himself to bring the dark legend of Krampus to life. Mixing so many genres can often have the Nightmare Before Christmas effect, in making the viewer feel unsure of when to actually watch the feature in question, and thus finding themselves never watching it. Krampus though, for better or worse (depending on the viewer's opinion) boldly declares itself a Christmas film, and might just be that first and foremost.

The holiday horror comedy stage is set right from the get-go, as the credits show us the joys and terrors of the holiday season in the form of mass consumerism. We are introduced to one family who is celebrating Christmas on the surface, but they've all seemed to have forgotten the true meaning behind the holiday. After a particularly tense family dinner, a young boy named Max tears up his Christmas list of wishes for his family, believing that Christmas miracles no longer exist. As a result of this act of non-faith, the demon Krampus and his followers are summoned to teach this family a thing or to about appreciating Christmas... in a darker way than the usual ghost of Christmas past, present, or future usually goes about things.

The setup of the film is great. Krampus could easily seem cliched in the typical holiday family beginning, but Dougherty manages to transport you into this family's Christmas seamlessly enough that you get caught up in all the drama. The intrigue and mystery of what will happen next carry you along incredibly well, until midway through the film when it starts to be a little frustrating that the characters are acting too smart for the usual horror film scenarios. The middle portion of the movie I did find myself wondering when the good stuff was gonna start. But once the film does starts rolling, it's a real ride! Vague spoiler alert (highlight to read) The ending might seem a cop-out to some, but as it IS a holiday movie, I was much more forgiving... (end potential spoiler) That said, me and my pal Kent totally interpreted the ending in completely different ways, so it's anyone's guess as to what REALLY happened. The fact that such different interpretations occurred regarding the ending is honestly wonderful for such a film.

Krampus treads lightly on a very delicate line; it easily could all go wrong at any moment...and somehow it doesn't. Dougherty balances the act of being a horror film, a comedy, and a Christmas movie in a way that not many movies would dare attempt. Some might not think he pulls it off, but I thought Krampus handled all genres in such a way that they even manage to complement one another. The horror elements don't feel out of place in this dark Christmas fable, and neither does the comedy when things get downright ridiculous. Besides the Dougherty's directing, Krampus might not have been able to pull off this feat if it weren't for its solid cast. Toni Collette and Adam Scott are pretty much likable in anything, and David Koechner, if given the right material, can really shine. The young cast and all the supporting players are all good too. No one is given a ton of depth here, but everyone manages to shine and have a good time. They take the film completely seriously so you don't have to. Krampus plays things so straight which is bound to throw people off who are wishing for more horror or more comedy. But if you go along with it, it's a fun ride. EMILY RATING: 8/10


Sarah said...

It sounds like a very unique movie indeed. So, will this become part of your yearly Christmas movie repertoire? :)

Johanna said...

You know that Toni Collette could pull me into any movie, except maybe this one.

Oh, by the way, Gremlins was released in June. But I think most people think of it as a holiday film now, don't you?