Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like a horror film, right?! Damn right! And when it comes from the delightfully twisted mind of writer/director Michael Dougherty, well, you’re in for some fun. Dougherty is the genius behind the film Trick r Treat, and the co-writing of X-Men 2, and the upcoming X-Men Apocalypse. Before that, he did some great macabre drawings of a holiday nature that went around the internet for a while. Some of you may have even used them to send to friends whose Christmas spirit is a bit on the dark side, like mine.
I’ve have been so excited to see Krampus ever since I saw the first teaser. And let’s face it, any holiday film that’s different – NOT one of those squishy, unrealistic romantic comedies or another version of Jingle All The Way – is a welcome film, indeed. Well, maybe Krampus is a little squishy, but not in the lovey-dovey way. It’s in more of a “why is that sack soaked in blood” sort of way.
Krampus is based on the old German-speaking Alpine folklore that Santa Claus has a counterpart. For all the bad kids, or those that forsake the jovial holiday spirit by being unruly, the personification of their punishment comes in the form of a menacing figure known as Krampus. Basically, if you’re bad, Krampus will come for you and things won’t go well.
In Krampus, Max is a kid full of the Christmas spirit, but hanging onto the good times of his even younger days. But now his dad works long hours, and maybe his parents don’t seem to be quite as happy, his sister is kind of a pain, and with the visiting aunt and uncle and their kids being assholes, well, Max finally snaps and wishes everyone would just go away, because Christmas just ain’t what it used to be. Oh, I hear ya, Max. I hear ya. You think it’s bad now, wait until you’re a grown-up. You’ll yearn for those warm and fuzzy childhood Christmases more than ever. Uuh, but I digress…
Max gets pissed off and goes to his room. He proceeds to tear up his letter to Santa and toss it out the window into the cold winter wind. He may as well have just handed that letter to Krampus himself, because before you know it, the clouds darken, the winds howl, and the snow is so thick you can’t see the neighbors house across the street. These folks are in for a really fucked-up three days.
Krampus plays a little like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation but with insane Christmas-themed monsters. You’ll never look at holiday Jack in the Boxes the same way again. Aaw, look at the cute teddy bear – wait, you know bears are carnivores, right? Uh huh. Wait, is that gingerbread man giving me the finger? That’s just mean.
All the cast is great here; Adam Scott and Toni Collette play Max’s (Emjay Anthony) parents, Stefania LaVie Owen his cellphone and boyfriend obsessed sister. David Koechner and Allison Tolman play Max’s uncle and aunt. He’s the Humvee-driving, gun-carrying “man’s gotta protect his family” type. She’s the somewhat ineffectual, harried mom with a new baby and three other monstrous kids to deal with. There are nice touches, though, like the aunt and uncle have two daughter’s that are such tomboy’s, even I wasn’t sure they weren’t actually boys. They add a bit of depth – and jokes – to both their own characters, and to that of Koechner’s Howard.
The always funny Conchata Ferrell plays Aunt Dorothy, who is none too welcome by Collette’s Sarah. She’s basically playing the same role as in Two and a Half Men, but that’s one of my favorite characters ever. Like I said, there’s a real Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation vibe going on, but it’s less silly, and more uncomfortable and in some other writer/director’s hands, it might be retread – stuff you’ve seen before. But Dougherty has a vision all his own, and Krampus eventually ends up where I didn’t expect.
Most of the effects are thankfully practical. Seems to be the use of puppets and people in cool suits – similar to Henson’s larger muppets. There is some CG, but in all the right places. You’ll see WETA Workshop in the credits, so you know it’s all top drawer.
The only negative thing I might say is that it maybe it could have been funnier, but I still laughed enough to make this entertaining, and there is enough creepy and chaotic madness to recommend Krampus to anyone looking for something new and different at the holidays. This definitely is not your parents Christmas movie. But it sure is mine! I’m still giving Krampus three and half to four kittenhands. I had a good time at the movies!
~ Neil T Weakley, your average movie-goer, reminding you to NOT take the kids to this one.