Director – Michael Dougherty
Cast – Adam Scott, Emjay Anthony, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Stefania LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler, Maverick Flack, Lolo Owen, Queenie Samuel, Luke Hawker, Gideon Emery
Release Year – 2015
Reviewed by John of the Dead
It has been six years since Michael Dougherty’s debut film, Trick ‘r Treat, put him on the map. An engaging holiday-themed anthology, the film initially sat on the shelf for two years before it was finally released to the masses – a move that left many wondering why on Earth studio execs decided to not release it in theaters. LESSON LEARNED. Krampus is his newest film and once again he delivers a holiday-themed horror film that, this time, is available on the big screen. It doesn’t quite hit as hard as I thought it would, but this fun, engaging, and creepy effort is an experience I recommend you check out during this holiday season.
It’s December 23rd. The presents are under the tree, it’s snowing, and all young Max wants is for Christmas to be the way it used to be. When his dysfunctional family ruins the holiday spirit, he rebukes Christmas and draws the ire of Krampus – the ancient Christmas demon charged with punishing those who turn their back on the holiday. As Krampus lays waste to the neighborhood and sets his sights on Max’s family, they must band together in order to survive past December 25th.
I cannot emphasize enough how excited I was to see a holiday horror film on the big screen. My last opportunity for such an occasion was the 2007 remake of Black Christmas, which I knew would be terrible but I had to see my childhood crush Michelle Tractenberg. It seems the holiday horror film has faded ever since its apex in the 1980s, but I am glad to see that somebody is giving us what we want to see. That man is Michael Dougherty.
Krampus begins with a festive mood as we watch Max’s family prepare for the impending arrival of some relatives they’d rather not house during the holidays. Rude, unappreciative, and lacking the humbleness that should be in full effect, Max draws the line when his cousins humiliate him, leading to tear apart a selfless letter he wrote to Santa. This is what opens the door to the arrival of Krampus. Soon after Max loses his faith a tremendous snowstorm takes over the town. There is no power anywhere, their neighbors are nowhere to be found, and spooky snowmen are mysterious appearing on their front lawn. It doesn’t take long for the horror to hit, and when it does the film hardly slows down for more than a moment. Because of their situation the family is forced to remain in the home until “help” comes for them, and this leaves them in a nowhere to run scenario that ups the ante. I loved watching Krampus employ his minions to harass the family, and eventually drag them into a hellish underworld. No holds are barred here. What I mean by that is nobody is safe from the demons. Whether adult or child, nobody is safe from and we watch as taboos are tackled with some of the children suffering unsettling deaths. I like a film with guts, and Krampus has the guts to bring true horror to those who enjoy Christmas the most – the children. It’s awesome to watch traditional childhood / Christmas toys come to life and kill everyone in their path, and I applaud the writers for not limiting the antagonists to just Krampus himself. They also did not limit the film to a singular setting, as they at times do leave the home and venture into the snowy abyss that surrounds them. This always results in effective horror, so look forward to these scenes.
Doherty’s direction is fantastic from start to finish. I loved the atmosphere and sets used, as they provided a strong, grim, hopeless feeling after Krampus arrives. He gives us a full-frontal view into the chaos surrounding the family, and despite this being a PG-13 effort there is plenty of horror. There aren’t as many on-screen deaths as I would have liked, which would have probably made it into an R-film, but he executed the kills just right. The look of the antagonists was awesome and I was glad to see that most of them came via live-action effects. There is a bit of CGI here and there, but it’s only shown during scenes that pretty much require it. His execution was especially on point when the protagonists would leave the home and head into the snowstorm looking for help. Nothing good ever came of this, and the kills during this scene aren’t just fun, they bring some good tension that I was not expecting.
Overall, Krampus is a solid horror film that I highly recommend to everyone. It’s holiday theme gives it that extra element to enjoy as you will constantly find yourself enveloped into what is going on because we can all relate to it.