Krampus is a scathing look at what we have turned the holiday season into. A time when we tolerate our relatives, kill each other over doorbusters and feel nothing of the sacrifice of giving. Everybody wants, everybody takes and nobody is giving wholeheartedly. Christmas—the film postulates—has gotten so commercialized and bloated with taking that believing in good ole Saint Nick is almost criminal, a thing to be ridiculed for and mocked about. In short it is no longer cool to like Christmas. When one young boy—Max played by Emjay Anthony—loses all hope for the season, his desperate grief, hatred and innocence lost summons St. Nick’s shadow, Krampus— who comes to show everyone the true meaning of sacrifice and punishing those who dared to take the Yuletide for granted. This terrifying beast lays siege to Max’s neighborhood and his family and they begin a desperate battle for survival.
This is not a nice film, under the shiny veneer of a family film is a cold and nasty monster. The movie wastes no time getting to the good stuff and that stuff is great. The first encounter with Krampus is an intense, haunting and frightening scene that ends with a death that lets you know without doubt that anything could happen to any of the characters. Allow me a brief aside here: the characters in this film are great. All of them are real, all of them are broken people—broken by the society around them, but rest assured they see the errors of their ways (although it may be too little, too late). Dougherty and his writing team did a great job giving us fully fleshed out characters that you can emotionally connect with, and because of that it hurts so much more when they perish. And perish they do! They perish at the hands of demonic toys and creepy elves and Krampus himself.
(If nothing else you need to see this film for the creature effects. They are horrifying. I will say no more on the matter, except that I loved the reveal of Krampus appearing to wear a Santa skin mask.)
From top to bottom this is a holiday horror classic, similar to Dougherty’s Trick r’ Treat but even more Amblin-esque than that one. It’s dark, mean-spirited but grins at you like one of demonic toys even as it takes a deep and traumatizing bite from your soul. And that ending! What EC madness that was! No spoiler here, but you’ll never see it coming and you’ll be debating it coming out of the theater, I know we were. Truly, Krampus is welcome addition to the Christmas horror genre, limited though it may be, and I cannot wait to traumatize people year after year with it (and Rare Exports and Silent Night, Deadly Night and Gremlins). The film is a fun, horror-filled and darkly comedic good time in the theater and everyone should see it this weekend or at least in theaters, and I hope the lessons it expounds about the season are well received for generations to come.