By Christian DiMartino
Michael Dougherty’s Krampus is a film that simply will not appeal to everyone. You will either go into it with negative thoughts, or you will expect it to be so ridiculous, you might get a kick out of it. I am in the latter category.
I liked Krampus. I liked the way that Dougherty didn’t take this material too seriously. If you go into this film expecting a legitimate horror film, then who are you? The source material is pretty much open to free reign. Dougherty could have made it scary. But the route he took works just well enough, in a Gremlins sort of way.
Max (newcommer Emjay Anthony) isn’t having a very good Christmas. He has just been in a fight, due to the fact that someone tried to debunk Santa Claus (How dare they?!). He is really trying to get in the spirit, but everyone around him (judging from his wish list to Santa) isn’t.
His parents (Adam Scott and Toni Collette) are apparently facing marital troubles. Then, to make matters worse, their obnoxious, redneck, white-trash relatives (David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, and some newcommers) come to visit, and their visit causes quite a ruckus.Oh, what a ruckus they cause.
Max is soon so irritated by this day that he decides to rip up his letter to Santa, and throws it out the window. Bad move, Max. Bad move. The next day, hell has frozen over. The power is out, snow is everywhere, and overbearing. And to top it off, there is a creepy little snowman sitting on their lawn. Turns out, none of them built it. Hmmm…
But all of that is just the tip of the iceberg for what this family is up against next: Krampus, who is referred to as “Santa’s Shadow,” is in town, and he’s brought some malevolent friends, such as killer gingerbread men, a horrifying jack-in-the-box, and some weird elves. They wreak havoc on this family, and the family do their best to fight them off.
With a cast like Scott, Koechner, and Ferrell, one expects this to be funny. Some of the dialogue is funny. Other jokes don’t quite stick the landing. But Dougherty makes this a funny film in a different way: it is so bonkers, you cannot help but laugh. If I would have been high, this would have been a freaky, but hilarious time. Even without drugs though, it is still pretty funny. But yet it still manages to be creepy. It’s a trick that shouldn’t work, but surprisingly does.
This movie did often remind me Gremlins, what with its madcap spirit and all. But yet, what is surprising here is the way that the film handles the origin story of Krampus, as told by the grandmother character played by Krista Stadler. This sequence is told with awesome animation, and not only that, Stadler’s delivery of the material is surprisingly effective. It’s a scene that shouldn’t work with the rest of the film, but I’m glad to say it does.
Yes, Krampus is dumb, and it didn’t need its cliche ending. But if you are willing to leave your brain at the door and pick it up when it’s over, you might enjoy yourself. See Krampus, but at your own risk. I had fun, so I think three stars is reasonable.