December 5, 2015

Movie Review: Krampus (2015)

It may not hold true to any of the various versions of the Krampus myth, but that does not keep the movie from being very entertaining. This is a movie that reminds one of movies like Christmas Vacation, Gremlins, and even a touch of Home Alone and in doing so has crafted what is sure to become a new Christmas tradition, at least for me if not my whole family. This is a sweet natured holiday movie that that is not afraid to get a little crazy and just captures just the right tone. No, it is not a pure horror film, nor is it purely comedy. It strikes a delicate balance that slices its way right to my heart.

Krampus was directed by Michael Dougherty, who previously worked on the screenplays of films such as X-Men 2 and Superman Returns. However, it was with a 2007 feature that never made it to theaters that cemented his career and has led directly to Krampus, that movie is Trick ‘R Treat. That was an anthology horror film that may be the best pure Halloween themed film ever. He has now delivered a similarly high quality and entertaining film tackling another holiday. Dougherty co-wrote the movie with Todd Casey (Thundercats, Batman: The Brave and the Bold), and Zach Shields.

The movie opens with a Christmas tune playing over the slow motion of a discount store under attack. Black Friday crowds punching each other’s lights out in order to get their hands on a $5 toaster nobody really wants. It is a scene we have seen played out over the past few years with clips captured by cellphones. It is the sort of rush for a toy or a gadget that led to the Schwarzenegger movie Jingle All the Way some years back. Anyway, it culminates with a battle during a nativity play where the main character of this film, young Max (Emjay Anthony, Chef) is punching out a classmate who dared take a shot at the sanctity of the holiday.

Before long, Max is home with his parents (Adam Scott, Toni Collette) and the rest of the clan. Their extended family comes to visit and the kind hearted boy makes a wish for them to celebrate a nice holiday like a family without strife. Of course, this does not work out so well and they are all quickly at each other’s throats. Sadly, Max sees his Christmas spirit crushed, and in an act of defiance inadvertently brings down a world of hurt.

Krampus and his helpers arrive in town to claim those who no longer have the spirit of season, ready to make an example of what loss really is. It becomes comedic survival horror. Gremlins crossed with a dash of Evil Dead II. The inhabitants find themselves under siege. One by one, taken by the horned monster outside.

Seriously, this movie is an absolute blast that is not afraid to get batsh*t crazy at times. There are a number of Demonic Toys style creatures hopping around, with the majority of the work being done practically (it is nice not to see everything overloaded with CG). This is a movie that has heart to go along with a bleakness that I cannot say I was expecting. Krampus is a movie that left with a big smile on my face. I loved pretty much everything about it. The characters fill their roles nicely, not always well rounded, but shown to be more than just a collection of stereotypes. Max is a little guy with a big heart, a little like Kevin from Home Alone.

Krampus is a Christmas themed horror comedy that fires on all cylinders. It stands apart from mainstream releases, while welcoming all manner of audiences. It is funny, a little scary, and finishes on a note that I just loved. The creatures were great, and the practical effects work was sublime. This is certainly a film to be added to the holiday rotation.

Highly Recommended.

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