Krampus (2015) Review: Odd Mix of Christmas Horror
“You don’t want to be on his list.”
Synopsis: A boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a festive demon to his family home.
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Krampus is a heady mix of Christmas family drama and a nightmare inspired by The Labyrinth. Although the end result is generally pleasing, it’s often apparent that the filmmakers had some disagreements with the studio about just how dark Krampus could be. The interfamily squabbles are much more big box feel-good holiday flick than horror film, and half of the minions are cringeworthy, giggling CGI cookies… but Krampus himself comes across as creepy, and the other half of his minions (toys, dolls, goblins) are downright terrifying. Though this combination means the movie is uneven at times, it mostly works. Still, be cautious if you’re looking to make this a family-friendly movie for the holidays – it might be more concerning to young viewers than it first appears.
The set, acting, and soundscape for the movie are all decent. The filmmakers also do a good job of keeping all of the characters sympathetic, even when they’re being hurtful to each other. It’s also refreshing to see David Koechner have a character with a little more depth than his usual “WHAMMY!” persona, and I found myself rather enjoying his relationship with brother-in-law Tom (Adam Scott).
In fact, despite the horror of the situation the characters find themselves in, the movie generally manages to skirt the line of “action flick with family” rather than dipping into a truly unsettling atmosphere. Even when creeped out by Krampus’ minions (and believe me, some of them are quite creepy), I still felt “fight scene” level concern for the characters, not “existential horror” level concern. That’s good news for those looking to watch this with non-horror buffs, but I confess: I’m damn curious how the movie would have turned out if it’d been a bit darker.
For the most part, Krampus is enjoyable. I didn’t care for the CGI minions, which felt very Shrek 2, or for the ending. But even the family squabbles before things really get going are pretty engaging. It’s definitely one of the better Christmas horror options out there, especially if you’re watching with a squeamish or young audience. It’s true that the ending feels a little like a cop out, but it’s kept intentionally ambiguous so that those of us interested in the darker side of things can take it as an ominous sign, while those who prefer (or need) a happy ending can be reassured. All in all, Krampus may be a weird mix, but it works.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: B
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