An anti-holiday flick that owes more to Gremlins than Black Christmas
Runtime: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Directed: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Colette, David Koechner
Rotten Tomatoes: 65% critics/62% audience
It’s the most wonderful time of the ye- wait, what? Krampus is coming? Perhaps not then. Based on Austro-Bavarian folklore, Krampus is the so-called “shadow of Saint Nicholas” who is sure to punish you if you find yourself on his naughty list, which is exactly what happens to a suburban family in Michael Dougherty’s festive horror-comedy.
Paying heavy homage to Gremlins (1984), the film has a lot more in common with The Gingerdead Man (2005 – it’s a real film, which features Gary Busey and spawned two sequels) than yuletide slashers such as Black Christmas (1974) and Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), meaning Krampus errs much more on the side of comedy, and is relatively gore free as a result. This is not necessarily a criticism, as the film has various laugh out loud moments (perhaps not all intentional) and there is heaps of B movie appeal. However, horror fans may feel shortchanged after an ominous marketing campaign focused around what turns out to be sparse scares.
The comedy element should have perhaps been clear based upon the cast, featuring Parks and Recreation alumni Adam Scott and Anchorman (2004) joker David Koechner as part of a greater ensemble, with further star power injected by Toni Collette. Whilst the cast is strong, the characters are generally unlikeable which means that it never feels like the stakes are very high – nobody really cares what happens to them.
The script is (hilariously) deadpan and thus somewhat of an acquired taste, whilst Krampus himself is a bit of a letdown. The big bad isn’t remotely funny, and doesn’t have enough scare factor to counteract this. His little helpers on the other hand are the perfect blend of creepy and outright hilarious – a particular highlight are the evil gingerbread men, who are like the love children of Gizmo and the Gingerbread Man from Shrek (2002).
There are unexpected moments – such as the animated sequence – that keep the film from being a paint by numbers flick, but suspense is short in supply, and Chuck Wilson at the Village Voice argued in his review that Dougherty has been:
“….charged with delivering a wide appeal PG-13 film”
This point has a strong basis, as it feels like Krampus is holding back from being the sort of film it wants to be. Dougherty is known for 2007 cult hit Trick ‘r Treat, and it would perhaps be interesting to know what this film would have looked like without any input from Universal Pictures, who were obviously keen to cash in on the holiday season and appealing to as many people as possible.
Various quibbles keep the film from being the anti-christmas classic that it wants to establish itself as, but there is still plenty of fun to be had and a fair chance that Krampus will go on the Santa list of those people who find that annual viewings of It’s A Wonderful Life isn’t their bag.
What did you think of Krampus? Did it jingle your bells, or are you happy to stick with Santa? Let me know in the comments section below!