Krampus full movie review - Not Very Scary, But a Solid Family Holiday Horror Movie Nonetheless
A good holiday movie is hard to find. There are the classics (It's A Wonderful Life, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, even The Santa Clause depending on your taste) but there have been few made lately.
While it would be hard for me to recommend this movie for the whole family (definitely not young children), if you're looking for something a little off the beaten path to pass the time, Krampus might just fill that need.
*Minor Spoilers Ahead* After a montage of the worst possible holiday experience at a department store, we are introduced to our main family with the main character being Max (Enjay Anthony) who despite being a little too old for things like Santa, he is trying to keep the holiday spirit alive. It is December 22 and his extended family is coming and he's looking for a little quality time with his closest family, watching Charlie Brown and baking Xmas cookies. The only one supporting him is his grandma Omi (Krista Sadler), his parents Tom (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Collette) and his sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) are all more preoccupied with themselves, all yammering about how unpleasant the visit will be. The extended family eventually arrives, they are ungrateful and frankly rude led by Linda (Allison Tolman) and Howard (David Koechner) and their kids Stevie (Lolo Owen), Jordan (Queenie Samuel) and Howie Jr. (Maverick Flack). As a surprise they also bring along Sarah and Linda's nasty aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell). The atmosphere at the dinner is unpleasant and after an incident involving a pretty touching letter to Santa from Max, Stevie and Jordan decide to read it at the table for fun, the evening turns sour. Max becomes angry and while his dad tries to comfort him, he loses faith and rips up his letter to Santa which is sucked up into the sky. Soon a very unpredictable storm roles in and with it the titular villain Krampus to punish the family for their disrespect of the Christmas spirit.
To start off, for you holiday cynics out there, if you feel like the Christmas spirit no longer exists and the holiday isn't worth celebrating because of all the commercialism out there, the first 5 minutes of Krampus should have you in stitches. You get a montage of some truly awful holiday behaviour. It's slightly exaggerated but there is some truth to it and I was laughing throughout.
One of the things that Krampus does that you don't always see is that it makes an effort to set up its characters as you get probably a half hour without the impending monster that will later dominate the film. Our protagonist Max is a good kid, he's trying to make the best of having to be around his a&&*^$% extended family and even when his actions summon Krampus, I couldn't blame him. The rest of Max's immediate family are relatively understandable, minus the Grandma they all have warts in their personalities but they seem closer to an average family. While I'm not going to blame the actors playing their parts, the writing about his extended family walks the line between realistic and downright cartoonish. Max's aunt and uncle and their children all just varying degrees of annoying and unlikable, especially Max's two female cousins. Still, this extra development serves the movie well ultimately, I saw it as an unexpected positive, some effort from the creative team that isn't always present in other movies.
Something else that was unexpectedly beautiful was the animation scene explaining the grandma's back story. She has encountered Krampus before and her story is told through an animation sequence that reminded me of Coraline. Is it necessarily consistent with the rest of the movie? No, but it is vibrant and it helps pick the movie up in one of it's slower periods.
The acting in the feature is solid. I don't know if there are any stand out performances but it is an ensemble, the group definitely does their job. Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner and Allison Tollman are all good as the 4 parents. They all do good work with the material they are given. Emjay Anthony also performs well but while he is the protagonist, he is the main character at the start of the film but the focus moves more toward the family as a whole so he's more relegated to the background. Otherwise I didn't find a weak link in the cast.
Getting down to the heart of it though, Krampus as a film is classified as a horror/comedy. I think the movie is definitely funny and it never drags. But on the flip side is the movie scary? I didn't think so. It is tense and I admired the creativity of the monsters and the creatures that Michael Dougherty and his crew created but it wasn't terribly frightening. I was laughing more at the horror aspects than I was screaming. If you showed this movie to an older kid or a young teenager, I think horror wise this would be more their speed. But as an adult, Krampus is definitely not one of the scarier movies out there.
So, while the movie isn't terribly scary and the horror and comedy parts don't always mesh together well, it is fun. It's very much a throwback to Christmas family comedies and Krampus is enjoyable on that level. It's laughably weird in bits and I have to give them credit for not giving into a crowd pleasing ending. It seems a little deep for this feature but it's interesting and if you see Krampus with someone else, there will be a discussion about it. I can't recommend it to everyone, if you're rolling your eyes at the premise, I doubt the movie will change your mind. But if you're in the mood for something a little more obscure to watch while the weather outside is frightful, you could do a lot worse than this.