When a young boy faces a Christmas ruined by his extended family he wishes them all a terrible Noël, the next day his street is visited by the anti-Santa, The Krampus, and things get terrible.
What genre would you place Gremlins in? Horror? If so it’s pretty light despite a few instances of terrible violence. Family film? People of all ages have seen it, despite a few instances of terrible violence. Comedy? There are funny moments, including instances of terrible violence, but it can get pretty harrowing. Seasonal film? Well, it’s certainly set at winter, though it has little in the way of Christmas spirit to relay. I guess it can most accurately be described as a family friendly creature feature of mischievous intent that skirts numerous genres.
Well, whatever it is it now has a companion film in Krampus, a semi-horror-semi-comedy-semi-family-total-seasonal-movie, which is only different in feel by the fact that it’s very specifically about Christmas, even if it’s really about how terrible a Christmas can get.
A simple tale of how a family must come together to escape a massive, grotesque, goat-hooven, anit-Christmas-spirit and his army of monstrous toys and treats, Krampus is co-written and directed by Michael Dougherty, who’s previous film, Trick ‘r’ Treat, was also holiday based, only the Halloween bent lends itself much more easily to the horror themes he seems to revel in.
Like Trick ‘r’ Treat, Krampus seems to be more interested in playing with stalwart methods and concepts from the horror genre to entertain rather than to outright horrify, which suits its ends a little better than it did on that previous film, thought the “building of tension” by keeping the money shots just off camera is in serious danger of over-playing its hand and becoming tiresome before the real fun starts, which even then might be a little late, only hitting full stride for the third act.
That being said, the film itself is neither boring nor annoying when not indulging in the scary elements thanks largely to its ability to remain a fare distance away from the syrupiness of the average Christmas entertainment while not getting too cynical, and presenting well-rounded characters that are both written and acted rather admirably.
Sporting recognisable faces that include, Toni Collette, Adam Scott and David Koechner (the latter two really not playing for laughs too intensively), the cast do a great job of holding together what starts as a true curiosity while the story gets to a place that’s a little more recognisable, if somewhat demented.
Seamlessly shot to replicate the average Christmas movie (check out the trailer, it’s all there), and doing a bang up job of including many Christmas film tropes, the movies is predictably at its best when the creatures are visibly terrorising the poor characters in ways that garner a serious mortality rate.
The central creature and his numerous minions, barring some slightly dodgy CG gingerbread men, are wonderfully, disgustingly designed and realised so as to be possibly nightmare inducing to younger viewers while remaining somewhat unsettling to everyone else. These are creatures brought to life by true creature fans.
While not being quite as breathlessly entertaining as it wants to be, Krampus is nevertheless a well conceived, well executed, darkly funny and cautiously scary antidote to the average Christmas film. I doubt it’ll prove to be a contemporary classic in the way that Elf now is, and it will never be as well known as Gremlins, but it’s certainty worth your time and money.