It’s that time again, folks. Every year has two Christmases. The biggie is, of course, December 25th. But a few months later, the festive films of yesteryear start to trickle onto shelves. The Night Before was recently released to own and now Krampus follows. All this holly jolly fun on our screens might trick you into thinking Christmas has come early, but no, t’is not meant to be. Still, it is time to revisit these films and see if they are as good as they first seemed, now the festive-tinted spectacles have been removed from our happy faces and the depressing mundanity of life is in full swing.
Krampus, directed by Michael Dougherty and out now on DVD & Blu-ray, is a rather mixed bag. Based on the eponymous character from Germanic folklore, Krampus is basically National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation directed by John Carpenter. We start off with a pretty standard dysfunctional family Christmas, as Tom (Adam Scott), Sarah (Toni Collette) and their son Max (Emjay Anthony) welcome their extended family into their home for the festive season. This includes the typical characters like the obnoxious Uncle Howard (Anchorman’s David Koechner) with his aggressive athlete children and the spiteful old Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell) who has something negative to say about everything. It all seems like a relatable family Christmas, although perhaps a little darker in tone than the usual family festive comedy. And then of course, things get f**ked up when a demon – the evil Krampus – is summoned and begins to ruin the family’s Christmas by possessing toys and food and generally being a big festive tit.
The ensemble cast are brilliant, with special mention to Adam Scott and David Koechner. TV Fargo’s Allison Tolman is great too, and Conchata Ferrell – known to many as Two and a Half Men’s Berta – is superb as the relatable old bitchy lady in the family. But despite a group known largely for comedy, the film isn’t as funny as you might expect. Although it does start out with a few chuckles, it gets progressively darker and the comedy-horror balance falls heavily on the horror side. This tonal change is a little jarring – if it had kept its humour, it could’ve been like Gremlins of this generation but unfortunately what little jokes there are in the last act don’t land, and it all just get a little too serious. And because some of the slightly unusual stuff is delivered so seriously – like the possessed gingerbread men using a nailgun to try and kill Koechner’s Uncle Howard – it just feels a little cringy. And the underwhelming CGI doesn’t exactly do anything to help this, taking you completely out of any of these scare attempts.
On the plus side, most of the tension-based scares are pretty effective although somewhat predictable, but the entire premise of isolated-house-with-no-power-being-stalked-by-demon isn’t exactly the freshest. What it lacks in originality in terms of the horror genre, it more than makes up for by being a Christmas film. Not since 2006’s Black Christmas have we had a high-profile Christmas horror film and that is what makes it more unique. Now, you dark twisted souls out there who want something a little more murderous at Christmastime have something else to watch. No longer will you need to watch It’s A Wonderful Life and Elf.
Krampus is by no means perfect, and certainly isn’t the Gremlins-of-this-generation that it clearly wants to be. But for a slightly darker festive film with more murder and monsters than you’d find in a thousand Love Actually’s, Krampus is a treat.
More naughty than nice, Krampus isn’t brilliant but in the small Christmas-horror genre, it’s certainly the one to watch. 3/5.
Krampus at CeX
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