It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s true that all the parties for hosting, marshmallow roasting, and caroling out in the snow are all well and good for the month of December, but I’ve made it no secret that what I’ve been hoping that old St. Nick would bring me for Christmas is a holiday horror comedy, and boy did he deliver!
For those of you who haven’t heard my incessant ramblings about how excited I’ve been for this film, allow me to get you up to speed. KRAMPUS is the new horror comedy that opened in theaters on December 4th. It centers around a young boy named Max (Emjay Anthony) who loses his Christmas spirit when his relatives come to town for the holidays. Max is pushed to the edge after a round of taunting from his cousins, and as a result he tears up his letter to Santa and scatters the pieces to the wind. Rather than a jolly man in a red sleigh swinging by to teach him the true meaning of Christmas, the anti-Santa from Germanic Folklore known as Krampus comes instead to torment him and his family as a reminder to the world of what happens when we lose our Christmas spirit. Can Max and his family escape the wrath of Krampus and live to celebrate the holiday? Doing so would be a Christmas miracle!
Let me start off by talking about what I really appreciated about the film, and that is the spirit in which it was made. This movie was made drawing inspiration from old school monster flicks, as well as holiday comedic classics like CHRISTMAS VACATION. Having a holiday film that highlights the stress and humor that often accompanies the holidays is something that I can definitely appreciate. The actors they brought in for the film mostly hail from the world of comedy, and that becomes quickly apparent, as the cast makes for the perfect dysfunctional family. Adam Scott, David Koechner, and Conchata Ferrell in particular all shine as family members who don’t particularly care for one another yet have been brought together during this time of crisis. The film was also heavily inspired by one of my favorite Christmas flicks, GREMLINS, a story about a swarm of monsters that cause mayhem and chaos in a small town on Christmas Eve (although as a side note, if you bring GREMLINS to a Christmas party where you were instructed to bring fun Christmas films, you may get shot down for bringing it…not that that’s ever happened to me before). The impact GREMLINS has had on the film’s director Michael Dougherty can be seen throughout KRAMPUS, as there were numerous puppets and animatronics that were constructed in painstaking detail to bring both Krampus and his minions to life, so much so that the CGI creatures in this film look bizarrely out of place by comparison. There is even a nod to the old Rankin/Bass Christmas specials, as well as another personal favorite of mine, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, in the form of a beautifully rendered stop-motion animated segment in the second act that takes place in a German village (during what I assume was the 1940s or 1950s, which was obviously not a time filled with the Christmas spirit) used to explain the origins of the creature currently laying siege to the family’s home. I adored this scene so much that I could easily have seen it being expanded to an entire feature-length film taking place in the same time period and setting (actually, can I have that too? Pretty please, Hollywood? It would make the best Christmas present ever!).
So you would think that a film that’s one-part John Hughes comedy, one-part GREMLINS, and one-part THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS would be the perfect blend for a fun holiday monster flick, right? Well, not entirely. The film has a great deal of wonderful components, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they come together in the most fitting way. Not all of the comedy works, and the film is reserved enough to never fully embrace it’s campier elements, which I feel actually detracts from the overall enjoyment of the film. Part of the fun of GREMLINS is figuring out a way to combat the little monstrosities running rampant across the town, but sadly KRAMPUS doesn’t do that. The family, instead of actively trying to figure out a way to fight Krampus’ minions in a manner similar to how Ash was able to MacGyver a chainsaw onto his severed limb in EVIL DEAD 2, sadly spends most of the movie looking scared and helpless. There are a few moments where I anticipated they would go the EVIL DEAD 2 route, such as when Gingerbread Men attack, when Aunt Linda (Allison Tolman) fights the monsters in the attic, or when Tom (Adam Scott) casually mentions that he used to be an Eagle Scout and was thus equipped with a number of survival skills, but the movie doesn’t play out that way, and I can’t help but be a little disappointed by that. I wanted to see the family have to put their differences aside, come together and fight the monsters that were at their door, to face the literal demons of their past even if it was a losing battle, rather than adopt the Sir Robin approach to dealing with danger situations. I will say that my disappointment of this plot point is offset a little by the moral of the film’s ending. Without giving anything away, I will say that I absolutely loved the film’s message that just because you’ve learned your lesson doesn’t mean you’re exempt from the consequences of your actions. There are so many films that allow characters to escape punishment because they’re sorry or because they’ve learned something, that seeing a film, especially a holiday film, choose to show the opposite is surprisingly refreshing.
In the end, KRAMPUS is a lot like a gift from a beloved family member: it wasn’t quite what you wanted for Christmas, but it was made with a great deal of love and with you and the things that you love in mind. Is it perfect? No, not remotely, but the thought and effort that went into it shines through, so you can’t help but love it anyway. The dedication the design team put into the practical effects is enough to give any horror fan a happy holiday. At the end of the day, it’s a fun monster flick that will be right at home on my shelf next to other holiday horror classics when it comes out on DVD.
What did you think of the film? Is KRAMPUS exactly what you asked Santa for this year, or would you have rather gotten a lump of coal in your stocking? Be sure to let us know @TheMovieChickk!
Want more scary holiday fun? Check out my all time favorite, The Nightmare Before Christmas on Amazon.com!