Christmas Horror: Krampus

Lee barely tolerates the evil magic of Christmas.

"My finger. Pull it."
Over the last decade there has been a growing Western interest in the demented tales of European folklore. Most notably has been the tales of Krampus, the anti Santa Claus who punishes children who misbehave during the holidays. The last few years have brought a handful of low budget mediocre films based on Santa's evil horned companion. The latest release, Krampus from Legendary Pictures is a new perspective on an ancient tale. The film begins with a fantastic montage highlighting the the shopping frenzy of Black Friday. It’s a wickedly funny satire on Christmas commercialism. Trick ‘r Treat director Michael Dougherty does a great job highlighting the humorous aspects of the holidays, and corralling all the family dysfunctions that occur during the season. 

When Max is humiliated for still believing in Santa Claus, he loses faith in Christmas, accidentally summoning Krampus, the shadow of Saint Nicolas. Once the plot takes over the film drastically changes as the elements of horror take over. The snow creates a perfect suspenseful setting, impairing the audience’s vision. The intensity continues to build with the silhouetted arrival of the Christmas demon Gus Von Krampus. The suspense quickly changes to full on terror as each new dark and wicked scene is introduced. It’s the Krampus film horror fans have been waiting for! Then everything goes to shit when a gingerbread cookie comes to life and grabs a nail gun. After that, the whole film loses its edge. When Krampus releases his army of demented toys to do his dirty work, the movie changes from a dark film full of horrific potential, to an episode of Goosebumps based on the Island of Misfit Toys. It becomes completely cartoony, abandoning the fantastic outline that made the first half so wicked. Think of a drunk Tim Burton doodle on a cocktail napkin. It’s that bad. 

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"We're little bastard cookies!"

Krampus is a frustrating film. The beginning does so many things right. It weaves a great tale of suspense while occasionally lightening the mood with good old fashion crude humor. Then it just throws it all away like a Christmas tree right after New Years. It’s as if Dougherty directs the first half, and then Nickelodeon steps in to complete the film. Krampus himself actually has very little screen time. Instead the audience is given a demented jack-in-the-box and killer cookies. When Krampus finally makes an appearance, it’s kind of infuriating. The design is bad ass, further showcasing the wasted opportunity to make a great film. Speaking of wasted opportunities, Allison Tolman is underused, and to be honest, too talented for this film. After her amazing performance as Molly Solverson in season one of FX’s Fargo, it’s painful to watch her skills go to waste. 

Overall, Krampus is like getting a big present during a secret Santa exchange. You wonder with anticipation what’s inside, and when you finally open it you discover a nearly empty box with a package of underwear at the bottom. Sure you laugh along with your secret Santa’s cruel joke, but inside you’re disappointed. Really really disappointed. And kind of pissed off. That pretty much sums up this film. 


-Lee L. Lind