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My big screen experience felt mucho odd last night. I mean the horror film I was clocking wasn’t a remake, a dry slasher, a haunted house film or an off the assembly line genre McProduct with zero soul put into it... what the bleep!?! Had I driven a DeLorean back in time to the 80’s? Nope it was just director Michael Dougherty (Trick R Treat) attempting to spruce up our Holiday shivers with KRAMPUS aka Christmas traditions played for laughs and kills! So did the man succeed?! Yessum!
We got a brand new Horror Christmas Classic on our hands kids, one to add alongside Black Christmas, Silent Night Deadly Night and Gremlins. Krampus is of course based on the German flip side of Santa Claus. This particular entity has hooves and horns and relishes in punishing children who misbehaved as opposed to rewarding the “good kids”. Good times! Put that in your stocking and smoke it! The flick started off by setting up its varied characters and its Holiday themed situation in a mucho cynical manner. I gotta say it; for the first half hour or so, I was put off by most of the characters found here. I felt like I was at a Christmas family gathering from hell. Hearing these f* cking people interact was like nails on a chalkboard. And that was the point! It was a testament to the film’s strength that via the unraveling of the dire events, the characters became more and more layered (humanized if you will) and I actually wound up feeling a couple of healthy tugs at my heart strings down the road. Well-done Dougherty. Well done!
Horror wise, the film’s off the wall imagination (loved all of the Christmas gone bad evil beings with that Jack in the Box mofo being my fav), the random moments of genuine suspense and the heavy use of practical effects gave my peepers a horror feast to digest! Moreover, by going the old fashioned way with its creature designs and their execution, Dougherty reinforced the affable old school vibe and charm of the picture, which was all good news for this a-hole. Then we had the ideal cast on hand hitting home. I got a Christmas Vacation vibe from the characterization, especially when it came to David Koechner’s Howard character and his family, which screamed Cousin Eddy and his flock. Everybody fared well but the stand out for me were the already mentioned Koechner, who’s pretty much always awesome in all that he does, Adam Scott, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony and Krista Stadler. Tag to all that Christmas jeer, an ideal blend of laughs, drama and scares (the flick went all out in all spectrums), a clever X-Mas gone bad musical score by Douglas Pipes, a witty stop-motion flashback that carved a smile on my face and Krampus himself being quite the dread filled sight to behold and you get a sturdy horror Christmas movie, one that will surely be revisited many o times over the years!
Any peeves? A couple. There was too much off-screen and implied business when it came to the violence. A little bit of splat could’ve have given this one more bite. And was I alone in feeling let down by what they wound up doing with the snowmen (i.e. pretty much nothing)? I was really excited to see where that angle was gonna go and then… nough said. And to my dismay; one key “action” scene was communicated in a too dark and shaky cam fashion. I didn't see much and I got frustarted (I know, poor baby). Finally less characters/situation build-up and further horror-happy pay-offs would have been groovy. I would’ve balanced the thing a bit more.
All in all though; Krampus was a gush of fresh dead winter air! A horror film with heart, soul and jingle balls, one that strived further than the norm! HO HO HO!