PLOT: A young boy who is dealing with an awful holiday with relatives accidentally summons a Christmas demon. Once it arrives, the beast and his minions terrorize he and his family, making for a very scary December 25th.
REVIEW: The idea of some dude in a red suit coming down the chimney late at night is scary enough. I don’t care how “merry” this guy is, that is a creepy thought. What about the legendary KRAMPUS? This horned and hooved creature is a demonic entity that is fully aware of all the secrets that Santa knows. If you’ve been naughty, he is watching and he is ready to take action. This is the story behind the latest from Michael Dougherty, the man who made horror fans happy with the fantastic anthology TRICK ‘R TREAT. In yet another holiday inspired feature, we see what happens when a young boy accidentally summons this legendary creature. And once Krampus arrives, he brings along a myriad of things that would make Jack Skellington proud.
When we first meet young Max (Emjay Anthony), he is one of those rare boys nearing his early teens that still believes in Santa. While he and his sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) and his parents Tom (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Collette) struggle to get along, it’s made all the worse by visiting relatives. Once Sarah’s sister Linda (Allison Tolman) and her husband Howard (David Koechner) show up with the kids and mean old Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell), family relations go straight to hell. After being tormented by Helen’s brood, Max makes the mistake of giving up on Christmas. Unfortunately for him, Krampus is listening. Soon, the sky turns black as a massive snowstorm hits, and Krampus and his elves come calling.
Originally the thought of Dougherty crafting a PG-13 horror flick was a little worrisome. After all, TRICK ‘R TREAT wore its R rating proudly. However, KRAMPUS isn’t exactly what I was expecting. This yuletide flick had much more in common with GREMLINS as opposed to a modern day horror movie. It may be dark, but it has as much fantasy in it’s creepy little story as it does horror. Written by Dougherty, along with Todd Casey and Zach Shields, there is more than a little whimsy in this occasionally spooky tale. It also takes on an exaggerated, yet frighteningly honest, aspect of how scary a family event can be. After all, who hasn’t had that nightmarish holiday get together where you just wish it would end. Perhaps this will be the movie you and your annoying relatives can see together and just accept and love them for who they are.
One of the things that made TRICK ‘R TREAT so special was the cast, and the same can be said here. Both Toni Collette and Adam Scott are quite good here, especially Collette who gives Sarah a nice edge. Another fine addition is the not so new to horror Koechner. After going all zombie on us in the recent SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, he returns to play a bit of a jerk and he is great at it. Allison Tolman, as the envious sister to Sarah, offers a nice balance to her gun toting husband. And then there is Emjay Anthony who was absolutely terrific in Jon Favreau’s colorful food flick CHEF as well as this. Conchata Ferrell also does her thing rather well. The actress can play the hell out of a mean-spirited and spiteful aunt.
Dougherty has the ability to really bring out the spirit of whatever holiday he is taking on in his features. Whether he is tackling the superstitions of Halloween or the darker side of Christmas, he pays the necessary attention to detail and atmosphere. Everything from the set design to the music, it all feels very much in the holiday spirit. And while KRAMPUS is a single story - unlike the anthology TRICK ‘R TREAT - he keeps it short and sweet. It doesn’t take very long for Krampus to come along with his evil minions, which include some EVIL DEAD inspired gingerbread men and toys that are clearly not safe for the young ones. The creature effects are impressive - they smartly keep Krampus' screen time to a minimum. And they are effective enough to terrify those not ready for an anti-Santa flick. For the more seasoned viewer, this may not be terribly scary, but there are thrills aplenty that will please fans looking for a bit of a ride.
KRAMPUS lacks the frights of TRICK ‘R TREAT and in many ways feels more like a homage to the classic GREMLINS. It is a whimsical tale that offers up enough darkness to please audiences looking for it. Of course if you do have young ones that still believe in St. Nick, you may want to keep them far away because it may cause a few nightmares. For genre fans however, it is more of a cheerfully bleak fairy tale. It even includes a stop-motion animation flashback courtesy of the all knowing grandmother Omi (Krista Stadler). If you are expecting something along the lines of TRICK ‘R TREAT, you may be slightly disappointed. This is more dark fantasy as opposed to straight up horror. For fans of Dougherty however, it is a clever bit of holiday fear with laughs - and a little bit of tension - that should fill your stocking nicely.
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