Dir: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Krista Stadler, Stefania LaVie Owen, and Emjay Anthony
3.25 out of 5.00
MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS~ 12/9/2015
It’s December. That means the twinkle lights are up, the merry music is on a continuous loop, and holly jolly glad tidings are greeting you around every corner. The Christmas holiday is upon us. “White Christmas”, “Miracle on 34th Street”, and “A Christmas Story” are probably a few of the timeless holiday movies that some will watch during this month. Well, for those of you that may not enjoy the “thumpety thump thump” of ol’ Frosty but rather the “bah humbug” of Ebenezer, there is a holiday movie tailored just for you. “Krampus”, the evil hoofed and horned alternative to Saint Nicholas, charges down the chimney and into theaters to add a little horror to your holiday.
Young Max (Emjay Anthony) loves Christmas and still holds strong to his belief of Santa Claus amidst teasing from those around him. Max wants nothing more than to have a Merry Christmas; unfortunately, his family and visiting relatives don’t feel the same way. After a mean-spirited dinner and more mocking from two of his cousins, Max turns his back on the holiday, tearing up his letter to Santa Claus and throwing it into the blistery white of the night. This beckons the wrath of Krampus, an ancient demonic being who punishes non-believers.
The story of the Krampus has found popularity recently, and why shouldn’t it considering the frightening folklore behind it. Writer and director Michael Dougherty, who helmed one of the best horror films of recent with “Trick ‘r Treat”, guides this story with a healthy dose of 1980s influence. The setup is quick and messy, establishing two families who are trying their best to be on their best behavior and a young protagonist who finds himself in the middle of everything that goes wrong. Dougherty does a good job of finding the mean, materialistic nature of the holiday season within these families, accomplishing much of it in a comedic way; look no further than the sharp-tongued, heavy drinking great-aunt (Conchata Ferrell) for a few laughs. Unfortunately, the comedic setups don’t always work like they should and the strong emphasis for a lighthearted laugh diminishes some of the creepier moments at play within the folklore. However, there is one great moment when Max’s German grandmother (Krista Stadler) sits aglow in front of a fire telling the story of Krampus: it unfolds menacingly through her quivering voice and then a beautifully rendered animated piece. This is about the time the film transitions for a short moment into the scary story it should have been.
Krampus begins to stalk the family, sending a slew of evil troublemakers throughout the house. From deadly gingerbread men, to winged porcelain dolls, to a jack-in-the-box that is simply the stuff of nightmares, “Krampus” begins to take shape. There is a nice blend of menacing mischief at work in these moments, leading up to an up-close encounter with the daunting Krampus. Dougherty does a good job of slowly revealing Krampus, starting through the hazy white and gray of a snowstorm and ending with the burning glow of a fire; the atmosphere around the evil “shadow” of Saint Nick is constantly at work. But still, even when the film begins to find its footing, there seems to be a need at the core to return to the family-friendly Christmas spirit structure. While there is nothing wrong with this – it worked for “The Gremlins” – this is a darker tale and the film works much better when it takes these familiar yuletide themes and turns them even darker.
“Krampus” tries to enter the ranks of great Christmas horror films like “Black Christmas” and “Rare Exports”, but even with all of the charm that it forms, it comes up a bit short. While “Krampus” may not be the happy horror holiday film the Scrooges were expecting, it will please those looking to put a good-humored lump of coal into the stocking.