Film Review: Krampus

2015’s Krampus.

Toni Collette. I was seeking out Christmas-themed horror flicks — you know, to get in the holiday spirit — and saw that she was in 2015’s Krampus. Sold. Tell me no more. After seeing her in 2019’s Knives Out and especially 2018’s Hereditary, she’s on my must-see list. The premise sounded fun enough, too, “A boy who has a bad Christmas accidentally summons a festive demon to his family home.”

And the first 45 minutes or so of the film hit my sweet spot: normal family Christmas gathering, with typically awful family relatives, and they get disrupted when the crap hits the fan. That crap hitting the fan moment always reels me in — that moment here happens when Max’s (played by Emjay Anthony) father, Tom (played by Adam), is trying to find Max’s sister, Beth (played by Stefania Owen), out in the blizzard once Krampus has come, alongside Max’s uncle, Howard (played by David Koechner), and they come upon a snow plow truck; Tom remarks to Howard, “The glass is punched in.” The realization that something had attacked the snow plow truck rather than the truck having crashed is the moment where the characters begin realizing something is amiss. Not Krampus amiss quite yet, but amiss, nonetheless.

Krampus seemed terrifying at the beginning, but by the end, he seems like a lumbering Christmas sack of “meh” to me.

From there, the chase scene where Krampus is seemingly coming after Beth is pretty scary stuff. When something attacks Howard in the snow, that was rather intense and shocking.

Everything after that? Womp womp. So, the story is your typical Christmas tale of, “Nobody believes in the true spirit of Christmas anymore, so X happens,” and in this case, X is the horrific tale of Krampus come to life, along with all his minions, like sinister gingerbread men, stuffed bears, dolls and jack-in-the-boxes come to life. But it didn’t interest me much.

I think the film would have worked better if it had picked a lane, whether it wanted to be full-on campy comedy or full-on horror. It doesn’t and is therefore the lesser for it. There are funny moments and horrific moments, but it never melds well together for a satisfying story.

The story of Krampus comes from the grandmother, Omi (played by Krista Stadler), who is, for all intents and purposes, a real jerk. She knew what was going on and it took two kids being taken by Krampus for her to tell everyone else about it. That said, the animation we get of her childhood when Krampus first visited her is a nice touch.

Sorry to shrug at my fellow gingers, but shrug.

Oh, and the main thing that pulled me into the film? Collette? She doesn’t get used much here. She’s mostly upset with the relatives early on, despondent when Beth goes missing, and sacrifices herself at the end to save Max (or so she thinks). She doesn’t get to do much and overall, it seemed like a waste of her talents.

I don’t know. I’m a disappointed! I fully expected to be wow’ed by this. “Wow, here’s this cool Christmas-themed flick that I’ve been missing out on for five years.” And instead, I got a weird mismatch of genres.

Interestingly, Michael Dougherty, the director and co-writer on this, also directed another horror movie, which had a lot of hype but ultimately disappointed me as well, 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat. That said, he also co-wrote the script for 2006’s Superman Returns and unlike others, I love that film.

Overall, the special effects are great, and I love the idea of a regular family on Christmas besieged by a demonic bad Santa, and I particularly liked the apocalyptic feel of the blizzard washing over the well-to-do neighborhood. But I feel like the film dropped the Christmas ornament on this one by trying to be too much and do too much rather than leaning fully into what it promised: bad Santa. We didn’t get much actual bad Santa. Instead, we got dolls and such.

The animation part in the middle was a nice delight.

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