Last weekend I decided to bet my money on a Christmas film that piqued my curiosity, but one that I also kept low expectations of, and honestly… it was decent overall. Krampus is a horror/ comedy film starring actors who are better known for their comical chops – like Stepbrothers’ Adam Scott, Anchorman’s David Koechner, and Two and a Half Men’s Conchata Ferrell – so initially I was hesitant to believe that there would be a good balance between the two genres based on the casting choices alone. There have been some attempts in the past to blend horror and comedy even in major franchises, such as Seed of Chucky and Freddy VS Jason, but those attempts were ultimately failures. After viewing Krampus though, and seeing the lighter tone the film had, I began to associate it with horror-comedies mashups meant for younger audiences like Gremlins and Goosebumps.
When young Max, a boy who still believes in Santa and maintains hope for a perfect Christmas, and his immediate family are forced to spend the holiday with his obnoxious cousins, aunts and uncles, his holiday spirit takes a quick dive. After a confrontation with his family over dinner, Max destroys his annual letter to Santa with his list of Christmas wishes and declares that he hates his family and the holiday itself. The very next day a blizzard cloaks his entire neighborhood and along with it comes a host of demons led by the anti-Santa Claus. Their purpose: to collect souls for the holiday.
Because of the fact there are very few good examples of comedic horror, the scariest thing about the film initially was the possibility that I had already seen the best parts of it in the trailers, but it was actually enjoyable. There were many parts of the film that could have probably been better executed visually with the use of more puppets or better costumes for the actors, but CGI also worked in some instances, like with Uncle Howard’s (Koechner) fight with the gingerbread minions. Speaking of the puppets, some of the toy minions used by the titular demon also brought to mind the Puppet Master movies. The evil angel/harpy doll, python-like jack-in-the-box, killer robot toy, and man-eating teddy bear were probably my favorite parts of the film with the exception of the banter between the family members.
Honestly, the worst parts of the film were probably the poor aesthetics for the anti-Santa Claus, the poor decisions made by the characters, and the seemingly rushed ending. I would have been happier with not seeing Krampus’ face under the hood near the end of the film rather than seeing the goofy mask with the gaping mouth that refused to close (after he decided to lick the grandmother’s face with his lizard tongue). However, I did appreciate the close-ups of his slit pupils, and his movements on the rooftops also made him a bit creepier. Every member of the family was entertaining, even when they were scared straight but, like any other horror movie, there were so many avoidable deaths. Children aren’t usually allowed to venture out into a blizzard alone where I am from, so I think that qualifies one couple for the award of Worst Parents Ever. There are also some scenes where the adults allowed themselves to be snatched through windows or snowbanks that seemed like completely unnecessary sacrifices, but I guess it was the fastest way to reach the movie’s conclusion.
All in all, Krampus is a rare Christmas horror film for kids, with nothing really haunting about it except some explicit language. Again I say, there aren’t many movies that properly blend horror and comedy elements, but it’s really a matter of tone and the targeted audience. One other thing I think is worth mentioning for a movie like this is the limited use or complete absence of blood, which is probably one of the most important things for a family horror film, you know, so as not to traumatize any kids or squeamish parents with gruesome images. And while there are barely any new Christmas movies out there for 2015, this one could be considered a rare treat for some people. After discussing the film with my significant other, who was kind enough to see it with me despite her hatred of horror movies, I can say that the ending is rather ambiguous, but the message is straightforward enough: Keep a positive Christmas spirit up or face the consequences.