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New Release Review - KRAMPUS

A family Xmas get-together is interrupted by the arrival of a mythical demon from Germanic folklore.


Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Michael Dougherty

Starring: Allison Tolman, Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner


Krampus won't go on to be a seasonal classic, and it's undoubtedly a disappointment given its fascinating subject, but if you're after a light dose of Christmas carnage, you could find worse gifts under your tree.





When it comes to Christmas, the Germans have a far more interesting take on seasonal folklore than the rest of us. Take the mythical figure of Krampus, an anti-Santa who punishes naughty kids at Christmas time. More Old Nick than Saint Nick, Krampus has inspired a handful of horror flicks in recent years. In 2013 we got Krampus: The Christmas Devil, while earlier this year Krampus: The Reckoning made its way to DVD. Next year we're promised Krampus: The Devil Returns and Krampus: Beware the Krampus, but before then we have this relatively high profile take on the legend.
It's Christmas time and young Max (Emjay Anthony) isn't too happy about the annual family get-together. His parents, David (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Collette), have once again invited the unbearable Howard (David Koechner) and Linda (Allison Tolman), along with their three kids, to stay in their home for the holidays. Also arriving unannounced is crabby old Aunt Margaret (Conchata Ferrell). It's not long before the family members begin to bicker, but they're forced to put their petty differences aside when they begin to be picked off by Krampus, backed up by an army of evil gingerbread men, elves and toys brought demonically to life.
Director Michael Dougherty previously tackled another season - Halloween - in his previous movie, the cult favourite Trick 'r Treat. While that movie did a great job of getting the Halloween atmosphere down pat, it was neither sufficiently scary or funny. Krampus is a similar case. Dougherty conveys the seasonal feel of '80s/'90s favourites like Home Alone and Christmas Vacation; Koechner's white trash family is practically a carbon copy of Randy Quaid's from the latter movie; when the homicidal gingerbread men show up we're instantly reminded of Gremlins; Bing Crosby warbles his way through the film's soundtrack. If John Hughes ever made a horror movie, it might play out in similar fashion.
On the horror end of things, there's an inescapable sense that Dougherty is holding back here. Maybe that's a side effect of his previous film being shelved for several years because its distributor didn't know how to market it, so Dougherty could be playing it safe here. There's never any real threat from Krampus and his cohorts, and you can't help wishing things would get a little crazier. I for one would love to see what '80s Joe Dante or Sam Raimi would do with this material. An animated flashback is the highlight of the movie and makes you ponder whether the entire film might have benefitted from such an approach.
The film's biggest misfire might be its misuse of Toni Collette, who is given nothing worthwhile to do here, and it's difficult to see what attracted her to the role. Much is made of her character's obsession with neatness early on, but it's never referred back to once the action kicks off. Her character doesn't develop, she simply disappears.
Krampus won't go on to be a seasonal classic, and it's undoubtedly a disappointment given its fascinating subject, but if you're after a light dose of Christmas carnage, you could find worse gifts under your tree. I can't help think there's a better version of Dougherty's movie left on the page though.
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