Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace and happiness, but Max (Emjay Anthony) starts off his festive season fighting with another kid at school for saying Santa isn’t real. Things go from bad to worse when his cousins come for Christmas and quickly tease him for still believing in Santa. After he tears up his letter to Santa, a blizzard hits the town, cutting the family off from the rest of civilisation, and when their number begin to disappear, the truth becomes clear; Krampus got Max’s letter asking for kindness and a Christmas spent with his family, and has come to bring him the exact opposite.
Krampus takes its inspiration from an ancient myth in German speaking alpine regions, of a horned, hooved creature who would punish the children who had been bad all year, while St. Nicholas (Santa) rewarded those who have been good. There has been a resurgence in Krampus’ popularity in recent years, and he has appeared on TV in American Dad! and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated.
The cast of Krampus features some very familiar faces doing their very best horror movie acting; Toni Collette, Adam Scott, David Koechner, Conchata Ferrell and Allison Tolman are joined on screen by Krista Stadler as the grandmother of the family, the one who has seen proof of Krampus’ work with her own eyes. The cast do well with their roles, although most of them are just given thin stereotypes to play, but there is plenty to laugh at with David Koechner and of course Toni Collette brings gravitas to everything she does, even a Christmas horror movie.
The story, written for the screen by Todd Casey, Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields is one that follows all the horror movie tropes, but seems to be aware of the silliness of a Christmas monster coming to get those who have forgotten the “miracle of Christmas and the sacrifice of giving”, as well as demonic gingerbread men, toys and elves. The story rattles along in a familiar fashion, with a jumpy set piece and a nice twist wrapping proceedings up in an entertaining and over the top manner.
Director Michael Dougherty plays the film for B-Movie scares and laughs, and makes the whole affair entertaining and well paced. Sure, there are holes in the film – why doesn’t anyone truly care when people start to vanish!? – but the film is entertaining enough to let this slide. As well as this, there is a rather beautiful animated sequence, and the look of Krampus himself is scary and wonderful with just the right amount of darkness.
In all, Krampus is a fun twist on the awkward family holiday comedy. The cast do well enough, the scares are scary and the film is ultimately just the right mix of Christmas and scares, even if the characters are thinned out for the sake of the scares.