Krampus Movie Review

Sam is back! This time, with a holiday horror review... I knew that Sam was headed out to the midnight release of Krampus on Thursday, so I asked him to write up a review for the blog. Here's what he had to say...

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“St. Nicholas isn’t coming this year…”

Krampus (2015) is the new movie from Michael Dougherty, the man who brought us one of my all-time favorite horror movies, Trick ‘r Treat. Krampus tells the story of one dysfunctional family’s holiday of horror when after losing all hope and understanding of what Christmas means, are paid a visit from Krampus, an ancient demon who punishes the wicked.

You may have heard of Krampus before, but if not, the best way to describe him is the anti-Santa. Santa brings gifts to kids on the nice list, and, well, Krampus beats the shit out of kids on the naughty list and takes them to hell. Krampus is teeming with holiday spirit. I don’t think I’ve ever connected so much with a family in a movie. I bought into absolutely all the family interactions and thought everyone did an A+ job of acting. I’m not sure what that really says about me - when I’m most connected to a dysfunctional family, but it’s one of the few holiday movies I’ve seen where the family felt very real.

This is above all else, a Christmas movie. Take that as you will. The movie does a fantastic job of calling back to Christmas familiarity for everyone, whether it be new traditions or old ones. It makes the movie that much more relatable. The movie also takes many of those familiar icons from Christmas, and twists them into something way more sinister and dark. You never forget though, this is a Christmas movie. One that will be in my permanent yearly rotation of Christmas movies.

Krampus also achieves something very unique in the genre. Krampus is legitimately funny. It isn’t forced humor either, it’s genuine. It’s also exceptionally creepy when it needs to be. It seems like most black comedies have a tough time being anything but funny. The horror is very secondary in black comedies, and is typically more just an avenue for the humor. It’s very difficult for me to think of more than a handful of black comedies where the horror wasn’t more than an afterthought or a set piece (shout out to Dead Snow 2). Krampus is not like that. Krampus is very funny, with numerous scenes eliciting audible laughter from the entire theater.

Krampus also had some of the creepiest scenes I’ve seen in a long time. This had largely to do with the films strongest aspect, the aesthetics. I’ll say it right now, Krampus has one of, if not the best visuals I’ve seen in a film in the past ten years. The movie is worth watching just to see the design of the characters and sets. Much of it reminded me of Tim Burton's animated features as a live action film. It was very stylized, but it never seemed fake. I never felt like the immersion was lost. All of the small details really made the movie come to life. 

I don’t want to get into the movie’s plot or give away much so I’ll speak very briefly, even though I could write pages about this. Krampus is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. He is very traditional and sticks close to the lore and legend of him, but also makes it very unique to this film. His portrayal is downright menacing. Images of John Carpenter’s The Thing kept flashing in my head. That’s probably as good of a compliment any movie can hope to achieve in regards to the visuals. As amazing as the actual character of Krampus’ look is, he wasn’t the piece that stood out to me the most. Krampus’ gifts are breath-taking, all of them are beautifully/terrifyingly crafted. One stands out above the rest: the jack-in-the-box - it is nightmare fuel, plain and simple. 

Although this is a PG-13 movie, I can’t remember the last time I felt this uncomfortable/unnerved, even including the R-rated movies I've seen as of late. This is another prime example of gore doesn’t = horror. I don’t think I can even remember much blood being in the movie, if at all. 

By this time, it’s probably easy to tell that I’m a huge fan of this movie. Christmas horror is one of my favorite sub-genres of horror, and while I love it, most movies of this genre tend to do the same thing. The movies are basically just set against Christmas. In the same vein that black comedy uses horror as an avenue for the humor, Christmas horror tends to just use Christmas as an avenue for the horror. They don’t provide much, except for a new hat for the killer to wear. I’m sure when these first started to show up, it was edgy and exciting, but how many movies can you put a serial killer dressed up as Santa in, and still expect it to be fresh? 

Krampus is something different. It is above, all else, a Christmas movie, and you couldn’t have this movie without Christmas. It is about the spirit of Christmas, and the spirit of the season. This movie deserves to be in same category of Christmas movies as Charlie Brown and Christmas Vacation. Now, of course you will see a bunch of other movies about Krampus rearing their heads now, or hell, may have come out before this movie. I’ve also seen many of those, and can tell you that those can’t hold a candle to Krampus. Dougherty made Trick ‘r Treat, and basically captured what Halloween is for all of us. Somehow, he managed to take Krampus and do the same thing for Christmas. 

Dougherty truly is the master of holiday horror. I recommend to anyone and everyone that they take some time this weekend or the following weekend and go see Krampus. You won’t regret it. What better to get in the spirit of Christmas than to honor some of the more ancient legends.

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I (Jen) have not seen Krampus yet, and after reading Sam's review, I'd really like to! I was honestly skeptical about it after seeing the commercials, but this description has won me over. Have you seen it? Do you agree?

For more reviews by Sam, check out his "31 Days of Halloween" movie review posts here: Part 1 / Part 2, and his haunted house reviews here: One / Two.

Rock On,
Jen @ Hell Razor

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