This title comes from director Michael Dougherty. If the name isn't familiar, you may recall a fun little Halloween movie I recommended earlier this year called 'Trick r' Treat'. The beauty of this man is that he's not at all afraid to give us the strange and twisted. He just goes for it, all the while taking pure pleasure in creating these very surreal creatures that provide some pretty fantastic nightmare fuel. Perhaps the prime example is the now widely regarded Sam from 'Trick r' Treat' who has taken his seat at the table of recognizable horror villains.
While 'Krampus' isn't quite the caliber of 'Trick 'r Treat', it's very much done in the same spirit. All those comfy cozy things we love so much about Christmas turn pretty bloody horrific with this movie. The way 'Trick 'r Treat' compares to 'Halloween' can also be seen here, comparing 'Krampus' to 'Black Christmas'. In other words, probably the best horror movie for the respective holiday since 1970-something.
The story centers on a young boy named Max (Emjay Anthony) whose getting into the holiday spirit, and getting his letter for Santa ready. He's kind of on the border with his belief in Santa. A part of him "knows better", while another part of him listens to his Omi (Krista Stadler), considering Santa to be something a little deeper than something physical in a red suit.
Everything gets ruined for Max when his family comes by for the holidays, sporting their very redneck, ignorant attitudes. Max is picked on by his cousins at the dinner table, which finally sets him off to go upstairs, tear up his letter to Santa, and essentially lose faith in the whole Christmas deal. However, in doing this, he accidentally seems to summon the anti-Santa, Krampus - a being sent to punish those who have been bad. This is the way some cultures look at Christmas, instead of our much more tame tradition of "coal in the stocking". I'll tell ya, after seeing what this creature does, I'll take the coal!
The movie ends up being more or less a "bottle movie", borrowing a lot of inspiration from movies like 'Night of the Living Dead', and I'd even say, to some extent, 'Christmas Vacation'. It also features Adam Scott and Toni Collette as Max's parents, along with David Koechner and Allison Tolman as his aunt and uncle, and topped with Conchatta Ferrell as miserable Aunt Dorothy. So an interesting list of B-C-listed talent.
What really sells you on this as a horror movie, however, are the practical creature effects. There IS a fairly sad looking army of killer gingerbread men done in CG, but once you see what's lurking elsewhere in the house, you're provided with some genuinely creepy creatures. Adding to that, it also helps drive a horror movie home when NO ONE is safe! There's really no predicting the outcome of this, save for perhaps one or two obvious characters.
The cherry on top of this horrific sundae has to be the ending. It's a little confusing at first, but soon enough things click. I won't spoil it, but I will say I enjoyed it. This is by no means something I'd consider a true "Christmas movie", but if you have a taste for the darker side of the holidays, it functions very well as a sort of spookhouse film. Much like 'Trick 'r Treat', it was made as not much more than a creepy, fun time that highlights a holiday. I do feel the need to forewarn of one thing in particular though, but without spoiling anything, so I'll just repeat something I said earlier - NO ONE is safe in this! Some of the imagery MIGHT be a little rough for certain people. But if you can treat it as the spookhouse film it's meant to be, and have an open mind about it all, it's actually a lot of fun.