“Jesus was born in a barn!”: ‘Krampus’ Review

Posted in Screening Room by - December 08, 2017
“Jesus was born in a barn!”: ‘Krampus’ Review

It’s hard to take a Christmas film and make it a great genre piece that is both terrifying and utterly captures that warmth of Christmas, but director Michael Dougherty does just that with Krampus – a deliciously macabre Christmas film that feels does both comedy and horror perfectly and with a twisted PG-13 rating to boot!

The central premise consists of the Engel family celebration of Christmas and the conflict between wanting to continue celebrating Christmas traditions and ignoring them. It all reaches a boiling point when Max, who is the beacon for Christmas tradition, loses his spirit and as a result unleashes the terrifying demonic of Krampus – who chastises those who don’t have that spirit anymore. To make matters worse Krampus sets free his evil minions on the family to torture before taking things into his own hands.

Co-written and directed by Dougherty who brought a sensational playful tone to his Trick r Treat anthology, he takes that same approach and applies it a beautiful tale of yuletide horror that bursts with fantastic practical effects and a twisted sense of humor. One of the many joys of Krampus is the absolute devotion by Dougherty to showcase his love for practical effects of which you get a plethora of with the evil minions like gingerbread men, killer elves and more. Dougherty’s style is utterly playful, and Krampus is a beautiful representation of that sensibility; this is a family relationship film by way of the director that created Trick r Treat.

The family relationship is one of the film’s biggest strengths as Dougherty makes the core group of people and their interactions utterly believable. Not to mention the relationship between Max’s parents (played with a wonderful sincerity by Adam Scott and Toni Collette) is beautifully developed and in many ways represents the heart of the film while David Koechner and Allison Tolman provide a great counterbalance to Max’s parents as the uncles. Speaking of the cast Koechner and Tollman are hilarious in their roles while Emjay Anthony, who plays Max, carries a lot of the film with his mix of wide-eyed Spielbergian innocence and a real sense of horror once hell is unleashed on their house.

Krampus also does a great job of emphasizing that since it’s a Christmas set story it’s bound to be cold and once the main villain arrives, Dougherty along with cinematographer Jules O’Laughlin do a great job of portraying that hellish cold in a visually stunning way. In many ways this and Trick r Treat are wonderful companion pieces that complement each other beautifully; they both incorporate the holiday into the story. With Krampus, Dougherty does such a great job, along with his co-writers, of incorporating Krampus mythology into the Christmas setting.

With its twisted sense of humor and great use of practical effects, Krampus really feels like a modern and heir apparent to Joe Dante’s Gremlins as they’re both Christmas films that feel a little bit more twisted and darker than some family fare by combining a goofy horror tone. Along with its great cast and his inventively hilarious and macabre set pieces, Krampus is a modern holiday classic that is a great monster that ranks as one of the most entertaining horror films of this decade.

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He is an avid movie fan and loves to write about movies perhaps a little too much. He also considers Casino Royale to be the best James Bond film ever made and he's ready to defend at any moment.
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