Who doesn’t like Christmas in July? Me. That was sort of rhetorical. I prefer to keep Christmas after Thanksgiving so other holidays can enjoy their time in the sun, and with Universal cancelling Halloween Horror Night and many horror movies being moved to later times, I decided to go back through some films I might’ve missed over the years. I guess it’s breaking with tradition to only watch Christmas movies around the holidays, but I finally checked out Krampus (2015).
Forced to spend the holidays with unpleasant relatives, Max (Emjay Anthony) has begun to lose faith in the spirit of Christmas. In his frustration, he accidentally summons the antithesis of Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick, Krampus. Pretty soon, a blizzard goes through the neighborhood and families begin vanishing. If one kid tearing up a letter is all it takes to doom dozens of people, then I guess we’re all on borrowed time. His parents Tom and Sarah (Adam Scott and Toni Collette) understand his frustration and don’t like most of their relatives either, but family is family.
Rounding out the cast is the stubborn Howard (David Koechner), his high-strung wife Linda (Allison Tolman), and a scene-stealing Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell). There are many more characters, but as the trailers imply, many end up in frightening and deadly situations when Krampus comes down the chimney.
I wish there was greater focus on how Max got his family into this mess, however unintentionally. The character is played with intelligence, but it’s hard to balance that against a star-studded cast of adults running around with shotguns and flashlights. I have to give them credit though. It feels like a holiday where the parents keep arguing and trying to keep the kids out of drama. At what point do we decide that it’s hard to enjoy a holiday if no one is around to enjoy it?
The thing director Michael Dougherty does so well here is balance the folklore with a certain degree of silliness. One of the most effective scenes involves an animated flashback with the type of fondness that reminds us of stories around a campfire. The movie is creepy and well-done; not afraid to put kids and adults through the ringer, while still making time for more ridiculous scenes involving violent gingerbread men. They’re actually kind of adorable. I get why this type of movie doesn’t appeal to everyone. I didn’t expect it to appeal to me. A few of Krampus’ masked goons merely made me chuckle, but for younger viewers, this is a good entry into the horror genre. Just don’t look up a chimney when monsters are around. It rarely ends well.
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