Krampus was a movie I was really looking forward to. Partly because I picked up a radio report about a ban in some Austrian villages to use this folklore figure (I had never heard of it by the way) and his assistants. And partly because I was curious how a horror Christmas movie would look like. It’s something different than the annual traditional Christmas junk we see on the tube. I was a little bit disappointed about this film, because the horror level is pitifully low. It was amusing though, on some level. Unfortunately it wasn’t really the Krampus who predominated this movie, but rather his vicious little helpers. And those helpers really looked like dressed up villagers who just returned from a Krampus festivity in some tiny Austrian village. I’m just not sure yet whether Krampus has something to do with Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas.
The first part of the movie was matchless. Those slow-motion images during the opening credits where a Christmas shopping frenzy is being portrayed. That fighting mass of buyers rolling over each other. The security guards using their stun guns. Salespersons tumbling from ladders. And fighting children during the Christmas recital. Brilliant although slightly exaggerated. But believe me, this is how I feel about the others during Christmas shopping. The most important person here is Max (Emjay Anthony), who still believes in Christmas. He’s surrounded by his caring parents Tom (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Collette), his older sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) and his Omi (Krista Stadler). The latter is a very cuddly grandmother and the personification of Christmas. Max has just one wish. He wishes that Christmas would be again like yesteryear. A cozy, warm family celebration, full of joy and affection. That wish is pretty much ruined the moment Sarah’s sister shows up, with in her wake a moronic, antisocial family. A tactless guy, possessed by weapons. Two ludicrous daughters who look like solid quarterbacks and urinate while standing. A lazy, fat, stupid looking son whose only goal in life is to eat everything he can get his hands on. And as icing on the cake, an alcoholic, pedantic aunt. This colorful mixed bag of individuals are the cause of some chaotic situations, the moment they arrive there as an unwanted winter storm. The situation escalates completely after Max tears apart his Christmas letter with his wish written on. And that’s the signal for Krampus to appear.
This hilarious part was magnificent. Extremely funny, perhaps bland but hugely recognizable. I’m sure every family has a bunch of relatives like those of Max. What’s intended to be a period of peacefulness, self-reflection and affection, sometimes ends up here and there in a family quarrel with old feuds being stirred up and feelings of jealousy taking the upper hand once again. The result is that there’s hardly anything left of the traditional Christmas feeling. And that’s why Krampus and his helpers show up. Not to reward anybody like Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus do. But to penalize those who don’t believe in Christmas anymore.
And that’s where the horror starts or should start, because it isn’t really creepy or frightening. Don’t expect scary, gory scenes. It looks more like a Christmas version of Goosebumps. The fact they made it in such a way, so young people could watch it too, probably has something to do with it. Although it’s sometimes very exciting and thrilling. And the SE-department did a great job. The neighborhood which is turned into an icy landscape looks excellent. And the furious Krampus walking over the rooftops with the additional dismal sounds of rattling chains and ringing bells, looks also impressive. Only those creatures terrorizing the whole family, are just comical instead of terrifying. Krampus’s imposing stature is seen repeatedly. Unfortunately we can only admire his phiz at the end. When talking about the comic-part of this movie, you can say it’s kind of successful. But the horror is just like the Christmas spirit in this film, totally absent.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television