Krampus~ 2015, Michael Dougherty, USA
Oh boy. Everybody is just SO excited for Krampus. Krampus this, Krampus that, for years, this has been going on. I had my reservations with this one, but Krampus actually starts off on the right track, and that temporarily eased my concerns, and had me thinking, “hey, maybe this is going to be a good movie after all.” What I found, however, was that while all of my initial gripes with the film quietly began to fade into the background, a new list of unexpected, yet equally fatal flaws began to form, and these left Krampus dead on arrival anyway. I swear I have never seen a movie that so expertly lined up the nail, raised the hammer, took aim, and then just all-out refused to drive it home in all my days. Krampus has absolutely no guts, it’s all set up and no execution. This movie is a spineless insult to its Alpine Bogeyman source material, and to movie-goers alike.
Krampus is the newest Holiday themed horror jam from director Michael Dougherty, the same dude who brought us Trick R Treat back in 2007. This time around Doughtery, goes after Christmas, and gives us a film based on America’s new-found love affair with a Centuries old folk custom from Bavaria and Austria, which the Internet culture of 2015 has mangled and debased, so that it could better fit the role that America requires of it, not unlike an impatient child, forcing a puzzle piece into a spot where it doesn’t belong. It completely sucks as hard as anything possibly could, which is neither here for there. At this point, Krampus isn’t even the first of these movies to have been made, and it won’t be the last. This trend will continue for years. This is my private Hell.
This kid knows what I’m talkin’ about.
THE PLOT~ As said above, Krampus starts strong, real strong. The first act of the film is centered around exploring just what a despicable, irredeemable race of shit heads human beings really are. Doughtery wisely makes use of the now all too infamous annual Black Friday shopping Massacres, which showcases many of humanity’s worst qualities, and which, ironically, also heralds the start of a Holiday season which is meant to stand forever as a testament to the inherent goodness inside all of us. Let’s give Dougherty credit; this is a fantastic place to open on for a film about a an ancient, Yuletide Demon who punishes the wicked for their crimes. He’s made his point loud and clear, we all deserve a Krampus. So far so good.
From there, though, we lose quite a bit of traction, and the film quickly devolves into a more cookie cutter horror scenario. We’ve got a family full of selfish, hideous troglodytes, who find themselves barricaded inside their home, fighting to survive as a fierce and unexpected blizzard turns their once peaceful neighborhood into an innavigable hell-scape of darkness and frost. Of course, we all know that this blizzard is actually Krampus’ doing, he’s here with his army of Christmas helpers (the hell?) to slowly murder each member of this family, one by one, just like the real Krampus does (no he doesn’t.). From there, it’s all formula. They get picked off one by one, all the while learning to appreciate one another more, which is a major theme of the film: when time gets tough, you understand how important family really is. Which is fine.
The acting is actually really great across the board, and the movie is well made, the practical effects especially. This isn’t a movie that didn’t do anything right, and that’s actually what’s so frustrating about the whole ordeal, It was well within Krampus’ power to be really, really good. There are a lot of Christmas themed horror movies out there, but not all of them are all that great. Krampus could have done it, this could have been one of the best of the batch, even taking into account how foolishly mishandled the source material was, but they just won’t cross the threshold. Krampus makes it all the way to the finish line, stops dead in its tracks, and just stares blankly into space. “This is as far as I go, audience,” the movie says. And it’s not far enough!
See how cool that looks? How did this manage to suck!?
The biggest drawback, as I mentioned above, is just how spineless this movie really is. There are moments throughout the picture when Krampus is briefly very awesome, the introduction of The Krampster himself, for instance, stands out as being pretty excellent, but these moments come and go, and they’re never as potent as they ought to be. Krampus displays an offputtingly blatant hesitancy to go “full-horror,” and there are added measures taken throughout to soften the blow each and every time the film get’s a little bit too scary. A great example of that would be the introduction of the Jack In The Box monster, which is actually terrifying as all fuck, except that when they hit us with the big reveal; the movie plays it for laughs, which totally ruins the moment. That’s one example, but the entire movie works that way, each and every time things get awesome, Krampus defeats itself with a flimsy joke, and that might have been just fine, except that this movie isn’t at all funny. So, what we have is a film that is neither fish nor fowl, Krampus is forever caught between two polar opposites and unable to satisfy the requirements of either. It totally sucks!
Here’s maybe the best way to say it: In this movie, Krampus has been made more similar to Santa Claus than he actually is in Germanic lore, and this is because these added similarities draw attention to the startling ways in which these two characters differ, and it’s that off-kilter familiarity which makes him scary. This is a fitting metaphor for the film as a whole. Krampus stings extra hard, because as much as it sucks, it frequently reminds us of the awesome film it could and should be, but isn’t.
That thing looks like it was purchased at a damn Hot Topic… And by now, it probably can be.
And the ending is easily the most maddening part. As strong as the first act is, things fall apart super fast as we reach act three, and Doughtery concludes the film by Freddy Krugering us as hard as we’ve ever been Freddy Krugered before. It’s a cop-out, plain and simple, and it’s profoundly, appallingly lame. Really and truly, you guys, this is the weakest shit I’ve seen in a VERY long time. I walked out of Krampus bitter and dissatisfied… Although, to be fair, that’s also how I walked in.
All things considered, the real tragedy of Krampus is that this film absolutely reeks of “cash grab.” I know we all want to have fun, but let’s face the facts, this movie is a clear and transparent attempt by a director who saw an opportunity to advance his career, and took it. By any and all logic, this should have been a wildly different product; but instead of the horror movie we wanted, what we got a studio friendly attempt at crafting a commercial product, which would capitalize on America’s love affair with Big Papa Kramp, and elevate Dougherty’s career out off the slums he’s been stuck in ever since Superman Returns valiantly shit the bed. And it worked, lo and behold, as I did my rounds on the internet this morning, I see that Krampus is, in fact, the number one movie in America as of today. Certainly, the reptilian brain of the Producers to whom Dougherty is indebted must be pleased; and now he won’t have nearly such hard a time financing Trick R Treat 2. Can we blame him? Hell no, but we also don’t have to like the neutered, humiliated mess of a movie he crammed down our throats.
As it stands, I’d recommend that you avoid this one, for it is ever so ho-hum. Instead, check out Rare Exports; a movie which is thematically similar enough, but which is also indescribably superior to this mess in every conceivable way.