Well I didn’t see this coming. Krampus turned out to be much better than it had any right to be. Perfect Christmas viewing for when the consumerist syrup gets too much.
EVEN the sappiest among us dreams of demonic homicide at some point during this ‘special’ time of year. That said, if you’re the type who just plain resents having festive goodwill and familial scrums rammed down your throat every December, Krampus, a daft and dotty Christmas horror, could be right up your chimney flue.
Writer-director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat) hits the Engel family with terrors from the get-go – a host of ghastly redneck relatives barging through the door for the holidays, complete with Republican politics, brattish kids and a poisonous auntie.
It’s a lot to handle for young Max (Emjay Anthony), his teenage sister and sweat-browed parents Sarah and Tom (Toni Collette and Adam Scott). After he is teased over his selfless Santa letter, Max tears the thing up and gets the hump with Christmas and his family. You don’t blame him for a second.
The act awakens the folktale bogeyman known as Krampus, a Mephistophelean inverse of St Nicholas who fixes the wagons of naughty kids at Christmas time. A blizzard duly descends on the picket-fence neighbourhood while power and communications go on the blink. Next, macabre snowmen appear in the garden. It is only when an excursion outside reveals death and destruction that Max’s German grandmother (Krista Stadler) pipes up, recounting previous wartime experience of this horned and cloven-hooved monster (via a very tasteful animated sequence, it must be said).
The fun shifts up a gear at this point as Krampus sets evil gingerbread men and child-eating clowns on the family. The film’s sense of its own silliness beds in and a decidedly 1980s pandemonium takes hold that is not displeasing. Think Gremlins let loose on the set of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
First published in the Sunday Independent