Saturday, 5 December 2015

Krampus (2015) - Horror Film Review

The trailer for Krampus was pretty odd, it seemed to blend comedy and horror together in a way that didn't really feel right, however coming from director Michael Dougherty (of Trick 'r Treat fame) I was pretty interested to see what his spin on a Christmas horror would be. Krampus does it's best to slowly drip the reveal of how the antagonist goes about his business so there will be minor spoilers in my review.

It is a few days before Christmas and Tom (Adam Scott) and his wife Sarah have her sisters unliked family over for the holidays. The couples son Max (Emjay Anthony) who still believes in Santa gets upset with all the fighting and squabbling going on and in a fit of anger he rips up the letter he had written to him and throws it out the window. His disillusionment however has had the effect of summoning a terrible blizzard that heralds the arrival of Krampus; the anti-claus to his household. Soon the once divided family must band together to try and survive the nightmare that Krampus brings...

There are some pretty strong Christmas horrors out there; Gremlins, Jack Frost, Black Christmas, and Home Alone to name but a few, I'm glad to say I was actually pretty impressed with Krampus, it can join that illustrious group. The film is not without it's faults but does enough that I left the cinema content. This is full of humour but after the initial first part the comedy takes a back seat to what is at times a very dark and bleak film, something I wasn't expecting. David Koechner (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) plays Max's uncle Howard and much of the humour comes from his character, as well as the family as a whole as they are quite a over the top bunch of people.

Krampus goes with the notion that what you don't see is far more scary than anything you could be shown and so for a lot of the running time the only glimpses of the horror are shadows and quick cuts with more and more revealed until the inevitable show down with the titular monster. A lot of the fun comes from just how the family are attacked with the primary attackers being Christmas presents come to life. There are a trio of sentient gingerbread men, a demonic teddy bear, tree angel and robot as well as an enormous jack in the box creature that all have their turn at attacking the family, they are darn effective and that is due to the great looking effects for them. These beings all seem real and so it becomes surreally funny watching them fight and makes for a highlight of the movie that reminded me of the most insane parts of The Thing and Gremlins. As for Krampus and his elves these look like they are made out of china, the camera lingers on their faces for such a short time that it is hard to get a decent look, Krampus itself is a huge hoofed beast whose initial reveal is daunting due to the crazy speed that he can move at; leaping from rooftop to rooftop with no effort.

While the plot is simple it worked in this setting, this is mainly a cautionary tale about what you wish for (just like home invasion terror Home Alone) and it is a nice touch that by the horror the family endure they do become closer and more likable, There is a bizarre juxtaposition of threat, peril and good Christmas cheer, many of the downtime's reflect a twisted ideal, the family all gathered together by a fireplace, surrounded by decorations with Christmas songs playing (to keep the wife's sisters baby entertained). In the middle of the film is an awesome looking animated flashback to when the German Gran was a child, while this CGI animated sequence did not fit in at all to the look of Krampus it was still a delight to see and helped break up the story as well as provide more of a back story to just why this particular group of people were under attack

There is no blood or gore at all to be found in the entire film, I don't think that was just to get a 15 rating as the method the victims are caught is quite direct, either they get dragged away or the moment they are just about to possibly be killed the camera cuts away to a different scene, it keeps you guessing as to their fates and so worked better with the mystery. The first ones to be killed/taken are the children so there is a lot of darkness here, the family are powerless as there is a huge blizzard outside that has knocked out the grid, while the streets are full of deep snow and the neighbours houses all deserted. The parents act in the film way of seeming not to be as concerned as they should be about the missing children but it still gives a sombre feeling in spite of that and the humour. It did start to drag ever so slightly and I just couldn't work out how it was going to end, after all it would be too dark to just have everyone end up dead/taken yet some resolution had to come. The ending I am pleased to say is fantastic, the directing is spot on and hits you first with a fake twist before knocking you out with a very satisfying and interesting finish. It really is that good that it turned around my opinion of Krampus somewhat.

I was pretty impressed with Krampus, it straddles the line of being a dedicated Christmas movie as well as a solid enough horror. It is a bit silly at times, for example it is hard to fear for someone's life when they are being attacked by three gingerbread men armed with sharpened candy canes(!), but the film is full of humour not just in the dialogue but in sequences such as that. It is never over the top laugh out loud but there are plenty of pretty funny moments. This is a great example of a seasonal horror done well but gore hounds may be disappointed and it isn't particularly scary.


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