Krampus is a 2015 horror comedy. Directed by Michael Dougherty (Trick r’ Treat) and starring Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense) and David Koechner (Anchorman). The film was an unprecedented commercial success for a Christmas horror film, reaching number 2 in the American box office.
Krampus centres around a dysfunctional family (and their extended family) at Christmas time when a neighbourhood powercut plunges them into darkness. After youngest son Max becomes upset and tears up his letter to Santa, a horde of mischievous creatures descend on the family led by the evil Krampus. Tom (Scott) and Howard (Koechner) are forced to face the elements (and minions) in order to bring back Tom’s teenage daughter while Sarah and her sister protect the remaining children. Eventually the festive beasts invade the house and the family are forced to put their squabbles aside to escape the dreaded Krampus.
It’s not very often that I fall in love with a film 10 seconds in, but that’s exactly what happened with Krampus. The perfectly framed shot of aggressive shoppers spilling into a mall in slow mo to the strains of “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” sets a horror comedy tone that Joe Dante would be proud of. And speaking of Dante, it’s clear that Gremlins has had a huge influence on the film and the leanings towards mischievous monsters rather than terrifying (although there are some of those too!) puts it right up there with Gremlins and other Christmas horrors that have their tongue planted firmly in their cheek.
The creature design itself is fantastic and it’s no surprise when you learn that Weta digital are responsible for this (Rise/Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). The minions range from almost cute to downright disturbing and the decision to hold back on Krampus himself made the reveal all the more special (more of a gnarled Santa than a goat-like beast) and the horned silhouette gave me goosebumps like not many monsters can. If I were to nitpick I would say that the family angle is not all that original and bore a close resemblance to the plot of Home Alone (1990), however, when you have monsters that are this original it really doesn’t matter and the Max character was sympathetic enough to invest.
Trick r’ Treat came out of nowhere as Dougherty’s directorial debut and became an instant horror classic and, as only his second film, Krampus is no different. Few directors can nail horror comedy in a way that satisfies hardcore genre fans and appeals to a mainstream audience (Dante, Landis, Edgar Wright) but Krampus makes it look easy. A new horror icon is born and Krampus is a festive genre powerhouse that will be enjoyed annually for many years to come!
***** 5 Stars
What did you think of Krampus? What's your favourite Xmas horror?