I’ve discussed before what an oddity the Christmas horror film is, but like all unusual things, if it works, it can be something very special. Krampus isn’t just a Christmas horror film though, as it promises not just a seasonal setting, but both scares and laughs. This combination is very easy to get wrong, those two genres being so different, but when it works, it can produce a true classic.
When Max’s cousins come to stay, both they and his own family start behaving in a way that goes completely against the spirit of Christmas. After having his ’embarrassing’ letter to Santa read out at the dinner table, he tears it to pieces, thus summoning Krampus, a demonic monster described as ‘the shadow of Saint Nicholas’, who, and his army of helpers, set out to punish those who no longer believe in giving and sacrifice.
This film starts out pretty much as a straight comedy, and with so much comedic talent in this film they should be able to do that. Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner and Conchata Ferrell all have varying degrees of experience in comedic roles, and while the laughs aren’t as frequent as I personally wanted, the first twenty minutes or so are entertaining enough. It’s when the scares start, or rather don’t start, that this film slows right down.
Apart from a few easy moments (i.e. genre tropes), nothing in this film really succeeds in providing scares. One of the big problems comes from the creature design, not so much with Krampus himself, but with the army of helpers, which range from being unpleasant to look at but not very threatening, to being neither scary nor funny. This is due to some of the practical effects feeling like exactly that – effects, and not something that is genuinely a part of the film. This would probably be alright if the laughs continued, but unfortunately they become as infrequent as the scares in the second half of the film.
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