such a criminally underrated movie

Krampus is a good movie

The other day, some friends and I went to see the new movie Krampus. I had high hopes for this film since it was written and directed by Michael Dougherty who created the criminally underrated Halloween gem Trick ‘r’ Treat, but this movie TOTALLY surpassed all expectations.   Krampus is one of the best films I’ve seen in quite some time, and if you enjoyed my big Guttersnipe Christmas story (or, really, if you enjoy any of my Guttersnipe comics at all ) you really owe it to yourself to check this movie out.  The basic premise follows a dysfunctional extended family forced to spend the holidays together.  Max hates spending time with his obnoxious cousins almost as much as his parents can’t stand his uncle and aunts, but, when Max acidentally summons the traditional Austrian Christmas demon krampus to punish them for their lack of holiday spirit, they all have to put aside their differences to survive.  This movie could have been utter garbage if handled wrong, but Doughtery gets everything spot on.  It’s marketed as a horror film, but that’s a little bit misleading.  I’d compare it more to Gremlins; it’s got a lot of dark comic mayhem and it can be pretty creepy, but it’s not really scary.  The opening half hour before Krampus arrives is a pitch perfect spoof on detestable holiday oh-ho-ho-isn’t-it-funny-how-much-we-hate-our-relatives comedies like Christmas with the Kranks and Four Christmases. But once things start going, man!  Krampus is a movie that knows exactly when to show things and when to tease the audience.  Lots of good, interesting weirdness in this — you can’t get bored, because everytime that you think you’ve seen it all, the movie invents some new goofy thing to throw at you.  It’s not afraid to make some story-telling risks, so there are a lot of great moments that lesser movies probably would have left on the cutting room floor for fear that audiences wouldn’t ‘get’ them — for example, a really nifty sequence where Max’s German grandmother Omi tells the family about her previous encounter with the krampus is told through Rankin-Bass style puppetoon animation.

Horror movies — even campy, tongue-in-cheek flicks like this one — live or die by their characters. So many bad horror movies populate their worlds with unlikeable, useless, expendable characters, assuming that audiences WANT to root for people to die.  Effective horror movies should make you upset when people die, they should make you want to see people survive.  This movie does that, giving even the obnoxious gate-crashing relatives enough depth  to make you kind of like them.   Granted, this isn’t  exactly a deep, nuanced character study but movies like this don’t need to be; you just need enough detail to kinda get the characters.  The whole family is a lot of fun and they all have their own little quirks that give them distinct and entertaining personalities — especially loudmouth gun-nut Uncle Howard (who ends up becoming this movie’s Burt Gummer).  There are also some nice tender moments laced throughout the movie, so that the central theme about the bonds of family doesn’t feel like tacked-on schmaltz.  It feels real.  The scenes with Omi were especially touching for me, and I admit I got a little choked up.  Granted, I might be biased because she reminded me so much of my own German grandmother, rest her soul.  One of the nice touches in this movie was that Omi mostly spoke German throughout the entire film with her grandson Max translating for the rest of the relatives.  It’s very subtle, but I thought it helped to really establish that Max and his Omi had a unique bond.

Finally, the monsters… very cool, you get an endless menagerie of new and ever weirder Christmas demons throughout the flick and, best of all, most of them are realized by very good practical effects. There’s some CG, obviously, but it’s used sparingly and appropriately. Most of the monsters have that awesome lumbering, visceral feel that you only get with old school puppets.

So yeah, go see Krampus. And when you do see it, tell me what you think.  I’d be curious to know if other people enjoyed it as much as I did.