Cert: 15 / 98 mins / Dir. Michael Dougherty / Trailer
Ah, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas*1. The annual season of cheer, goodwill and unfettered capitalism has been the hand-in-glove companion for the film industry since 1901's Scrooge; Or Marley's Ghost. Of course, not all movies are candy-cane-sweet, and so the self-aware sub-genre of 'Christmas Horror' was created for moviegoers who like to think they're a bit more cynical about the whole thing. Which is precisely why I'm going to be as cynical as I am about the latest addition to the festive-library, Krampus…
Based around the (suddenly remarkably well known) alpine legend of St Nicholas' diabolical counterpart, we begin with possibly the most facetious title sequence for a Christmas movie in living memory, watching a slow-motion montage of sales-shoppers destroy everything in their path in the bloodthirsty quest for a bargain. It's especially notable given how formulaic the film becomes after it. The problem is that the idea at its core is reasonably good; but the film is rarely more than reasonable. Too many of the movie's central family are unlikeable to the point that their continued survival doesn't become important to the audience, but they're not quite despicable enough that their grisly ends can be met with any satisfied glee.
This isn't helped by a ninety minute screenplay which drags its heels in dispatching most of its hapless inhabitants, leading to a mass cull in the last ten minutes that feels more like carelessness than a crescendo. Krampus can never let go and become as boldly different as it'd like, struggling to reconcile a mainstream horror flick and a relatively tame black comedy. Rather than working together, the styles spend too much time undermining each other's effectiveness. That said, when The Horror™ does finally arrive in force, it's still a little too cartoonish to hold any real sense of threat on its own. By the third-act finale, Krampus has begun to resemble the old Puppet Master series, with a range of festive atrocities who - although finely crafted and realised - seem to have been designed to cater to a secondary revenue-stream of t-shirts and high-end maquette collectables. More Hot Topic than Hammer House of Horror.
But it's not awful at all. This is just the kind of low-rent monster-flick which usually gets released straight-to-DVD (which, for shameless Cousin Eddie rip-off, David Koechner, is the second one in as many months). The production values are all relatively high, but they're dragging around a screenplay which needs a thorough polish.
For a Christmas-based black-comedy/horror that's truly quirky, you'd be better off with 2010's Rare Exports, although this pared-down Hollywood re-tooling is perfectly acceptable for a night in with the sherry and the eggnog…
Spoilers - highlight to read:
Mind, that Bobby-Ewing-stepping-out-of-the-shower ending can fuck right off, as well.
Not unless mainstream horror is really your thing.
Maybe buy it for the Christmas-pile, but wait until it's under a fiver.
It does not.
It does not.
I will not.
There is not.
Krampus stars (inexplicably) Toni Collette, who also appeared in 2000's Shaft remake, alongside Sam 'Windu' Jackson.
*1 Of course, the most annoying thing about reviewing these movies is reading back what you've written and seeing that you've put the word 'Christmas' three times in one paragraph and twice in the next. And there's only so many times you can get away with 'festive', 'seasonal' and 'holiday season' instead. Bunch of arse. Anyway, Christmas Christmas Christmas...
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.