Masterpiece or Menace: Is Krampus a Good Christmas Horror Movie?

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“Krampus” (2015). Directed by Michael Dougherty. Starring David Koechner, Toni Collette and Adam Scott. Max has a crappy family. This year, they’re exceptionally crappy to each other, so he tears up his letter to Santa and earns the ire of Krampus. Soon a blizzard sets in and they’re surrounded by killer toys, evil elves and a dark version of Santa Claus. Also, killer fruit cake. (OK, we made that last part up. But it would be pretty awesome.)

‘Tis the season for Christmas horror films!

 

2015 brought us “Krampus,” by the same people who made the phenomenal “Trick ‘R Treat.”  I was looking forward to seeing this one, especially since “Trick ‘R Treat” kicked so much ass.

Yeah…about that.

Record-breaking Box Office Opening Weekend and all of its buzz aside, I’m just going to flat-out say it: “Krampus” tried too hard.  It couldn’t decide what it wanted to be about, had too many characters, too many monsters and zero focus. The plot was super thin, and the characters were one-dimensional.

The two characters that were the driving forces of the events, little Max and his grandmother Omi, are the only ones with agency. Even worse, they were minor characters and completely ignored in one of the acts.

It’s like they weren’t even in half of the movie. And they were the ones that were driving the plot forward! Who does that?

 

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Wait, you mean, I’m the one responsible for Krampus coming and taking my family to hell? Then why wasn’t I in the second act?

 

“Krampus” had too many extraneous characters that weren’t necessary for the story to be told. It had no character development and ventured into Macho Man with a Gun Trying to Stop the Bad Guys territory.

None of the characters actions were believable, except for the German grandma, Omi (played by Krista Stadler. Now she had screen presence).

 

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We tried to stop Krampus. We failed.

 

 

Omi should’ve been the main character of the movie.  She was the only one that knew what was going on. She had the knowledge and experience to know how to survive an encounter with Krampus. But noooo. Instead we get to watch two inept fathers run around in a freaking blizzard and not freeze to death, because guns… or something.

 

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Hi, I’m Max’s dad, Tom. I’m an Eagle Scout. We made a point to share that fact with the audience. And now I’m not going to use any of my Eagle Scout training to set up traps, perform first aid, or prevent my family from freezing to death. Because that would make freaking sense, and we don’t want to do that.

 

Ugh.

It was like watching the modern version of a Tolstoy novel, where there’s too many characters and all they talk about is threshing wheat and shucking oysters. (Replace being an asshole and bitching at each other for wheat and oysters and you’ll get this movie.)

 

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Hmmm… Am I supposed to be the main character? Is that what my motivation is for this scene? Am I the Uncle? Dad #2? The Terminator? Someone tell me! I can’t work in these conditions!

 

 

Just who is the main character?

Why did the two dads (both of which turn out to do absolutely nothing, even though they TRY SO HARD to be bad ass action heroes) become the main focus of the movie for a good chunk of it, before they went back to Max’s point of view (POV)? Why was the POV ever changed from his in the first place? That makes no sense. It’d be like a “Home Alone” movie, where 2/3 of the film was from Kevin’s Uncle Frank’s POV and we don’t get to see Kevin setting up booby traps for the burglars, or having fun, or going out shopping, or anything.

 

Also, why was there a mute idiot of a cousin in this film? The kid said nothing, just stood and stared, or ate. Completely extraneous, cut him from the script. It wasn’t funny. It was just…dumb.

 

Here’s a Hint: any character that does not move a plot forward is not necessary and should not be in a film, unless, say it’s done as a cameo role for Stan Lee. Then it’s cool. Otherwise, cut that character out of the movie.

 

 

 

And then, there were fight scenes with Killer Toys, Evil Gingerbread Men, Burrowing Snow Snakes that we never get to see, and Elves…that were cannibals? Or something? Hell, I don’t know. Might as well make it up at this point. I still think they should’ve gone with the killer fruitcake, but maybe that’s just me.

 

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I’m your friend ’til the end! Hidey Ho! Om nom nom.

 

I did like what they did with the killer toys as far as their overall monstrous design, and I really appreciate that they were all practical effects, save for the killer gingerbread men. That was cool. But the toys could’ve had their own movie. They could’ve been their own thing. There were three main big bad ones, and they could’ve easily served as monsters in a different film, all on their own. There was little to nothing going on that really screamed that they were part of the Krampus legend, at all.

 

The action sequences where the toys attacked were pretty much; “OK throw that angel doll on that person repeatedly while they try to smack it away. And ACTION!”

Reminded me of Ed Wood and “Plan 9 from Outer Space” where he tells Bella Lugosi to roll around with the tentacle to make it look like he’s struggling and it’s fighting him.

I can forgive them for having horrible murders happen off-screen, as it felt appropriate seeing as how this turned out to be more of a Young Adult type movie, except the YA characters weren’t the main focus of the film for more than 2/3 of it.

Look, either you’re a YA horror film, or you are a straight up adult horror film with mature themes.

Don’t dance around the issue; either Krampus is an evil dick that punishes people in a Cosmic Hell’s Revenge type of tale, or his cutesy evil toys are the baddies. Which one is it?

Make up your mind movie! ARGH!

Even worse, Krampus wasn’t the main focus. His helpers took up too much screen time. I was like…wait. Where’s the cloven-hooved bastard? When is he going to steal the children? Why would he even care if a kid tore up his letter to Santa?

Krampus is out to punish the wicked, and in his tales, evil always wins and bad people are always punished for their misdeeds. Tearing up a letter to Santa doesn’t seem evil enough to deem that kind of punishment.

 

There was so much potential for it to be scary and intense, and it just didn’t happen.

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WTF was up with the snowmen in the yard? They kept multiplying. I thought maybe dead people were in them, but turns out that they were just snowmen that the killer elves made while waiting to be told by Krampus to crash into the house and steal a baby.

 

 

I was told that this was a horror comedy. Please. There’s nothing funny in this one. Except that one scene where that one lady shoves an icicle into the rabid teddy bear’s eyesocket. That was amusing. For about five seconds.

Overall, they dropped the ball on the whole Krampus thing.

This movie had no idea what the Krampus legend was about, nor how it related to Eastern European culture.

Just in case you don’t know:

Krampus is a cautionary tale. Evil comes for its own, and evil always wins and drags people to hell.  Also,  Krampus never had magical blizzard powers or “helpers.” He was so bad ass, he didn’t need any elves or evil toys to drag people away for him, he did it himself in the legends. Threw kids in a basket he wore on his back even.

This is one of those things that should’ve been stupid easy. The legends are already written! All you had to do was transpose them into a movie and frame it with a story of a bad kid. Then terrorize the crap out of him. Bam! Movie!

But noooooo.

 

It was like watching a bad rip-off of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” where the characters don’t do funny things and are horrible to each other.

 

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So uh… the things up on the rooftop going click, click, click aren’t reindeer, are they? Also, look at my MANLY GUN of MANLINESS! Because I’m a man! With a shotgun!

 

“Krampus” had potential to be a decent movie, but it was ignored. And that makes me sad.

 

There was so much extraneous crap floating around in it, it’s like the script wasn’t polished. It was just typed, spell checked and printed out, without any scrutinous eye to look it over and say, “Oh, by the way. Where’s the plot?”

It seriously needed to be pared down and refined (i.e. EDITED), and if that happened prior to casting calls, you could’ve fooled me. There were way too many extraneous characters that served no purpose in this movie. It was mind-boggling.

I guess they were meant for comedy relief. Unfortunately, they weren’t funny. At all.

In fact, most of the characters were of the annoying “I’m an asshole because reasons” variety. I was relieved when they were taken away by the evil toys/gingerbread men/elves/vicious murderous fruitcake from hell.

 

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Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal.

The pacing was awful. The first act DRAGGED. Too much people blabbing and showing how horrible they are, not enough setting up of the plot.

 

1/3 of the audience left the theater while I was watching this. No joke.  They couldn’t make it through the boring first act of the movie. I’m surprised that I did.

 

In fact, the sore lack of plot made me realize that this film would’ve done better as a short 25 minute movie. And that brought me back to “Trick ‘R Treat.” Both movies were directed and written by the same person, Michael Dougherty.  For those of you that have been living in a van down by the river for eight years,  “Trick ‘R Treat” is a series of vignettes, and a fantastic Halloween anthology. Most of those tales are around 20 minutes or so. Therefore, if Krampus was a short entry in a Christmas horror anthology movie, it would’ve kicked ass. But, alas it was not, and its lack of coherent plot and horrible pacing flaws are a glaring end result.

 

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Killer elves? Seriously?! Doesn’t this movie have enough monsters in it already?

So, is “Krampus” a Masterpiece or a Menace?

Neither.

It’s just kind of there.

 

The Krampus character just wasn’t evil or heartless enough for my tastes.

 

To be honest, I was really disappointed with “Krampus”, especially after hearing such good things about it.

 

While this wasn’t the worst movie I have ever seen, neither was it on par with some of the best movies out there. I wasn’t deathly bored by it,  but neither was I entertained by this holiday horror film.

To me, “Krampus” was the Little Engine that Couldn’t. It just chugged and chugged and chugged and chugged, trying desperately to get up that hill, and when it reached the halfway point, it tipped over and spilled out all of its monster cargo and then limped away as they ate the crewmen and passengers.

I’ve seen better Christmas B horror movies. Hell, even “Demonic Toys” had more of a plot (and personality) than this film. Yeah. I went there. Deal with it.

 

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I hope that this movie doesn’t set the bar lower for future Christmas horror films. It if does, I’ll have to change its category to Menace, as it has the potential to spawn some seriously awful dreck in the future.

 

I can’t really recommend this film, unless you’re looking for something a little different and you don’t care if your horror film has no plot, no substance, no gore and no character development. But, if you’re not picky, knock yourself out. Go watch it. Torture your friends with it, whatever you want.

 

 

 

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About Cassie Carnage

Horror connoisseur. She who types too fast. Lover of cats and monsters. You can find her debut horror novel, WE ARE ALL MONSTERS here: bit.ly/waam11 Her upcoming vampire novel series, Addicted to the Abyss Volumes 1 and 2 will be out late 2017.
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5 Comments

  1. According to the movie’s muddled message “It’s not what you DO, it’s what you BELIEVE” that attracts Krampus. So if I’m a vicious bastard who cheats and lies and stabs my brethren in the back, but I still believe in Santa, I’m good, right?

    It could’ve been an interesting morality tale with a cheap, miserly rich guy who owns a local chain of stores and is paranoid….his secluded house in the woods has some pretty deadly burglar alarms….who gets a visit from Krampus after banning Christmas from the small town his family basically controls. Hmmm…

    • Pretty much. Now that you mention it, I realize that this movie reflects a very odd set of values in America, where it doesn’t matter how bad you are, if you believe in Jesus, you get into heaven or are “saved.”

      Also, your proposed morality tale of the misery rich guy banning Christmas in his stores and being visited by Krampus sounds a heck of a lot more interesting and coherent than this movie. Maybe you should write a short story of it? 😉

  2. I think the movie had a creepy atmosphere, but I think it would have been better if Max and the German Nanny experienced the toys, and it was JUST the toys. The elfs are too much. It’s also the fact that there were too many freakin’ family members! (It should have been the Granny, Dad, Mom, Sister, Son, and maybe a canine companion.)

  3. I liked it. The anomotronic’s made me think of 80s movies it was entertaining

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