It is three days before Christmas and the holiday spirit has already been lost. Max (Emjay Anthony) and his Omi (Krista Stadler) seem to be the only people left who understand what Christmas means.
Throughout the day, Max’s spirit is gradually crushed, first by a classmate who tries to ruin the secret of Santa Claus for all of the younger kids, followed by his parents who wont make time to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas with him and finally by his extended family who spend the whole night saying terrible things and making fun of Max for still believing in Santa. As a result, Max gives up on Christmas and tears up the letter he was planning to send to Santa Claus. This simple act kick-starts a power outage, a blizzard and the arrival of something sinister.
When all hope is lost in the holiday, Santa does not come. Instead, you get his dark counterpart, Krampus, half man, half goat who comes, not to give you things, but to take things away. As Krampus seeks to punish those who have been bad, Max and his family finally realize what is important about the holiday a little too late.
Max’s parents are played by Adam Scott of Parks and Recreation and Toni Collette of The United States of Tara. They live in this Home Alone type house and, in fact, the film even sort of starts like Home Alone. The parents are too busy preparing for the holiday that they forget about their son who just wants to spend time with them. The uncle, Howard (David Koechner) is a complete jerk who thinks he is the symbol of masculinity and raises his daughters to be like boys. Howards children are fat, nasty and obviously never punished as they do and say whatever they like. Poor Max is the target for most of the jokes because he is the sweet one that cannot fight back. The only ally he has is his German Omi, or grandmother, who encourages him to hold tight to the holiday spirit and his belief in Santa. She seems to know something that no one else does.
Krampus has quickly moved up to the top of my Christmas horror list with Black Christmas. The PG-13 rating had me very nervous going in, but you would never know it was rated so gently while watching the film. In fact, the whole film is very dark and, at moments, genuinely terrifying. There is a part where a giant Jack-in-the-box is stuffing a child into his giant sharp tooth filled mouth and his mouth opens like the vampires from Blade 2. It was pretty horrifying, certainly not something I would expect to see from a PG-13 film.
I enjoyed that CGI was used sparsely and that Krampus himself was a man in a costume. I think a lot of the realism would have been lost had he been computer generated.
The costume was incredible. If you look at other Krampus related films or pictures, he is depicted as a devil looking creature but this Krampus is like the tail side of the Santa coin. He wears a red cloak, drives a sleigh, carries around a sack of toys and even has elves, just like Santa Claus. The difference is that Krampus has long sharp fingers, hooves and long curled horns, his sack of toys are evil and murderous and his elves are not the jolly toy making type. Where Santa comes to reward, Krampus comes to punish, and he does just that.
The film is brought to us by Michael Dougherty who horror fans know as the writer/director of the Halloween anthology Trick r Treat. If you have seen this, you know that Dougherty has no qualms about punishing bad children. Never since Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory have I seen horrible children get what was coming to them like I did watching Krampus.
If you are looking for a fun holiday film to see this year, consider going to watch Krampus. It is dark, funny and, at times, genuinely frightening and an overall amazing film. I personally cannot wait to go back and see it again, and again, and again.
Krampus is now available at a theater near you
Ann Hale is the horror editor for Pop-Break.com and a senior contributing writer, reviewing horror movies and television shows. Ann attended East Carolina University, majoring in English Literature. She is a collector of Halloween (the film) memorabilia and is a self-admitted opinionated horror nerd. You can follow her, her collection and her cat, Edward Kittyhands on Twitter and Instagram @Scarletjupiter