December is a month of cookies and milk, a celebration of jolliness, purity and family values. Halloween and its tidal wave of horror releases get dethroned and shoved into the back of your Instagram feed as soon as midnight strikes. However, this Christmas Michael Dougherty had a slightly different idea for merrymaking with own directorial creation “Krampus”. A mash-up of the two greatest holidays in every child’s life, starring comedic staple Adam Scott as central character Tom. By his side we see (fictional) wife Toni Collette and extended family David Kouchner and Allison Tolman as the most dysfunctional crew of opinionated parents.
We follow tiny Max (Emjay Anthony), whose experience of Christmas is slowly spiralling into misery with each consecutive year. His mother and father appear progressively distant, one always away and the other keeping obsessively busy. His hillbilly auntie and uncle are raising a litter of rednecks and sister Beth is tearing away from their best-friend relationship. In a fit of anger, the boy rips up his very last Santa Clause letter apart and throws it hastily into the cold wind outside. What follows is a raid of nightmarish monsters, who transform their entire neighbourhood into an icy kingdom. Gingerbread bites back, clowns crawl between the house walls and elves spread mischief into the front lawn. Through the harshest of blizzards, their families must stick together and iron out the kinks in an attempt to survive. Only Omi (Krista Stadler), Max’s grandmother, knows of the terror that is yet to come. It is the shadow of St. Nicholas everyone should fear, the demonic spirit, which punishes the naughty and feeds on the hopeless.
The idea of a Christmas horror flick is far from being a long-awaited epiphany. Some of “Krampus”‘s more notable competitors are “Gremlins” (Dante, 1984), “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” (Helander, 2010) and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (Burton, 1993). They have all collected audience approval, scoring high in social platforms such as IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Dougherty, however, brings a strong dish to the table with this demonic rendition of the eponymous mythological creature. The image of Krampus itself remains hidden until the very culmination of the film, building up our hunger for a revelation. We expect a villain that wouldn’t give us serious dream joo-joo, but simultaneously need a strong kick of fright to construct that successful contrast between comedy and horror. In my opinion, this is what makes “Krampus” so intriguing – the best elements of two juxtaposing worlds, which are tossed together instead of blended into one.
All performances were carried out smoothly and excitingly. Adam Scott and Toni Collette shared a special connection on screen that left me endeared and positive. Simply said – two actors with great chemistry, complimenting each other in both humour and romance. My only impression of Allison Tolman had come from the strongly beloved “Fargo” series. Her character in the FX masterpiece is a charming, yet determined police woman. Here, Tolman opens up to a brand new assortment of distinctions – the settled wife, the courageous mother, the affectionate countryside tomboy. Appreciation for her talent grows by the day and it is well-deserved. Special mention to the entire cast of children, including Emjay Anthony, Stefania Owen, Lolo Owen, Queenie Samuel and Maverick Flack, who made the film flicker with nostalgic glances of the world. After all, as kids we truly believe in the magic of Christmas, and this company of talents transcends that innocence perfectly into the camera.
My verdict is such – “Krampus” will indefinitely remain a part of my twelve-day countdowns. It’s a film I truly enjoyed watching, a picture that left me entertained from top to bottom and most of all surprised me with great quality. Whether you need a Christmas shot of festivity, an ideal date flick or a relaxed Friday night on the couch, “Krampus” is here to provide.
Enoy by the fistfuls of popcorn!