Movie Review: “Krampus”

Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Emjay Anthony, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell
Michael Dougherty

It’s been eight long years since Mike Dougherty’s directorial debut, the excellent horror anthology “Trick ‘r Treat,” and he’s back to once again raise hell on the holidays with his sophomore effort. “Krampus” is a darkly funny Christmas film that features some solid laughs, playful set pieces and a fantastic use of practical effects.

Max (Emjay Anthony) loves Christmas. His family, however, doesn’t exactly share his excitement for the holidays: Max’s dad, Tom (Adam Scott), works too much; his mother, Sarah (Toni Collette), is a worrying control freak; and the rest of his family is constantly bickering and fighting. After Max tears apart his letter to Santa, asking for his family to be happy again, Krampus – an evil spirit who’s sort of like the anti-Santa Claus – comes to town. At its side is a horde of minions, including evil gingerbread men, a bloodthirsty teddy bear and a monstrous jack-in-the-box. If they hope to survive the night, Max’s family must put aside their problems and fight back.

The villains are the highlight of “Krampus.” Dougherty’s handmade approach to the film is exciting to watch. There’s a huge reliant on practical effects, making these monsters all the funnier, scarier and more believable. There’s very little noticeable CGI in the movie, with the exception of the comical gingerbread men.

But as fantastical as the story is, the threat in “Krampus” feels real. The first kill in the movie is unsettling, and as much as this family bickers, the audience cares when they’re attacked or mutilated. The actors, especially the young ones, bring a real sense of fear and sadness to the film. It also helps that Dougherty has a great handle of tension. When Max’s sister, Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen), is running from Krampus, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, it’s wonderfully timed.

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