by Matthew Balz
As the temperatures outside turn cold you can expect the film industry to start churning out their obligatory fistful of seasonal films to quell the public’s urge for holiday cheer. However, there’s at least one film which takes that cozy holiday warmth and transforms it into a despicable romp through the horror genre . . . and seems to do it quite well.
Krampus stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, and Conchata Ferrell as dysfunctional family members all confined to a family home for their holiday celebrations when a Christmas demon named “Krampus” is accidentally summoned. Yes, it’s that simple, and that’s only a partial reason why I’m already invested in this film. The other reasons are as follows:
- Practical Monster Effects
In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s become uncommon to see real monster costumes and makeup fill the screen as oppose to cheaper, more versatile computer-generated imagery. Even the 2011 remake/prequelThe Thing boasted its intended majority of practical effects . . . a plan which ultimately fell victim to the ever-disappointing CGI ultimately used in the film. As is evident in Krampus’s trailers and photos, a great deal of effort went into the creation of monster costumes and puppets, ranging from sharp-fanged teddy bears to nightmarish clown-doll creatures. This impassioned art direction and impressive character design glimpsed in Krampus has enticed my need for holiday horror and truly makes me anticipate when those sculpted monster claws rip through human flesh . . . which brings me to . . .
- Grisly Deaths
This may sound cynical, but I enjoy watching scary movies with creative death sequences. Especially when a film fully utilizes original creature design, I can’t wait to see a handful of characters just annihilated by the sinister forces at play. The trailer hints at a monstrous trickster as our antagonist, a league of minion “helpers,” and a few family members at the celebration who may or may not warrant their names on the Naughty List. Yes, it is typically horrific to see human beings slain by the hands of any monster, no matter how entertaining, but when your Christmas movie depicts ancient forces of evil, laden with teeth and claws, there are a few of us who just want to revel in the carnage. Oh, and about those “ancient forces of evil” . . .
- Monsters Based in Mythic Origins
Cliché as it may be, I love the background and history of monsters grounded in legend and lore. Their countries and cultures of origin offer great variety to their purpose and characterization. They already have [often disturbing] stories and tales which flesh out any key explanations necessary for backstory. This means we won’t have to dwell on “how” or “why” beyond a simple passage from ancient text or a bedtime story. Get to the goods!
- Michael Dougherty
The twisted mind of this film’s director has already proven experience in the art of horror-comedies. 2007’s Trick’r’Treat tells several loosely-intertwining tales of horror set on the night of Halloween and these segments vary greatly in range of thrills, transversing between subtly tense and outrageously monstrous. He knows exactly how to incorporate style and music to fit each depicted mood, carrying us through entertaining set pieces and otherworldly atmosphere. If any filmmaker can transfer a darkly-themed tale of mischievous holiday demons onto screen, it is likely the guy who could write and direct his very own anthology of Halloween terror. Speaking of which . . .
- The Rare Horror/Holiday Mashup
Don’t get me wrong, there is already a well-established array of horror flicks set during/around the holiday season and convey that same atmosphere. Some of them, such as Joe Dante’s Gremlins and Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, still hold up through time as cult classics. The problem is that too many waste their potential to create a memorable story that can exist outside of its own gimmick. As with every holiday that has ever existed, for each quality rendition of its horror counterpart, there’s a dozen weak imitations that only squander the opportunity for inventive terror. Personifying the “holiday demon” isn’t new, but this film takes itself far more seriously and allows some of its scenes to marinate in suspense. For all we know, it may even incorporate an extra spin or two . . . although I’m not entirely familiar with the mythology of Krampus. However, I’m sure I’ll declare myself an expert after viewing this fantastically unreliable movie.