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‘Krampus’ is Hilarious Yet Terrifying

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Christmas movies have been a staple of the holiday season ever since the release of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life due to their cheery tone and utter sentimentality. Michael Dougherty’s Krampus almost entirely casts away those traits, crafting an incredibly enjoyable, though certainly flawed, holiday experience.

Inspired by the German legend of Krampus, the anti-Santa Claus (a legend retold through a stunning animation sequence reminiscent of classic Christmas animations), the film follows a family whose Christmas spirit has been whittled down to inexistence. When the son (Emjay Anthony), the final believer of the family, destroys his letter to Santa in a fit of rage, the evil spirit of Krampus is awoken and begins to wreak havoc on the neighborhood.

Opening with an excellent slow-motion sequence involving Black Friday shoppers, Krampus immediately unveils its satiric nature. Dougherty and writers Todd Casey and Zach Shields have set out to make a film that not only works as a horror-comedy, but one that questions and attacks what the “season of gifting” has become. That idea permeates the picture, bringing a unique slant to proceedings.

Don’t worry, though, that satire doesn’t drag down either the comedy or the horror. Krampus is consistently hilarious, and the scares, for the most part, deliver.

Utilizing stars like Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott and Anchorman’s David Koechner, the film delivers laugh after laugh with a strong blend of modern and classic comedy that values heart over idiocy. It’s not unlike National Lampoon’s “Vacation” in that sense.

 

Far more surprising though, is the horror. Through a litany of grotesque monsters unlike any I’ve seen before, a miniscule amount of jump scares, and the steady hand of DoP. Jules O’Loughlin (the cinematography is some of the best I’ve seen this year), Krampus is the scariest PG-13 horror film of the year.

The flick’s most appealing facet may be its character design. From the terrifying cloaked Krampus to a centipede-like clown toy, every monster is designed with practical effects. This is not only refreshing given the recent increase in computer-animated horror villains (looking at you Paranormal Activity 5 and 6), it also adds to the terror shown on screen.

The film is not without its faults however. Not unlike Dougherty’s previous effort, Trick ‘r Treat, a sense of repetition creeps in during the second act and there are some instances of misplaced CGI. Also, some audience members may be dissatisfied with the third act which contains a few too many “sacrifice” moments and culminates in a bait-and-switch that just doesn’t work.

Positives:

 

  • Strong horror accomplished through practical effects
  • Funny and satirical yet retains heart of the genr
  • Solid performances

Negatives:

  • The last five minutes
  • Repetitive elements
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‘Krampus’ is Hilarious Yet Terrifying