Krampus movie full length review - Remarkably well done, & remarkably maligned
You know that sense of duty you feel sometimes when watching patriotic movies?
You know, the old, "somebody's got to stand up for what's right" kind of shtick that sappy, emotional dramas love to smack audiences with so that they can be nominated for awards while being carried on a tide of tears and guilt? That's more or less how I feel about this review on Krampus, but in this case it's because I'm quite fed up with reading professional reviews of the film. I don't think any of the critics that I stumbled across had more than one or two kind words for Krampus, and that seems like a disservice to me because this film isn't bad -- in fact, it's really good. So this is me trying to set the record straight. If you're looking for a TL;DR sort of line so that you can skip reading the rest of this: "Krampus isn't perfect, but has likable characters, beautiful design, and produces enough tension to baffle an army of massage-therapists. If you aren't bothered with a PG-13 Horror movie, or are willing to wait for the unrated version, strongly consider watching it." For those of you who watched the trailers put out for Krampus, I'm sure that the beginning of film didn't hold much in the way of surprises for you. We're thrust into the story of a young boy named Max who is so disheartened both by the general air of marketing- driven greediness, and by the unpleasant attitudes of his family, that he throws away his own holiday spirit. Since we are talking about a Horror movie, this sort of thing can only ever lead to curses or monsters; and sure enough, Max's ill feelings draw down the ire of Krampus: a Germanic spirit whose job is to punish those who are on the Naughty section of Santa's list. Soon, Max and his family are trapped in their house by a blizzard of epic proportions, all while Krampus and his minions stalk them and pick off family members one by one; and if all of this sounds very familiar to you, then you've probably ridden on the Horror express a time or two. Krampus doesn't set out to make major waves in the genre, and is on very friendly terms with the clichés we've all come to know and love. But it doesn't take an utterly original movie to be good, and Krampus has to be my favorite new Horror movie that I've seen in a long while. For one thing, Krampus' actors are all very good. None of them are people that I recognize off-hand, which is a little unusual for movies nowadays; but every single one of them pulls their weight, and manages to come across as being more than just a walking plot device -- which is excellent. Nothing kills the mood in a movie where people are picked off one-by-one like unreal-seeming characters. Another point in Krampus' favor is that every critter that makes its way onto the screen looks absolutely horrifying in the best possible way. Dougherty did similar things with creature design in Trick 'r Treat, and it really pays off in this movie with evil clowns, elves, dolls, and pretty much anything else you can think of that's vaguely Christmas related. Cinematography is similarly fantastic-looking, and really does its job in establishing a mood. In fact, the more I think about the film, the more I realize that the only negative thing that I have to say is that the ending could have been a little better. Without wishing to spoil anything, there's a part near the end where it would have been absolutely devastating to drop the curtain and simply leave the story, and the film fails to capitalize on this. Still, the ending isn't absolute crap, and considering how good of an impression the rest of the movie left on me, it would have taken an ending on par with a natural disaster to change my opinions. Which leads me somewhat unevenly to my next thought: I don't understand where the negative professional critique on Krampus is coming from. Perhaps the most baffling comments for me (and there are a lot of them) are the ones that claim that Krampus is comedy, and fails to hit the mark in terms of humor. I might have missed something, what with my jaw resting on the floor while I stared at the terrifying- looking jack-in-the-box, but I really detected little to no comedic vibe from Krampus. There are some scenes which pay a certain amount of homage to movies like Evil Dead, but nothing I saw struck me as being intended in a comical light; in fact, the only reason that I can fathom for people believing that Krampus is partially a comedy is that there were rumors circulating around the Web to that affect. In fact, the more I've read through critics' comments, the more strongly I'm struck by the bizarre feeling that none of them actually paid much attention to the film. Maybe this suspicion is nothing more than my bias showing, but I have difficulty in accepting that a reviewer has actually watched the movie when they try to sell me on the idea that the plot revolves around Liberal vs Conservative stereotypes. (Yes, that is an actual example.) More than anything else, though, I think that the feeling of disconnect between myself and the reviewers is mostly due to the fact that few of them seem to be looking at the movie from the standpoint of Horror. As has been paraphrased uncounted numbers of times, real Horror is only possible when faced with the unknown and mysterious; and none of the reviewers whose works I've read seem to have had the patience for this. Which is a shame, both because it's harder to review a movie which you don't give a chance to, and because they missed out on what I'd call a very good time.