On The Third Day of Christmas: Krampus Sees You While You’re Sleeping

Apparently, quite a few Krampus movies exist out in wild. No, the number of these anti-Santa Claus movies doesn’t quite approach the volume of poorly made Bigfoot movies. Without exception, these movies are uniformly terrible – rip-offs of the one and only Krampus movie that matters. Several years ago Legendary Pictures teamed with Michael Dougherty (Trick R’ Treat, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) to make the ultimate Krampus movie. Mixing action, comedy and horror, Dougherty’s Krampus obviously benefited from its big budget and stellar cast. While it’s not perfect, it stands as one of the better examples of horror combined with traditional Yuletide festivities.


Even though Max Engel is getting a little to believe in Santa Claus, he still embraces the holidays and all of its traditions. But this year all Max wants for Christmas is for things to be like they were years ago. More than anything else, Max wants his family to be happy and spend time together again. So when an extended family holiday dinner dashes all his dreams, Max bitterly rips up his letter to Santa Claus. The next morning, trapped inside while a blizzard rages on, the Engel family learn that stories of a demonic monster that punishes those who lose their Christmas spirit may be true.

Krampus Mostly Balances Absurd Humour with Dark Horror

Fans of Joe Dante’s filmography – most obviously, Gremlins – should appreciate Krampus. Clearly, director Michael Dougherty admires Dante’s style. There’s a similar balance between what sometimes feels like a family comedy with the same dark horror that earned Gremlins the first PG-13 rating. Bits of the absurd – including CGI gingerbread men – join some genuinely creepy, imaginative Christmas monstrosities. You may laugh when a Jack-in-the-Box swallows a child whole but the creature effects are terrifying – this is not a kid’s movie. And Krampus himself is a memorable horror figure. Maybe Dougherty takes the story a little too seriously as the middle act lags a bit. Nevertheless, Krampus picks up the slack in the climax.

You may laugh when a Jack-in-the-Box swallows a child whole but the creature effects are terrifying …

From its opening scene, Krampus positions itself as a biting satire of Western Christmas excess. With Bing Crosby’s It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas playing in the background, Dougherty’s montage of shoppers madly storming a shopping mall homages now familiar critiques of our consumerism. And the Engel family’s attempts at a Christmas card family gathering contrasted with the extent of their dysfunction plays for early laughs. Unfortunately, Dougherty and co-writers, Todd Casey and Zach Shields, can’t keep this commentary going. Once Krampus shifts gears into its horror elements, the screenplay leans on the admittedly expected Yuletide sentimentality without paying off the earlier cynicism. Yes, Krampus’ ending is appropriately dark. Nonetheless, it’s an ending that feels tacked on for the sake of being an anti-Christmas movie. It doesn’t feel like an earned ending.

Krampus Gift Wraps a Better-Than-Expected Cast for Its Brand of Christmas Horror Silliness

Alongside Krampus’ ‘big budget’ production, there’s a strong comedic cast on hand for the Christmas Carnage. Incredibly versatile, Toni Collette (Hereditary, Velvet Buzzsaw) has already amassed some impressive horror credentials. Though it’s a little hard to buy Collette and Adam Scott as husband and wife, they’re both excellent in the movie. In particular, Scott has perfected the art of playing it straight while comedic chaos explodes around him. Neither Allison Tolman nor David Koechner are strangers to comedy. Their white trash husband-and-wife duo – likely patterned off of Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation – offer early laughs. But Casey et al’s screenplay humanizes the characters enough to make the movie’s more sentimental vibes work when necessary.

Krampus A Fun Christmas Horror Movie That Holds Up To Repeat Viewings

At times Krampus may take itself a little too seriously, particularly as its runtime gets a bit bloated. After all, Krampus does feature a scene where gingerbread men cookies attack David Koechner. But Dougherty understands box office spectacle. Most importantly, the filmmaker also knows how to balance his spectacle with a bit of emotion and heart. And if it’s not perfect, Krampus holds up to repeat viewings. It falls a bit short of the movies to which aspires, but Krampus is still a fun watch.


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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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