I’ve told you guys about my ongoing battle to retain my faith in the experience of leaving my home to watch a movie and how it is constantly threatened by my closest theater being too far away, skyrocketing ticket prices, the existence of bedbugs and my deep desire to avoid being involved in one of America’s daily mass shootings. But how in the world was I going to resist KRAMPUS when it sports the kindertraumiest character anyone has ever heard of? How could I say no to the too rare opportunity to see a Christmas-set horror movie on the big screen? Geez, when was the last time I had that privilege? I’d have to go all the way back to GREMLINS. That’s sort of fitting I guess because it turns out KRAMPUS is THE BEST Christmas-set horror movie since GREMLINS. But unlike GREMLINS, which was released in the heart of summer, KRAMPUS’ release is perfectly timed to get you in gear for the holiday season and if you are a horror fan, it’s very likely the best gift you’ll be getting this year (and better still, it’s sure to become a holiday staple).
Another hurdle I currently contend with is my ongoing battle to keep my hope in modern horror movies alive. At the risk of sounding crusty, my theory is this: once upon a time, there were a lot of great movies being made because a person would have to have a certain amount of talent to be handed the directing reins and basically the cream would rise to the top. These days it seems like opportunity is handed over to the shove-iest tool who yaps the loudest and the result is the avalanche of garbage we call modern culture. I bring this up because KRAMPUS was directed by MICHAEL DOUGHERTY, the whiz behind 2007’s TRICK R’ TREAT and let me tell you, it makes a profound difference when there’s somebody with a personal vision behind the wheel rather than your dime-a-dozen hipster-hack.
More good news is that much like the recent and surprisingly lovable FINAL GIRLS (wow, 2015 is shaping up in its last lap), KRAMPUS occupies its world with talented actors who bring idiosyncratic gifts to the table and generally know what they’re doing. Check it out, we’ve got ourselves the veritable virtuoso TONI COLLETTE, the sharp as a tack ADAM SCOTT, the legendary CONCHATA FERRELL, scene stealer DAVID KOECHNER (channeling some VACATION-era RANDY QUAID and my personal favorite, ALLISON TOLMAN fresh off her remarkable stint on the first season of FARGO. (Did I ever tell you that I’m enjoying the FARGO TV series immensely?) Much of the flick is carried on the shoulders of youngster EMJAY ANTHONY and he excels in the sensitivity department to the point where you might think STEVEN SPIELBERG created him in a lab. The flick has got serious soul and when it’s not pulling the rug out from under you, it’s tugging at your heartstrings…
Because KRAMPUS isn’t a horror movie about physical preservation and chronic worries about fatal flesh wounds, it’s a dark fantasy terror tale about the hell on Earth the world becomes when you stifle your spirit and your heart looses hope. That might sound corny but the way it is pulled off is fantastic. My favorite aspect of KRAMPUS is how incredibly other-worldy it becomes. It’s as if a curtain falls and suddenly the family home has landed on a far off and extremely hostile planet (I think there’s even an ALIEN reference as the out-of-town neighbors are the Lamberts and the Cartwrights). Suddenly anything can happen, any character can be swiped away, and any inanimate object can transform and bite back. There’s a willful breaking away from expectations and presumed safety zones and you’re likely to get a second hand high off the fumes of unbridled creativity born from the thrill of coloring outside the lines.
Beyond GREMLINS, you might get flashes of THE WIZARD OF OZ, TIME BANDITS, THE DARK CRSTAL and HOME ALONE but as KRAMPUS tips its horns to many a classic, it stands as much more than a patchwork quilt and always maintains a dominant sense of self. You could accuse it of being extremely unfaithful to the legend proper but personally I was having way too much fun to care about that. It’s safe to say that some horror fans won’t find it scary enough but I’m going to go out on a limb and chalk that up to something missing within themselves and the equivalent of a vampire blaming a mirror for its lack of reflection.
I can implore you to see this movie right? On account of I’ve never implored you to see anything before? It’s a great ride and the timing is so spot-on. It’s so much more than simply a Christmas-set horror film. It’s a sign post in a wasteland of ice reminding you of the importance of keeping your faith in the face of naysayers and what a great loss it is when out of exhaustion, we trash what we believe in (not to mention the timely reminder of how important it is to put aside differences in order to dispel a shared threat). I mean, it almost made me miss my family for a second. How gross is that!? Oh brother, under all this cross-armed cynicism, I’m really the corniest. Turns out the pessimistic way that kid in the movie was starting to feel about Christmas was pretty much aligned with how I was beginning to feel about horror movies. I’m thankful KRAMPUS showed us we were both wrong.
…And while we’re chronicling the references and begats, let’s not forget the shout-out to Calvin & Hobbes with the snowmen out front and the reference to Max’s neighbors upset by “The Noodle Incident”… please tell me I wasn’t the only one in a theater who laughed at that and Emjay Anthony’s delivery of a guilty smile at its mention.
I enjoyed this one immensely and was kinda surprised by the emotional impact when some of the characters fell. SPOILERS AHOY! I began to worry about how it would end, hoping it wouldn’t cop out with it’s all a dream or somesuch. And the buzzkill was settling in when this did happen — until the film went all THE DEVIL’S RAIN on me and Wow.
Thanks for adding those C&H references. I’m ashamed to say they flew right over my head!
Something tells me I’ll be finding new things in this movie with each and every viewing. Can’t wait to make it a yearly holiday tradition.
(spoiler) I know exactly what you are saying. That second darker ending cleared up any momentary misgivings I had about the earlier reveal. I love that moment before it pans out and you can see on everybody’s faces that they are remembering (at least partially) what happened. The more you think about it the creepier it is and I love that you can interpret it many ways.
I’m so relieved that you wrote this! I’ve been dragging my feet seeing KRAMPUS because some friends told me that it wasn’t so great. But the law of the land is that your opinion rises far above all others, so I am dragging my dad to see it today. We both need it, even though he doesn’t know it yet. I could not relate to this line of your review more:
“It’s a sign post in a wasteland of ice reminding you of the importance of keeping your faith in the face of naysayers and what a great loss it is when out of exhaustion, we trash what we believe in.”
Thank you so much for your comment! I sometimes wonder what the worth of writing yet another review might be but if I can persuade somebody to see a movie they might not have that means the world to me. I LOVED Krampus and I have a feeling you will too. I’m actually shocked that anyone could feel meh about it because it’s so much fun and for me, very fulfilling!
Thanks again for your support, it means a lot!
I caught this last night and was excited because a Lance stamp of approval is pretty much everything. I’m happy to say that I quite liked it, although I don’t think I loved it. It’s REALLY fun, and yes, you do really connect with the characters, and you give a damn about what happens to them.
I’m with the above comment about the
ending, but I wasn’t as blown away by the second ending, and was hoping it would have stuck with the 1st cynical edge presented before we get the 1st twist ending (I’m trying to be vague, hope this makes sense).
OK, I caught the more obvious Alien reference when Oona (sp?) has a showdown with Krampus, and he’s leaning over her and his tongue comes out. I didn’t catch the more subtle one that you uncovered, but it made me squee a little when you mentioned it. I wonder if there’s more in there to be found?
END OF SPOILERS
Anyway, just minor quibbles. It is quite fun and well made. Also, I think I was about 12 or 13 and was seeing Krampus it would be my Lady in White or Gremlins for sure. It’s got some really nasty, unexpected moments that I’m sure linger deeper in a less cynical brain!