Review: Krampus

Posted: December 13, 2015 in Review, Scary Stuff
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been wanting to see this movie for months, and this evening I got the chance. Let me tell you, it was everything I’d hoped it would be.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the Krampus story, let me do some background: Krampus is a being whose origin dates back to ancient pagan beliefs, and he’s particularly well-known in central and northern Europe. While St. Nicholas is supposed to reward good children, Krampus would punish the bad children. Normally portrayed as a big, hairy demon with horns, he would leave coal, hit the bad kids with birch twigs, and/or drag the kids to wherever Krampus hangs out the rest of the year, depending on who you ask. On December 6th each year, plenty of cities and towns have Krampus Night, where people dress up as Krampus and have a parade chasing people around the town (sounds like fun).

In this movie, Krampus is summoned when a family loses the Christmas spirit, and proceeds to abduct each one of them to take them to the underworld. And let me tell you, from the very beginning, when you see an entire superstore torn apart by shoppers desperate for Christmas gifts, to the twist ending, Krampus is just excellent. It’s so well-written, with the writers (one of whom is the director and also directed the Halloween cult classic Trick ‘r Treat) taking us through a comedy film that manages to do all the horror tropes but remain funny throughout without being too obvious or self-referential. There’s never a dull moment, keeping your attention glued to the screen no matter what’s happening. The actors are also great, with most of them seeming like they’re either being themselves or playing around rather than doing any real acting, and just adds to the fun of the movie.

My favorite part of the film is the visuals, Krampus goes all out to make this the most visually interesting film ever. Except for the CGI gingerbread monsters (yes, there’s that in this movie), the monsters are all done with make-up and animatronics and actors. To say the least, they are terrifying, but what’s really interesting is that so many of them look like they’re pretending to be people in costumes instead of actual monsters. I’m not sure if that’s part of the humor or if that’s some sort of commentary on the Christmas season, but I like it. And I still would probably hide from these monsters if they showed up at my door on Christmas (thank God I’m Jewish).

Another thing I loved about Krampus is how it finds so many ways to make fun of the Christmas season. From the opening sequence’s critique of the commercialization of the holiday to the family’s interaction’s with each other to showcase how little time we actually devote to being nice and generous around these holidays, this movie finds all sorts of way to point out what’s wrong with the Christmas season. And maybe it’s because as a Jew I find the Christmas hype a little annoying at times, but I just love every second of it. And if you’ve ever been annoyed with how people treat Christmas or act around this time of year, you will love it too.

The one critique I would give this film is that when we finally get a good look at Krampus, he’s actually not that intimidating. He looks like someone took a Father Christmas costume, stuck on horns, lots of fur and chains, and added really bad teeth to the mask, looking more like that old rat Nicodemus from The Secret of NIMH than an actual demon. And maybe that’s because the other monsters are just so scary that the filmmakers decided to make Krampus look a little comical, but I would’ve preferred it they actually made him a bit more terrifying.

Overall though, this is a very fun movie. Is it something that’ll become a staple at Christmastime? Maybe not, but I think that the film has enough going for it that we’ll find good reason to revisit it every December. Especially if we want to remind ourselves how not to act around Christmas, or if we want to imagine certain politicians we dislike getting a visit from Krampus (I can think of about three or four right now).

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Krampus a 4.6. It’s funny, memorable, and reminds you what this season is really all about. Go check it out and have a good laugh.

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Comments
  1. I kind of want to watch the movie but I haven’t decided if I will yet.

    • I can understand that. Well, if you do decide to see it, I think you’ll have a good time. And if you don’t, you can always get it on DVD when it comes out. That’s what I plan to do with Crimson Peak.
      Good luck deciding.

  2. Except for the fact that Krampus is always on December 5th that was a really great review. I am not going to watch the movie myself, because well … I quite like my country’s tradition of the Krampus and I don’t like Horror movies, not even if they make fun of stuff. But I am very glad you enjoyed it!

    • Thanks for the clarification, Katja. And I totally get your reasons (they’re also why I recommend my sci-fi works for you). By the way, what’s Krampus Night like? I’d love to know from someone who’s experienced it firsthand.

      • I was always scared of the Perchten (the people who dress up as Krampus), so I never went to a real Krampus Night. They run around during the day sometimes as well though, but I have to say they became less over the years. I always hid behind my mother when we crossed paths. Vienna probably isn’t the best example for Krampus Night though, it’s more traditional in the rural areas. The Perchten run around the villages, make noises with their chains and hit stuff with twigs. Usually they don’t hurt anyone, but they are still scary as heck because there have been incidents, where the people (as soon as they had on the mask) just became completely unpredictable and aggressive.

      • I know how that is. Some people really try to embody the role they play, and that can backfire. I’ve had personal experience, believe it or not.

      • That doesn’t sound like a fun experience at all :/

      • In retrospect, no it wasn’t.

  3. Mati Serrano says:

    Hope it’s still showing at the local cinema on Friday.

  4. I am looking forward to seeing this myself. Thanks for this review!

  5. This is on my redbox/netflix list 😉

  6. Up to now, yours is the first positive review I’ve read of this movie. That’s why I didn’t have much excitement for this one. It sounds like you watched the movie more in the spirit it was made in. Some people take things too seriously and don’t laugh enough. Humor is one of those things so few actually get. Now that I see what you have to say about it, I’ll give it a chance.

    By the way, I didn’t realize this was based off an actual legend in Europe. That was fun to learn.

    • I hope you like it when you see it. It’s a pretty good comedy.
      And yeah, Krampus is an actual legend out of Europe, but I sometimes wish we had it here in the States. Might make for some good stories, and get some kids to not act bratty with their parents while still expecting parents (after all, a horned demon who doles out really harsh punishments is a much better deterrent for naughty behavior than a lump of coal, right?).

      • The lump of coal is never a good deterrent. 😉

      • Yeah, then the kids who get that (and I’ve never heard of a kid who actually got a lump of coal) just get resentful at Santa for not giving them gifts when all the kids got them. Krampus would make them glad they got the gifts. It not only meant they were good, but they avoided getting either beaten or carried off.

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