Continuing with December’s festive reviews here at Corner of Film, it’s Krampus, the Christmas horror-comedy with a staggeringly talented cast.
Featuring the likes of Adam Scott, Toni Collette, and David Koechner, and also featuring the voice talents of Seth Green and Justin Roiland, Krampus has far more star power than is strictly necessary. With most of its cast having a solid comedic background, you could easily be forgiven for assuming Krampus falls further onto the comedy side of its horror-comedy billing, but it actually balances the two remarkably well without ever really overstepping into sheer campiness.
Despite receiving mostly mixed reviews, Krampus is a triumph of festive cinema, and the main reason lies in its ability to brilliantly capture the core elements of each of its three genres. It’s incredibly festive, more traditionally at first and then delving into some of the darker folklore of the season as it goes on, but it’s also well-executed (pun very much intended) horror, with the Engel family being stalked by the titular demonic figure through the low visibility of the blizzard and ensuing blackout. It’s within its horror elements that Krampus is able to fulfill its comedic potential, with its main monsters being twisted versions of festive staples that want to brutally murder the various members of the Engel clan.
Krampus actually opens with a sequence that deftly captures this balance: a montage of shoppers storming a store in the lead-up to Christmas, trampling employees and manically, brutally fighting one another for every last item, all set to the tune of Bing Crosby’s “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”. It perfectly represents the film’s irreverent take on the holiday season and its general brutality, managing to subtly play its brutality for laughs in the process.
One of Krampus‘ best traits is that, despite the comedic talent of Adam Scott, David Koechner and Conchata Ferrell, it’s never played as a comedy. Instead, it derives its comedy from the insanity of the situation, with Toni Collette, Emjay Anthony, and Krista Stadler all playing their roles entirely straight to lend the film a little horror authenticity.
There’s also the matter of the film’s design. In concept, visuals, and soundtrack, Krampus is a truly excellent experience – Krampus and his various minions are designed to be equal parts hilarious and haunting (much like the deaths they inflict on their victims). Not only do the film’s elves, gingerbread monsters, and toy-based creatures look the part, but they’re able to provide both scares and laughs of incredulity simultaneously, and that’s an impressive feat. There’s also the use of the Carol of the Bells (slightly reworked to mention Krampus and warn of his arrival) which matches that same haunting tone.
One last piece of admiration I have for Krampus is in the German grandmother’s flashback scene, rendered in a creepily animated interlude that matches the film’s unique style. This is just one final example of the tiny touches that allow Krampus to come together so well, in such an abrupt and decisive manner, making it impossible not to be swept along with its insanity.
There are obvious criticisms for Krampus, however. The first is its strange omission of any blood or gore – considering its premise and genre, it’s a little like 2008’s Prom Night all over again, although infinitely more entertaining. This actually is far less of an issue than it might seem, though, as Krampus‘ Christmas-horror-comedy premise means that too much blood would simply be gratuitous, and its violence is actually more a part of its comedy than its horror.
Ultimately, Krampus is bordering on B-movie horror, but its story is brought to life by a talented cast that are capable of wringing equal amounts of emotion and comedy from its horrifying premise. Their efforts, combined with brilliantly designed visuals and sounds, make for an unforgettable festive experience that manages to scratch multiple itches all at once without ever feeling too taxing.
Summary: An effortless blending of three genres, Krampus works on multiple levels. It might not be the scariest horror, nor the funniest comedy, but it definitely deserves a spot in your festive repertoire due to its brilliant design and execution.
Highlights: Any of the film’s monsters, or the chemistry between the film’s cast – David Koechner and Adam Scott in particular share some excellent back and forth.