Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, even from my youngest memories in childhood. It was then both fitting and convenient that my favorite genre (for movies, books, television, etc.) ended up as horror. The two walk perfectly hand in hand. Yet, like many children, I still enjoyed Christmas, though it became increasing painful through teenage angst mingled with family time. My beloved genre rarely followed me out of October and all the way into the twinkling traditions of December.
However, there are a decent variety of Christmas horror movies out there, which succeed mostly on the perversion of an otherwise joyous holiday. Silent Night, Deadly Night is one of my very favorites. The Nightmare Before Christmas is one I can even watch with my children.
Now, I can add Krampus to my list of horror movies to keep me sated through the holidays. In fact, Krampus may have to be snuck in among the traditional Christmas movies like White Christmas and The Grinch I loved it so.
Krampus is a dark horror comedy about a Christmas to which we can all relate. When you have to spend family time with relatives you can’t stand. When your parents or children are being pains in the ass. When the traditions and togetherness you remembered fondly has become an annoying, disappointing, empty shell. When the holiday stress ultimately murders the holiday. And maybe, just maybe, you lose that Christmas spirit and wish it all away.
Enter the shadow of St. Nicholas—Krampus. Krampus is a huge and terrifying creature summoned when someone loses the Christmas spirit to claim the disbeliever and his/her loved ones to the underworld, reminding all who remain to hold the true meaning of the holiday close.
Krampus presented such a good ratio of horror that through the entire suspenseful beginning and plot establishment of the film, it just felt like a horror movie. It introduced a very unexpected death order that broke away from the formulaic family horror scenario and kept me guessing after the first victim as the traditional archetypes appear to not be necessarily safe.
Then, once Krampus’s minions are introduced, the comedy emerges. The comedy is expertly timed within the plot to break up the suspense and is also still entangled with enough horror to maintain the mood of the movie. I will not reveal too many of the comedic surprises, but I could have died laughing at the killer gingerbread cookies or the injured redneck brother-in-law.
Michael Dougherty delivers with Krampus in the same way he did with Trick r Treat. Trick r Treat is perhaps my all-time favorite Halloween movie. The things I love about Trick r Treat—the comedic-horror blend, the balance of character development, the well-used festive imagery—are also present in Krampus, simply under the veil of a different holiday. Dougherty has earned a true fan in me with these two films.
Krampus is fun yet still creepy, heartwarming yet still unnerving, festive yet still frightening. In short, it was exactly what I wanted to see, even if I did not know that going in. I will watch it again. I will own it. I will add it to my Christmas movie lineup to be enjoyed each year.