Krampus is this year's biggest Christmas themed horror movie. It follows the story of a family who are burdened by the company of their relatives for Christmas, and then further burdened by the company of Krampus, who is described as Santa's shadow. The director Michael Dougherty made Trick 'r Treat in 2008 (which was a great film) and following the financial success of Krampus, Trick 'r Treat 2 has been given the green light. The problem is that that's probably the best thing about this film. The entire story seemed forced and rushed from beginning to end.
It starts out with the feeling of a festive comedy film and stays that way for while, but gets dark very suddenly. Horror movies generally have jokes and comic moments, and that's fine, but they were all crammed in at the start here, and then it became all action. A transition would have been better, or blend of both horror and comedy throughout. It seemed to get confused in between. The majority of the cast have made careers in comedy so it was a bit unusual watching them all play serious roles for the second half of the film. I didn't need to see David Koechner play the same character he plays in everything he's in, it felt like he was just there to fill that Christmas/comedy stereotypical uncle role. The rest of the cast were okay, but again, the film probably could have benefited from a more serious cast or a better dispersal of jokes. That said, the funny bits were funny.
It's difficult to not compare this with Trick 'r Treat because they're both themed and in the same vein. What stands out most about Trick 'r Treat is that it's fun and really captures that Halloween aesthetic. Krampus doesn't really capture the Christmas aesthetic at all (and so many other films do) so it won't stand out as a Christmas film, whereas Trick 'r Treat most definitely stands out as a Halloween film. Another problem is that it's not that fun. It tries to be but it's not. It turns into a survivor film in the final third, and on top of it being confused between horror and comedy, it becomes a little bit of a thriller too. The story trips over itself on too many occasions for it to be an engaging film.
This film has a monster, and in that monster they have an rare opportunity to create an iconic Christmas symbol, like the Mogwai from Gremlins. Gremlins was so successful for many reasons, but one of the big reasons was that it had a mascot. Krampus really didn't capitalize on this, and missed a huge opportunity to create a modern horror classic. You don't get a good view of the monster for much of the film, but when you do it looks awful. The story is derived from old Austro-Bavarian folklore, and there are many drawings and depictions of the monster available. We know that Michael Dougherty can execute this; look at Sam from Trick 'r Treat. I really can't understand why he hasn't attempted something similar here.
Overall, Dougherty had the right intentions but everything was executed poorly. It's a watchable and somewhat enjoyable film but fails to break any new ground.