Main cast: Emjay Anthony (Max Engel), Adam Scott (Tom Engel), Toni Collette (Sarah Engel), David Koechner (Howard), Allison Tolman (Linda), Krista Stadler (Omi Engel), Conchata Ferrell (Aunt Dorothy), Stefania LaVie Owen (Beth Engel), Lolo Owen (Stevie), Queenie Samuel (Jordan), Maverick Flack (Howie Jr), and Mark Atkin (Ketkrókur)
Director: Michael Dougherty
In case you’re not in the loop, the Krampus is a half-goat, half demon creature that normally shows up around the Christmas holidays to usually punish children that misbehave. He’s like the mean counterpart of Santa Claus, in other words. Here, however, it shows up to give a most painful middle finger to those who no longer believe in all that is good about Christmas – something that the dysfunctional Engel family will discover the hard way when they begin getting killed one by one by a mysterious creature. The kid Max initially wants to believe in Santa Claus and all that, but bullied out of his habit by his other family members. Is it too late for the kid too – will he too become a Krampus eggnog by the end of the holidays?
Yes, there are kids who here who become victims of the titular creature, but fortunately, Krampus is more of a comedic dark fantasy film than an outright horror film, so it isn’t that traumatic a watch for those who can’t bear to watch kids come to harm, even if most of these kids are obnoxious turds. In fact, the deaths can be argued to be negated by the ending anyway, so yes, this movie is more about how the Krampus and his army of violent elves, animated toys, and even sentient gingerbread men violently tear into those who dare to pooh-pooh Christmas. If anything, its opening credits do the predictable thing and blames consumerism for turning people into mean and materialistic sods around the time of the year.
Once the killings start, however, it becomes clear that the real message here is something most fans of scary movies are familiar with: unintentionally or not, once again a horror film drives home the fact that kids are nothing but trouble, and most of the nonsense here will have never happened if Mom and Dad had used a prophylactic in the first place. The kids are obnoxious and unlikable for the most part, while the kid I’m supposed to empathize with, Max, is for some reason in the background for so often that when he does show up, he’s just… annoying.
The adult cast members are more reliable. Adam Scott demonstrates that he can actually play the noble hero very well here, while Toni Collette plays a tightly-wound woman who nonetheless can be relied on to be a tough lady when the need arises. David Koechner plays the douchebag who turns out to be not-that-bad pretty well, while Allison Tolman plays the female counterpart to Howard (Linda’s his wife) pretty well too.
However, the stars of the show would be the cheerfully gruesome children-gobbling jack-in-the-box, the murderous but so-cute gingerbread men, and all those cute monstrous teddy bears and dolls. The elves and the Krampus himself are made of too much fake-looking CGI to be scary, but the toys are terrifying in how adorable they look even as they behave like refugees from those Puppet Master movies.
Krampus isn’t that scary to be considered a horror movie, and the ending is a big cop-out if you ask me. Still, the adult cast members however, and those toys – shudder – make this a pleasant way to pass the time or if we want to scare the kids for some reason.