Monday, December 07, 2015

Unmerry Krampus

I had... well, not high hopes, but hopes... for Krampus, this weekend's unconventional new Christmas horror movie about the titular evil monster coming to terrorize a suburban family who has lost the holiday spirit. It seemed like it had the potential to land in the space ruled by Gremlins and Die Hard -- unapologetically non-sentimental Christmas classics. But whatever hopes I'd let myself build up, Krampus fell well short of them.

Foolishly, I expected more of this cast. On the one side of things, you have Adam Scott and David Koechner, both of whom have a proven track record in multiple comedies. Lending some unlikely dramatic heft are Toni Collette (an actual Academy Award nominee!) and Allison Tolman (who was fantastic in the first season of Fargo). Not that any of these people are right at the top of the Hollywood A-list, but you'd think there would be something going in this movie to attract all of them.

Unfortunately, the movie is simply not enough of anything. It's not scary enough to be an effective horror movie, nor funny enough to be an oddball Christmas comedy. There are a small handful of moments peppered throughout that suggest what the movie could have been if they'd leaned more into the premise (or perhaps gone for an R rating instead of a PG-13). The single best extended sequence in the movie involves a confrontation with killer toys in the attic, and even there, some probably unintentional laughs stop the scares in the scene from landing well.

Really, the best thing about the movie is its artistic design. There are some truly creepy snowmen that appear on the front lawn when the blizzard sets in. (But the script doesn't make the most of them.) A storybook moment in the middle of the movie explains the backstory of Krampus in a nicely moody animated segment -- like a Rankin/Bass Christmas special as filtered through Tim Burton's sensibilities. (Not quite The Nightmare Before Christmas, not quite Frosty the Snowman.) But being by and large good looking doesn't make the movie good.

We do not have a new Christmas movie tradition worth starting this year. Stick with whatever you usually watch for the holidays. Krampus gets a D+.

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