Director Michael Dougherty does it again with KRAMPUS. It’s the perfect Christmas movie!
Dougherty does a great job setting the comedic tone of the movie, opening the picture by holding up a mirror to the modernization of the holiday season with a montage of shoppers going wild, fighting over useless crap, culminating in a children’s brawl during the annual Christmas pageant.
Toni Collette is perfect as Sarah, the mother that is trying to do her best just to hold it all together. A glass of wine and a Xanax will do you right, sweety. You can tell she came from humble beginnings, but wants her home to be the most up to date with everything and just wants to make it through Christmas. All the while, poor Max (Emjay Anthony) still believes in Santa Claus and the real spirit of Christmas. He is so sweet and adorable, he had me tearing up a couple times.
Max’s grandmother, Omi (Krista Stadler), doesn’t speak much English, but her family can still understand her. She is very kind and encourages Max’s belief in Santa. Once Sarah’s sister Linda (Allison Tolman) and her hillbilly family show up things get very NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION. Arguments, bickering, taunting, and Max just can’t take it anymore. He swears off Christmas, tears up and throws his letter to Santa out the window, scattering the pieces in the wind. He wishes for his family to be gone. That’s when things get real interesting.
A massive snow storm hits, and everyone is trapped inside. Of course, there is no electricity, heat, telephone, or any of the other necessities. Max’s sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) who is your typical teenage girl — you know the type, can’t stand her family, obsessed with boys, and is always on the phone, just needs to get out of the house. She never makes it back from her boyfriend’s place.
Omi keeps warning the family not to let the fire in the fire place go out. Besides for the heat nobody really pays attention to her. Hot tip: If you are in a horror movie, especially if it’s a PG-13 horror movie, pay attention to the wise old people. They will probably save your life. Max’s redneck Uncle Howard (David Koechner) volunteers to stay guard through the night, but can’t even handle this task, and now the whole family is fucked.
I’m not usually a fan of CGI monsters, but the gingerbread men were cute and diabolical. Very much like the tiny Ash’s in ARMY OF DARKNESS, the minions in THE GATE, or perhaps even the monsters from GREMLINS. It was hard to tell if the monstrous toys were practical effects mixed with CGI or pure CGI, but it didn’t matter, I loved them. All the mini-monsters had me thinking of the heyday of Full Moon Pictures. The gingerbread men could have been cousins to the Gary Busey killer cookie in GINGERDEAD MAN and the murderous toys were almost a direct replica (albeit much more updated) of the ones in DEMONIC TOYS (a baby doll, a teddy bear, a robot, and a menacing snake like jack in the box). I love mini-monster movies and old Full Moon Movies, so I really dug all of this!
Once the toys and the gingerbread men have cleared a path, the big man Krampus and his elves show up to finish off the family. With wicked horns, claws, and fangs, I thought that Krampus could have been a direct descendent of the Santa Claus demon, in another holiday classic, RARE EXPORTS. Oh and the elves are freakin’ amazing! They don’t look like any interpretation of elves I’ve ever seen before. What they do look like is some creepy creation from a 1980s Jim Henson movie: Very LABYRINTH, very DARK CRYSTAL, very RETURN TO OZ.