Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Produced by: Alex Garcia
Screenplay by: Todd Casey
Starring: Adam Scott
Stefania LaVie Owen
Music by: Douglas Pipes
Cinematography by: Jules O'Loughlin
Editing by: John Axelrad
Studio(s): Legendary Pictures
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release date(s): November 30, 2015 (Los Angeles premiere)
December 4, 2015 (United States and United Kingdom)
Running time: 98 minutes
Country: United States
Production budget: $15 million
Box-office revenue (as of publication): $61, 745, 490
Today's film up for review is Krampus, a Christmas-themed horror-comedy from Michael Dougherty, the writer-director behind the contemporary cult horror favourite Trick 'R Treat. To preface this, I am not a Christmas person at all, however, that doesn't mean that I haven't gotten great enjoyment from Christmas movies like Gremlins, Die Hard or It's A Wonderful Life. Also, I liked Trick 'R Treat, so I went in hoping to be swayed. Based upon the eponymous Krampus of Germanic folklore, it centres on a family and their extended relatives forced together during the holidays, continuing their old traditions despite the fact that they clearly can't stand each other. The young son Max (Emjay Anthony), still believes in Santa, for which he is mocked, and getting upset, yells that he hates Christmas and his dysfunctional family, tearing up his letter to Santa. The pieces of this letter are blown up by the wind into the night sky, bringing about the wrath of Krampus, a demonic spirit who punishes those who are selfish or cruel at Christmas. Got it? Good!
To start off with the good, I loved the tone and atmosphere of the film, which I supposed could be put down to Dougherty's direction and the work of he and his fellow co-writers. A successful horror-comedy is something that requires a solid balance between what on the surface are two diametrically opposed genres. Krampus derives much of it's humour in ridiculing the differing reactions of the people inhabiting it's world, and provides for both genuinely humorous set-pieces and sparky, lively dialogues. It also delivers on the horror front though, something for which the production designers should also be credited, because from a purely visual standpoint some of the monstrosities in the film are among the most grotesque things I've seen recently. Speaking of visuals, this is a small-enough budgeted film, and I thought that from the cinematography and editing side of things there was a fair amount of ingenuity. The imaginative colour palettes and use of shadows give the film a good look and the editing (both on film and sound) is clean and precise. The score by Douglas Pipes is something of positive interest. Pipes' work, while doing the job of traditional film composition, is also self-aware, almost self-indulgent. There is something almost perversely in jest about the film's aural landscape, Pipes playing around with our expectations of 'traditional Christmas music,' twisting them around and moulding them to fit the Krampus mythology. Finally, there is a good ensemble cast there to deliver the necessary notes befitting their characters. Adam Scott and Toni Collette are a believable husband and wife, David Koechner is at times outrageously funny as the stereotypically gun-obsessed Southern nut Howard, Conchata Ferrell is a cracking Kathy Bates-esque mad aunt, Krista Stadler's Omi is a real sweetheart of a wise old lady, and some of the child actors (especially Emjay Anthony) are good.
Right well, you can tell I liked Krampus. Now, we do have to get The Big However, in that while Krampus is a very good film, it isn't exactly what I would call 'destined for greatness.' Despite having a lot of good there, there's also a fair amount of filler which lets you onto the fact that as the film moves on it gradually loses it's satirical edge and goes off-track a bit, running out of steam towards the conclusion of the third act. Also, while I like the way it was done, it can't be denied that the plot is nothing new and has been done better before in other films. I don't have a big problem about things being repeated, but when you're aware of it to the point that you're actively thinking of it as cliche, that's when it becomes problematic.
Krampus isn't a film destined for greatness in the same way a similar-veined films such as Gremlins may be, and indeed at times it does comes across as cliche. As it stands though, it is a very good film. I like the tone and atmosphere, the visual and editorial aesthetics, Douglas Pipes' score and I think that the case are a uniformly solid bunch. Not a great film, but certainly a lot of fun, delivering on both the comedy and the horror.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.8/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Getting withdrawal symptoms (need a caffeine top-up and a cigarette)