Pulling off a good horror comedy is a hard thing to do. Blending the two most sharply different genre’s of film to create a solid, well made product is very impressive. While I can’t say that this is a particuarly great film, I had an obscene amount of fun watching Krampus.
Krampus is not a great film by any stretch, but it’s well written blend of scares and humor combined with some genuinely great practical effects make it far better than it really any right to be.
Remember how I said that pulling off a horror comedy is a hard thing to do? Well, take The Visit for example. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into it, because I had heard very mixed reviews, so I went in with an open mind; I would enjoy it if it was surprisingly good (a la The Sixth Sense) I would enjoy it if it was funny, I would enjoy it if it was scary and I would enjoy it if it was so-bad-it’s-good (a la The Happening). The only way I thought it could really end up being bad is if there was nothing genuinely scary or funny and it just felt like a complete waste of time. Unfortunately, it fell directly into that final category. I physically felt uncomfortable at some of the humor, and the scares were downright childish and embarrassing.
Sorry. I just really, really hate The Visit.
Back to Krampus!
The film begins with an entertainingly over-the-top slow motion sequence of shoppers clamoring past each other in order to get the best Black Friday deals. Yes, it feels a little over the top, but the rest of the movie does as well. The best way I can describe the film is as though you’re watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but instead of awkward family comedy, evil demon toys come and start killing the family one by one.
It’s an admittedly intriguing premise, and the cast was smart enough to keep it silly and self aware rather than adapting the lore into a much darker, serious, straight up horror film that likely would have fallen into that so-bad-its-good category. If you’re worried about the pacing, which many have complained about, it really isn’t as big of a deal as many have made it out to be. The main baddies are introduced about twenty minutes in, and the ridiculousness just ramps up from there.
Krampus has a solid blend of horror and comedy, without feeling awkward or too jarring. The first twenty minutes is essentially just straight up comedy, and then after that it goes to a blend of the two genres. It never feels as though it goes full on horror, but more like scary-fun. The characters let out a few lines to let the audience remember that they’re supposed to realize the sheer ridiculousness of the premise, a joke furthered by the families reaction to a several minute dramatic explanation of the legend.
Speaking of which, the explanation from the German grandmother is presented in a very nicely animated segment that helps break up the slightly mundane set of the same several rooms and snowy, dark neighborhood. Thankfully, the creatures and stylization of these areas help keep the film from feeling overly repetitive of boring to look at. When the creatures do show up, however, is when the real fun starts. Krampus’ helpers are brought to life by some wonderfully grotesque animatronics and costumes.
The hefty use of practical effects over an abundance of CGI helps maintain the feeling of a cheesy 80s shlock film, rather than the tidal waves of terrible horror films from recent memory. It was nice to see a horror film that felt like an actual movie instead of just a cheap direct to video product that was shoved into theaters for the sake of making a cheap buck. Many of the trailers that showed before this film fell under that category, such as The Forest and the laughably bad trailer for The Boy. The fact that this movie exists is kind of remarkable, as horror comedies are something that typically don’t appeal to general audiences and instead get smaller releases on home video or very limited theatrical runs. Seeing a horror film that genuinely just had fun with itself was excellent, and the well written blend of horror and comedy came off as a film that I simply can’t help but love as a really fun and endearing Christmas film, and it’s definitely going in my pile of Christmas films to watch every year.
So no, Krampus isn’t the extremely well made and fantastically written horror comedy some may have assumed it was, but seeing a movie that was just genuinely fun with such a niche genre was extremely refreshing, and a low budget, original film like this being successful just gives you that nice, yuletide feeling in your heart.
Nothing like some good old fashioned demon killing and threats of violence to keep your kids in line.
A family that slays together, stays together!