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‘Saint Nicholas won’t be coming this year’. This isn’t your traditional Christmas film. Oh no.
This is an original horror film, and there’s not many of those around these days. Apart from the brilliant Norwegian film ‘Rare Exports’ there have been little other takes on this Germanic legend. For those who are not familiar with Krampus, he is the dark side of Santa, his shadow, an entity that punishes children who have been bad and drags them down to Hell.
Krampus opens brightly with scenes deploring the greed of commercialism, as we watch swathes of shoppers ransacking a Walmart days before Christmas. We come to the Engel family, your typical dysfunctional family made up of the work–centric father, unfulfilled housewife, moody teenager and naïve son, Max. And it is Max who sets this madness off, by angrily tearing up his letter to Santa Claus and throwing it out of the window. The pieces fly off into the distance and signal the start of the worst Christmas the Engel’s have ever seen.
What’s more the extended family arrive, bratty kids, gun-toting father, alcoholic great-aunt, you get the picture. It’s going to be hell, but not the way they imagined… A snowstorm breaks out, trapping the residents of the suburban town and taking away their electricity. One by one the townsfolk are picked off as Krampus and his legions wreak havoc.
The cast are very good. Toni Collette, Adam Scott and David Koechner all know how to switch between comedy and drama with the flick of a switch. Scott really excels as the father desperate to protect his family in this crazy situation.
The film loses its way around the sixty-minute mark, but the ride up to that point makes it worthwhile to hang on. The tricky balance between comedy and horror might be the reason for the lack of pace in the third act; the film doesn’t know if it wants to be very scary or very silly. But that’s part of the charm; like in Gremlins it jumps between laughs and scares. Indeed there are nods to many 80’s horror films from Gremlins to Poltergeist. You’ll either love the killer gingerbread men or hate them.