Saturday, December 5, 2015

FTT Movie Review: Krampus

Ho, Ho, Ho
I was more or less required to go see this, as I'm a big fan of the jolly old menace. Krampus has been a recurring word in my home poker game for just about a year now, ever since my friend Al sent along info, and I looked up the old Colbert Report clip where the host was visited by the spirit. So despite a persistent cough and pounding headache, off I went.

A bit of background... Krampus is actually an old-school Austrian folk tale, based around the Christmas holiday. Instead of just having St. Nick to hand out the goodies, you also had a horned demon to punish the wicked, because, well, why wouldn't you? So the makers of this movie didn't just come up with something out of whole cloth. There's loads of old wood -cut artwork of Krampus dragging unruly kids off to drown in a river en route to Hell. My people, we do not mess around with the unruly kids.

The trouble, as it is with just about every movie made now, is that too many masters have to be served. Instead of having the family of victims be truly deserving of the miseries to fall from he demon, they are just halfway bad, with the blue state wealthy hosts just time-stressed, and the red state visiting relatives mean and ignorant, but gun-packing and brave, which turns out to be of some use once the festivities start in earnest. The clans bond against the common fairy tale menace, rather than go every rotten person for themselves, and we're made to care about the victims. But we don't really, because what happens to them is alternatively gory, silly and over the top, and the pacing of the whole thing just seems random.

It's a shame, because the effects are good, the cast is fine, and there's the core of a fine idea here. A Joe Dante "Gremlins" style exercise where the Krampus destroys a mall would warm every cockle of every heart, and I'd stand up and cheer with full throat, say, the wanton destruction of new cars with freaking giant bows on them. The plot also doesn't make a whole lot of sense, because only the sacrifices of a single child seem to matter, rather than the myriad moves made by loving parents. It's hard to say what kind of movie this is, because it doesn't want to give up anything, and in that lack of decision making, it's just all over the place.

I suspect it might actually make a few bucks (and as I edit this later, it did -- made back the money already, and stands to turn shiny coin for Universal), because horror movies always do better than expected, and there isn't anything quite like it in the theaters right now. But there is a missed opportunity here that just grates, and far better Krampus movies to make. Maybe in the sequel, when the Krampus does double duty and makes dreidels spin forever at Hanukkah? We can but dream.

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