Monday, December 14, 2015

Krampus

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Krampus is the reason for the season.



Krampus – 4 out of 5


'Tis the season, I guess…but when the season now starts the day before Halloween, it’s really hard to remain in the Christmas spirit when December gets here.  To me, the holiday is about spending some time with the family, exchanging stories, gifts and laughs and eating too much—and then going to the movies because that’s a tradition with my girlfriend and I.  Occasionally, I get into a Christmas film here and there—films like A Christmas Story, Die Hard (yes, that’s an X-mas film), Home Alone, How the Grinch Stole Christmas or Gremlins—but, for the most part and even though I like them, I don’t really partake in many of these features too often—at least, not on a yearly basis.  However, when I saw the trailer for Krampus, I quickly realized that I think I found a holiday feature that was right up my alley…and it surely was!

                                                                                                                    Universal Pictures
When you think about it, sounds of joy and horror aren't really so
different.


                                                                                       Universal Pictures
Adam Scott just looks at home in the dark comedy genre.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for Tom (Adam Scott), Sarah (Toni Collette), their kids; Max (Emjay Anthony) and Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen), and Tom’s mother (Krista Stadler).  The family is having their fair share of issues as Tom and Sarah’s marriage is a bit unstable and Max is becoming a bit of a problem; however, the boy is still hoping to have at least one Christmas like the ones he is used to.  Those hopes are dashed as Sarah’s sister Linda (Allison Tolman—who I loved on the first season of Fargo) and her husband Howard (David Koechner) bring their loud and abrasive family to the festivities and their tomboy daughters; Stevie (Lolo Owen) and Jordan (Queenie Samuel), find Max's letter to Santa and openly mock him for his belief in the bringer of happiness and joy at the dinner table.  Max is embarrassed, enraged and disheartened and rips up his letter to Santa.  This act awakens a dark and ancient spirit, the very shadow of Santa Claus, and he’s come to collect the wicked people of the neighborhood.  He is, as the grandmother explains, Krampus.

                                                                                                                    Universal Pictures
Plot Twist:  Krampus was a bell the whole time!


For those of you who don’t know, Krampus is based on an ancient folklore from Europe who hung out with St. Nick and punished the bad kids and taught them lessons.  In the past few years, Krampus has re-entered the world of pop culture—possibly due to the extremely hilarious episode of The League.  I can’t confirm if that’s why the creature’s popularity returned but that’s how I discovered the legend of it.  Having this legend become a big piece of our pop culture pie, getting a sweet, dark Christmas story out of it seemed like inevitability.  Sure, there are a couple of cheap ones made by studios who mastered the art of the low budget, Direct-to-DVD features but it’s nice that a big budget one was released into the theaters because there just aren’t enough dark Christmas tales out there.  Sure, we have schlocky ones like Silent Night, Deadly Night and classics like Gremlins but it’s been a long time since we’ve had a darker, more twisted Christmas film come along and Krampus really hits the spot and fills the void.

                                                                                                                     Universal Pictures
Krampus is metal as fuck!


One thing that surprised me about the film was the fact the story definitely felt more geared towards horror than comedy.  Yes, the film does have some very funny moments and there are enough of them that firmly cements the film into the genre of dark comedy but the story really felt more like it was leaning more in the direction of horror than it was towards the humorous.  This observation is in no way a complaint because I actually really liked that about the film.  The director (who also co-wrote this one and directed and co-wrote the awesome Halloween feature Trick ‘r Treat) really mastered the tone and atmosphere of this film and was able to create something that took all the clichés of the season—like snowmen, decorations, sweets and toys—and was able to make them feel horrifying, unsettling and extremely creepy.  The film is never flat-out terrifying but it does work in a few decent jump scares to get the heart racing and the visuals and Krampus’ creatures (and the beast himself) are designed to look very spooky and really made for a film that will have you laughing one second with its humor and cast but sending a shiver down your spine the next.

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In all seriousness, this thing was terrifying.


Additionally, the story never tries to overcomplicate itself or try to be anything beyond what it needs to be.  It’s simple, direct and to the point and it works to get the plot moving rapidly and establish so much without having to resort to over-explaining what is happening.  The only real time exposition is laid out for you is when the grandmother Omi is explaining who is tormenting their neighborhood and her history with Krampus and, even then, it is done creatively with some sweet animation and it never feels like the production is telling rather than showing.  Furthermore, the writing is done so well with the characters that we are able to learn so much about them, their motivations and their conflicts by natural feeling dialogue and interaction between them.  This really helped to create characters that all feel unique, vital to the plot, fairly realistic and extremely sympathetic.

                                                                                                            Universal Pictures
"His name is Krampus and we all need to kiss our asses goodbye.  Omi out!"


Writing the characters well is all good but without actors to back it up you don’t have much.  That really wasn’t a problem here as the cast is comprised of very talented people that all did their job very well.  I’m a big fan of Adam Scott and really enjoyed him in another dark comedy (Piranha 3D) and it was nice to see him return to this genre and share the screen with other actors I’m fond of like Collette, Tolman and Koechner.  One thing that wouldn’t get out of my head as I watched this was the reality that if I was an actor, this would be a project I would fall all over myself to be a part of.  Being a fan of dark comedies and combining that with the story and the concept of killer toys being led by an evil version of Santa, I don’t know how I could resist such a project.

                                                                                                                    Universal Pictures
It's pretty much a guarantee that if Koechner is in it, I'll see it!


Finally, the one thing I really enjoyed about this film was the ambiguous but ominous ending.  Everything built up in the story could have easily been undone with an overly sappy cliché Hollywood happy ending.  However (and without giving anything away), Krampus takes an old formula seen in the Christmas lesson stories and does a nice little twist on them that allows the viewer to make up their own mind on how pleasant (or unpleasant) of an ending it was.

                                                                                                                     Universal Pictures
Now we just need the badass tattooed Santa from Rise of the Guardians and
we have an epic battle crossover event of a lifetime!


I was pretty excited to watch Krampus and was thoroughly pleased with the final product.  The story is straight forward and filled with some laughs and some genuinely creepy moments.  The cast is fantastic and it definitely has some replay value to it that I want to buy it on Blu-ray and make it a yearly tradition to watch the thing.  I’ll always have a place in my heart for more traditional Christmas tales that involve a mean man with a tragic case of a tiny heart or a dude who is abducted by some ghosts and taught to not be a dick or seeing a bullied reindeer learn that everyone is special—especially when some asshole needs something from you—but, as much as I dig these stories, I kinda dig ones with a little darkness and horror to them more.

1 comment:

  1. Krampus was, in my opinion, the greatest film of 2015. It was so well done and genuinely horrified me at times. The ending too... wow!

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