Michael Dougherty is brilliant at completely rethinking and reformatting our image of popular holidays and the lore the masses have subscribed to for centuries. After doing an amazing job with Halloween, Dougherty tackles Christmas with what is easily one of the most demented holiday horror films ever made. “Krampus” is an intelligent horror comedy based around the lunacy of the holiday and how the hollow rituals and traditions practiced can build a sense of cynicism and pure hatred for what is supposed to be a fine time of year.
When Max loses his holiday spirit in the face of false pageantry and irritating visiting relatives, he accidentally evokes the forces of Krampus, the anti-Santa Claus who uses the elements of Christmas for his evil deeds. Soon enough after putting up with obnoxious distant relatives, Krampus begins wreaking havoc on Max and his family, turning the party in to a veritable blood bath and battle for survival. “Krampus” is very much a different product from “Trick r Treat” to where the narrative is so much more linear, and has a good time playing with our perceptions of events, and how the ultimately unfold. The villainous Krampus is a being hiding in the shadows who sends all of his forces to raise hell on Max and his family, and it results in to a series of raucous and creepy encounters with twisted machinations.
Dougherty’s direction is as vibrant and energetic as always, offering up a winter soaked war zone filled with demons, psychotic gingerbread men, and evil clowns, all of whom stretch as far as Krampus’ imagination allows for the unsuspecting brood. Dougherty’s keen visuals and top notch script is helped by a wonderful ensemble cast of folks like Adam Scott, Toni Collette, and David Koechner respectively, all of whom contribute to the demented humor and inherent terror that Krampus unleashes. Dougherty has an obvious love for holiday themed horror, and tries to evoke films like “Gremlins” and keep what makes Krampus such a legendary figure of European Folklore.
Unlike Santa, he’s very much a merciless being, and Dougherty has a great time with a lot of fantastic monster effects. Paired with genuinely thrilling suspense, Krampus is something of a mysterious entity who may or may not be working out of pure evil. Though the premise for “Krampus” is a straight forward bit of horror comedy, Dougherty and co. keep many of the plot’s elements ambiguous enough to where we have to interpret ideas and plot points and eventually draw our own conclusions. This is especially true in the mind blowing finale where Dougherty doesn’t subscribe to an easy resolution and leaves the narrative, much like Krampus’ motives, completely lost in an air of mystery. Though some might not like the frenetic energy and unusual final scene, I loved how director Dougherty played with conventions and inherent lunacy of Christmas.