Krampus is fun. It’s a horror-comedy that often feels trapped between the genres, and while it’s not fully successful in either, it’s close enough to be successful on the whole. I’d have preferred a bloody, profane R-rated version, but I get it. It’s the holiday season. It’s a time for family, and Krampus is just scary enough to thrill adults but not so scary that it alienates young audiences. It’s a PG-13 horror movie, and it feels like one.
Adam Scott and Toni Collette lead the cast as the Tom and Sarah, the heads a modest suburban family with a son, Max (Chef’s Emjay Anthony) and daughter, Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) welcoming their insane extended Red-State family into their home for Christmas. David Koechner as the Uncle plays every David Koechner character ever, while Alison Tolman plays his wife, Linda. They have four deranged overweight kids, including twin daughters who dress like boys (and yes, you can expect a few obvious fat and lesbian jokes).
Things get going when the awful family makes fun of Max, he gives up on his Christmas spirit, shreds up his letter to Santa, and makes a wish that his entire family would go away. That wish comes true when a blizzard rolls in along with Krampus, his elves, and a series of possessed Christmas gifts, which start picking off family members one after another.
It’s a movie stuffed with horror-movie tropes and cliches, and the extended family (save for Tolman’s Linda) is so awful that we actually root for their deaths. However, there’s enough joy to be had in the sinister Gremlins-like creatures (Coulrophobes, beware) and in the performances (especially that of Tolman and Conchata Ferrell, who plays Aunt Dorothy) to rescue the film from middlingness.
Krampus is not likely to become an annual favorite, but it’s a freakish, beautiful, occasionally sad, sometimes clever, and often inventive movie that works, but also leaves you wanting more, wishing, even, that Kevin Smith had managed to get his darker version of Krampus off the ground. It’s got teeth, but it needs more bite.