When I was a pup, my heathen family was all about the Christmas traditions: traditional fir tree decorated with a traditional cacophony of tangled colored lights and mismatched random ornaments, traditional Christmas cartoons, traditional readings of ”The Night Before Christmas” before bed on Christmas Eve, traditional piles of gifts labeled “From: Santa”, traditional milk and cookies, and traditional family get-togethers where no less than 3 people ended up blackout drunk in the snow and someone always Keifer’d the host’s tree. All these years later, getting a tree is a question of effort and finances, the cartoons are split up between 10 different channels (some not available at all and some edited for time or content), gifts have turned from boxes covered in bright paper and ribbons into plain envelopes with generic greeting cards holding money or gift cards, and half the family is in AA while the other half hasn’t talked to them ever since “the incident”.
I’m generally not one to gripe (it’s not slander if I’m not under oath!), I’m just setting the stage for tonight’s quickie: Krampus.
For some of us, Christmas means happy family gatherings of warmth and love and all the other stuff that would give Ebenzer Scrooge a raging bah-humbugger of a hate boner. For plenty of other clans, it means being trapped alongside people whose DNA you’d rather see splattered over a crime scene than admit to sharing strands of. The Engel family are the latter. Imagine the Griswalds being forceably bred with the McAllisters as overseen by the Lockhorns and you’ve got…a pretty fucked up scenario swimming in your brain now, dontcha?! Merry Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, the wealthy “liberal elite” household of the Engels host their “trailer trash conservative” other-half for an evening that most would rather avoid in favor of whatever flesh-eating bacteria they can come up with on short notice. The only lad in the gang, Max, won’t exactly admit to believing in Santa, but he won’t have anyone talking shit about the jolly philanthropist in his presence either. But, when his shit-sneeze cousins abscond with his letter to the Giftfather (written at the behest of his Eastern European granny to keep with ritual) and push everybody’s blood pressure into hypertension levels by reading it aloud at an already anxiety inducing dinner, Max’s disgust for his (un)loved ones boils over into tearing up the correspondence and shit-canning it out of his bedroom window.
Much like Frosty’s arcane chapeau, there must’ve been some magic in those Old World wives-tales told by superstitious elderly immigrants, because with Max’s faith in the tide of Yule now broken worse than Christopher Reeves’s neck, the family’s fate is officially fucked. In his defense, grandma probably should have warned him YEARS ago that committing heresy against Saint Nick results in the damnation of his entire bloodline, but stuff like that’s usually left up to the parents so… I guess granny can be forgiven.
The next morning a freak snowstorm has bukkaked the neighborhood under two feet of frozen white fuckery! The power and all communications have been knocked out, every house on the block is barren of life, and somebody had time to build an unnerving snowman in the fam’s front yard. Snowmen have peepers. Peepers to watch. To watch for a moment of weakness and then *BAFF!* comes the knock on the head and we’re down!
…by which, I of course mean that Krampus has come to town. Don’t even bother to hold onto your butts. Nobody wants to die shitting all over their hands.
If the “breaking holiday praxis = murderous retribution” thing sounds familiar, it’s no doubt because writer-director Michael Dougherty was also the mind behind analagous dark comedy-horror Trick ‘r Treat. Legendary and Universal gave Mikey Dough four times the budget and a shot at plying his trade on the big screen with Krampus, and I feel like it mostly paid off. While the design for Special K’s is wonderfully terrifying and intimidating (He is the marquee menace, after all), His “helpers” tend toward being a tad too goofy at times to give even Goofy a spine tingle and are dangerously close to getting a copyright infringement lawsuit from Charles Band’s worst bratwurst and Billy Beer induced nightmares. They’re fun, but a tad too fun sometimes for my tastes.
As much as I enjoyed Adam Scott and Toni Collete (even Emjay Anthony, who breaks my age old stance of being anti all movie children), I’m sad to say that David Koechner has never shown me to be even a moderately good dramatic actor, and this movie has not changed that. He’s always too large a “presence” and steals the attention from everyone else he’s in a scene with. Though that’s generally a good thing, an overly comedic person such as himself just ends up leeching any sense of tension from EVERY SCENE. Far be it from me to tell anyone what direction they should take their life, but after Krampus I’ll be approaching any future horror flicks Koechner may be involved in with much apprehension.
Consider me curious to see what he could do playing John Wayne Gacy in a movie though. It worked for Mark Holton!
And on that vision of prancercising sugar plums in Pogo paint, I give Krampus my exhortation for anyone seeking a PG-13 holiday horror that’ll leave your young-ones soiling their stockings by the chimney with care. Merry Christmas to All, and to All a good night terror!
Four Baskets of Abducted Children out-of-Five
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