You’ve been naughty

"Smell my finger."

Rated 3.0

Horror fans have had a good year in 2015. It Follows, Weare Still Here, Bone Tomahawk, Ash vs Evil Dead all did a lot of good for genre lovers. While director Michael Dougherty’s Krampus isn’t quite up to the level of those I just mentioned, it does do the Christmas horror subgenre proud in many ways.

For starters, this sucker has a majorly grim attitude that it sticks with until the very end. There will be no happy Christmas message in the land of Krampus, so don’t take this one in if you have eggnog on your breath and are looking to get into the holiday spirit. It’s more of a film for somebody who pisses and moans when the Christmas decorations show up at Macy’s before Halloween.

Max (Emjay Anthony) still believes in Christmas and Santa Claus, and he takes a lot of crap for it from family members. When a bunch of family come to his house for Christmas, his cousins taunt him, while his parents (Adam Scott and Toni Collette) deal with an annoying aunt and uncle (David Koechner and Allison Tolman). Throw evil Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell) into the mix, and Max’s family is in for one lousy yuletide season.

With only his grandmother (Krista Stadler) supporting his Christmas beliefs, Max tears up his letter to Santa and denounces the whole Christmas thing. Bad move, because that torn up letter goes straight to Krampus, the Christmas demon, who is more than happy to screw up Christmas for everybody and send them straight to Hell.

So, the skies go gray, snow falls in dangerous amounts, and the street Max lives on gets a visit from sinister Krampus. Well, he’s about as sinister as a PG-13 rating will allow. Damn these PG-13 horror films! If Krampus has a problem, it’s that its level of nastiness can’t always be met on the visual or gore side. Also, it can be scary, but it can’t be too scary.

Granted, Dougherty proves he can get some decent scares with minimal gore, although I imagine there could be an unrated version of this movie out there featuring some blood spurts. Also, despite the PG-13, kids portrayed in the film are not safe. In fact, the kids have a really, really, really bad time in this one.

Dougherty is working with a pretty small budget, and he relies mostly on practical effects for Krampus and his nasty little helpers. Save for some impressive looking CGI of Krampus leaping on rooftops, the monsters are often animatronic or people in costumes, and they look pretty good, all things considered.

This one is classified as a horror-comedy. It’s no laugh riot, but it does benefit from the presence of Scott, Koechner and Collette who get sporadic giggles among the scares. If anything, it’s just good to have solid actors and actresses around, especially when they have to handle both humor and horror. It’s actually Ferrell who gets the biggest laughs.

As I write about the Krampus attempts at laughs, I realize that maybe this film could’ve benefited from fewer attempts at humor with more emphasis on the horror. Sometimes, humor acts as too much of a relief in films like this. I just wanted this movie to be as nasty as possible, and I feel like it pulled a few punches. If you are going to include humor, it needs to be consistently dark and funny. The laughs in Krampus are mild at best.

Yet I’m going to give this one a pass, because its bleak ending and overall commitment to sinister things puts it over the top. I think it’s more of a Christmas week viewing on Netflix than a movie to see in cinemas, but I must admit that I enjoyed it enough for recommending to genre enthusiasts and people who think Christmas is for squares.

Dougherty already has a cult hit holiday film to his credit with Trick 'r Treat (2007). With Krampus, he shall hitherto be known as the Holiday Horror Film Guy.