Review: “Krampus” Puts the Cramp in Us

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A boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon to his family home.

If Krampus (directed by Michael Dougherty of 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat fame)  is what is out there for the PG-13 crowd, then life at the movie theater for a child is in a hopeless state. Truthfully Krampus isn’t that bad—but it is very bad. Full disclosure: I thought it was rated R. It wasn’t. And so my assumption that this Christmas horror movie could’ve been the next Silent Night, Deadly Night or Christmas Evil was dashed like Dasher flew too low and went splat across the grill of an eighteen-wheeler. Sitting through an hour and a half of bubble wrapped scares is bad enough. But picking the wrong candy at the concession stand (why, oh why, did I pick Snow Caps?) just about sucked my holiday spirit clean from my soul. If I am to learn something from Krampus, it’s that losing my Christmas spirit is a sin that will doom me to suffer the wrath of an unreasonable holiday demon with hooved feet. But I would have gladly taken my chances against Krampus if it had meant not having to sit through Krampus.


Max (Emjay Anthony) is too old to believe in Santa, but young enough that his naïve devotion to him isn’t outright pathetic. His mother (Toni Collette) and father (Adam Scott), sophisticates with soft hearts, aren’t too keen on Max’s overt jolliness, and his sister (Stefania LaVie Owen) is embarrassed by the whole lot. Grandma (Krista Sadler) is Danish and her subtitles come and go as they please. And Max’s aunt (Allison Tolmin), her backwater husband (David Koechner), and their tomboyish twin daughters and chubby son, form a blue-collar unit that brings “fond” memories of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. A feisty relative (Conchata Ferrell) rounds out this madhouse of clashing lifestyles. What happens when mac-and-cheese meets crème brulee? Plenty of passive aggression and very little Christmas cheer.

Max loses his Christmas spirit amid all the squabbling, and that’s when Krampus comes down the chimney. Actually, Krampus is too large and menacing to go down the chimney, and so he leaps from rooftop to rooftop with jolly fury. Getting a closer look at Krampus reveals nothing scarier than any number of New York City subway dwellers on a winter’s night. Krampus’ henchmen are a goofy (and poorly costumed) gang of evil elves, an eviler batch of possessed gingerbread cookies, and a rather large and wriggling Jack in the Box with a mouth wide enough to swallow children whole. Christmas is scary enough what with all the money it takes to survive the holiday, the gift buying and stocking stuffing, hell, even buying stockings is a daunting task worth hiding under the covers to avoid. If you are going to make it scarier, it’s going to take more than a slight Chucky influence and some badly fitted costumes.


Krampus is not going to satisfy any kind of adult—parents with kids in tow, stoners with nothing to do, and everyone else in between. Though this one is for the kiddies, it’s too involved for the little kiddies, and I actually doubt many teenyboppers would be into the ho-ho-hum frights. There’s a certain corny wink-wink to the humor, the kind of manufactured jokes that you have to force yourself to chuckle at, lest your fetish is eye rolling. The acting is decent, but just what are Toni Collette and Adam Scott doing in this movie? Where are the no-name b-players that make movies like this so much more special? Collette and Scott turn the experience sour in the same way Will Ferrell and Kristin Wiig deflated their Lifetime movie experiment—sometimes professionals are too self-aware to pull off these lowlier projects. A nice New Yorker once told me that the worst part of today’s Broadway scene is that the actors are all TV and movie stars. She pined for the days when “Broadway stars” still existed. I’m with her to an extent. We don’t need recognizable faces in every facet of our entertainments. Christmas horror is meant to have a splash of amateurism.

And man is this movie just lazy—no amount of David Koechner will make up for it. When Krampus descends upon Max’s town, a tremendous blizzard arrives and brings the neighborhood into peril. A power outage strikes. You can hardly see ten feet past the snow. Max’s sister, Beth, insists on traversing the blizzard to make sure her boyfriend is okay. What do her parents say to this request? Sure. Go out into the blizzard. Why not? Should be fine. It ends up not being fine, but that’s not the point. Where’s the parental guidance? Where’s the classic sneaking out of the bedroom scene? Why doesn’t anyone seem to care? I care, maybe too much. And I’m really disappointed. I wanted a horrifying, goofy, funny, wonderful movie about Christmas and horror and death. I ended up with cinematic coal the size of the movie screen.

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  • Acting - 5/10
  • Cinematography - 3/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 5/10
  • Setting/Theme - 4/10
  • Buyability - 3/10
  • Recyclability - 1/10

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About Jules Neuman

Jules lives in Brooklyn, New York City. He works in the city, watches movies, and writes criticism. Jules is a graduate of Eugene Lang College at The New School, and attended high school at The Ross School. His breakdown for his scale is below: 10-Perfect 9.5-Almost Perfect 9-Flirting w/ Perfect 8.5-Excellent 8-Great 7.5-Teetering on Great 7-Almost Great 6.5-Very Good 6-Pretty Good 5.5-Good Enough 5-OK 4.5-Not OK 4-Getting Bad 3.5-Not Good 3-Bad 2.5-Really Bad 2-Horrible 1.5-Really Awful 1-Unwatchable .5-Insufferable 0-The Worst

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