Everyone is writing about Star Wars, but I won’t. Sure, I’ll see it, but not right now. Fpr the second movie review for this blog that’s about music, I’m taking a look at a holiday film.
Yes, I know, I’m scared, too.
I went to see Krampus with some friends the other night. I knew a few things going in. Firstly, some of the cast were comedians, and secondly, this was a horror film. Most of those who know me often notice notes of cynicism around this time of year. I dislike nearly all holiday music (blame my various jobs for that), I don’t like shopping, and I feel like a lot of people out there turn into wild, rabid monsters around Christmas while in the stores, on the roads and even at places I like to eat. So I leaped at the chance to see a film based on the folklore of one particular creature who hates it when people acting like jackasses around the holidays and would rather drag them to hell than give them a gift.
The Film’s Plot: SPOILERS!
It opens with a fairly accurate scene of how the shops are around the holidays: epic chaos with fist fights, trampling, etc… and it pans into one of the members of the main cast, Max (Emjay Anthony), who is dressed as a reindeer at a Christmas play, getting punched about by one of the wise men. We follow Max over to her grandmother’s house as we learn that the fight broke out over Santa-bashing. Max is one of those stern believers of not only St. Nick, but of the holiday spirit as well.
Max is accompanied by his parents and grumpy older sister and is soon joined by his mother’s sister’s family, a sort of loud, gun wielding pack of nut jobs, minus most of the stereotypes I was expecting. At any rate, no one really is getting along at all and the tension builds to a climax when Max’s cousins shame him at the dinner table for writing a rather heartfelt letter to Santa, asking more for family harmony than material wants, which ironically, leads to a brawl. Max, beaten, announces that he hates the entirely family as well as Christmas and that’s when things get crazy.
A blizzard sets in, Grandma (Krista Stadler) starts to stay silent, speaking occasionally in German, and staying very close to the roaring fireplace. As the power goes out, Max’s sister, Beth, loses contact with her boyfriend and goes out into the blizzard to try to reach his house and this is when we first see Krampus. Mind you, we aren’t too far into the film yet. And one can argue whether showing off your monster too early or too late in the film is good or bad, but in this case, it’s perfect.
Krampus looks very close to how he is depicted in some of the folktales I’ve heard and closely resembles some of the artwork I’ve seen. To say he’s a nightmare I would never want to meat in real life is putting it lightly. The use of both practical and digital affects to bring this character to life is nothing short of stunning.
Needless to say, we get a very intense chase seen and long story short, no more Beth. She’s searched for as the storm intensifies by her father and uncle and both of them quickly realize that something sinister is going on out there. Being chased by a few underground snow monster things and having their car explode might have helped them get to that conclusion. Back at Grandma’s house, they board up the place and bunker down, again, all the while, Grandma is sitting nervously by the fire, keeping it hot and roaring.
After a sneak attack once the fire dies down in the night and the cartoony yet terrifying way the youngest cousin gets torn from the group, Grandma finally tells the frightened family about Krampus, the taker of the wicked in times of hopelessness and how she met him once as a young girl in a tiny village in Germany. This is told through a gorgeous animated sequence (dark, but so well done). Basically, the idea behind Krampus is if you lose hope and become angry and bitter, wishing that everyone around you was gone, you’d get your wish, in the worst possible way.
This is met mostly with disbelief and yet, rather than the family unraveling, they start banding together. This is where this film breaks away from typical horror flicks as usually at this point in the film, sharp difference and dislikes are suddenly points of heated hatred and usually end up with fights, betrayals and a general splintering of the group. Here, despite everything, they get closer, and it’s not done in a heavy handed way. In fact, it’s shown rather than told, and that’s what stood out to me.
Anyway, Krampus sends his “helpers” into the house to start picking off the family. This is made up of hilariously evil gingerbread people, nightmarish toys (mostly very surreal puppets and costumed actors) and elves. Yes, elves… the most nightmarish, otherworldly elves. And they succeed in taking a few more of the kids and even the aunt. And just as the remains of the famil make a run for it, hoping to reach a snowplow they found abandoned earlier on in the film, all are taken down by the creatures except Max.
Max at this point remembers his Grandmother’s story about her being the only child left with Krampus came to visit her and decides to make a sacrifice, something that is partly behind the true nature of the holidays. So we have a showdown of sorts between Max and Krampus as he comes upon their camp on the edge of the neighborhood. Max begs for forgiveness and to take the place of his family – we get a wonderful close up look at most of the creatures and Krampus… awesome—. But Krampus drops him into a giant pit of lava anyway, laughing.
Spoilers! It’s was a dream! No, actually it wasn’t. Max does awake in bed Christmas morning and his family is downstairs by the tree, acting like their old selves as if nothing had happened…. Until Max opens his gift and it turns out to be a bell with Krampus’s name on it. As he holds it, everyone around him suddenly remembers what had happened the night before…. They sit in silence as the camera pans back, back, back…. And the house is within a snow globe among hundreds of other snow globes in a dark, messy house that seemingly mirrors Santa’s workshop in the worst way possible. One last jump scare and the film is complete.
Much to my surprise, I really liked this film. I’m picky about horror films as they tend to be pretty generic with the good ones being hard to find and I’m really not the holiday film type (very few exceptions) and yet this film, which in a sense is both a holiday film and a horror film, made me love it. Here’s why:
This is a film faithfully based off of real folklore. The appearance and behavior of Krampus stayed truthful to the source material in a modern setting. The message of the film, which was simply that the true meaning of Christmas was hope, love and sacrifice, was portrayed well without being heavy handed or preachy. The mixture of comedy and horror was so well done by the writers, actors and filmmakers as a whole that I felt everything was well balanced, well thought out and it wasn’t afraid to make you laugh as well as scare you. In fact, I thought the scary parts were fun. Heck, even the cinematography in this film was stunning… the usage of angles, slow spins, close ups and distance shots really helped convey a rich atmosphere if terror, darkness, shadows, and yet, still made us laugh.
Should You See This Film?
While horror and holiday films both have a very broad and yet oddly niche audience, but this I’m finding fans of both love this movie. It’s definitely not a kid’s film by any means unless you like staying up with them at 3am after they’ve had a nightmare . So, yeah, go see it. It’s really damn good.
5 out of 5