It’s Christmas Eve and, in our ongoing mission to catch up with some of those festive favourites we’ve previously missed, we decide to investigate a recent recommendation.

We watch Krampus. Have yourself a creepy little Christmas? Why not?

Krampus sets out its stall in the pre-credit sequence as Christmas shoppers engage in a no-holds barred pitched battle, punching and kicking all who stand between themselves and their intended purchases. The message is clear. People have lost the true meaning of the festive season and have become greedy and selfish. It may be because we’re currently suffering through the worst Yule in living memory or it might speak volumes about my own Scrooge-like tendencies but, for some reason, I find this opening extremely encouraging. This looks like my kind of Christmas film!

We now move to the home of Tom (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Colette), who, with evident dread, are preparing for the arrival of their extended family for the Christmas holidays. Their visitors comprise shotgun-toting brother-in-law Howard (David Koechner), his long-suffering wife, Linda (Alison Tolman), and the couple’s three monosyllabic children. They’ve also brought along the bluntly-spoken Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell), so this promises to be the Christmas from hell for all kinds of reasons.

But it’s Tom and Sarah’s young son, Max (Emjay Antony), who inadvertently kicks off the bad stuff when he tears up his letter to Santa and casts it to the four winds, whereupon the sky grows dark, a freezing snow storm descends and the household finds itself visited by a weird, supernatural presence.

It’s down to Tom’s German Omi (Krista Stadler) to explain what’s happening. In a charmingly animated sequence, we see her as a small child, unwittingly unleashing the anti-Santa that is Krampus: a vengeful being sent to punish all those who have stopped caring about the season of goodwill. Get on this guy’s naughty list and you’re really going to regret it…

The film is essentially a dark comedy and, while there’s little here to genuinely terrorise viewers (except perhaps the very young), it has an engaging, inventive quality that keeps everything bubbling along nicely. Much mileage is made from low budget practical effects, with Christmas toys coming to life and going on the attack. In tone, the film it reminds me of more than any other is Gremlins. I particularly like the fact that the various characters portrayed here are never allowed to become too caricatured, so often a failing in films like this. Yes, Howard and Aunt Dorothy do seem awful, but they’re believably so, and that’s important. As the family comes together to fight for their survival, we begin to see them in an entirely different light.

Those who are getting a little tired of warm and fuzzy Christmas weepies might like to give this a go. It provides a refreshingly cynical alternative. 

4 stars

Philip Caveney

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