Monday, December 7, 2015
A nasty little piece of Christmas fun that should sustain you through the overly cheerful holidays. It's not a coal in the stocking per se but it is a bit of a bird being flipped at all the traditional Christmas schmaltz that usually crops up at this time. If you are evil hearted enough to want to see this, then I can say for the most part that you will enjoy it. Although not perfect and much less gruesome than it might have been, it has some wicked humorous bits and a fairly well presented scenario. There are also a couple of special delights that I don't want to say too much about because it might spoil some of the show.
The traditional family Christmas of Clark Griswold's imagination is set up exceptionally well in the opening parts of the story. From the first scenes of "Wal-Mart" style chaos, we know this movie has been designed to let the air out of the celebrants. Adam Scott and Toni Collette are a contemporary couple trying to cope with the holidays. Their oldest daughter is too hip for the room, their youngest son is a little too passionate in his defense of Christmas. Grandma speaks German in most of the film and she seems to understand little Max the best. We suspect a secret will be coming and it turns out that is exactly right. The addition of Collette's sister and her obnoxious family, completes the set up for a variation of the group trapped in a cabin, again.
Everyone is well cast and does a good job with their parts. Sarah, the Mom in the story is not a hard part to play and Collette fits just fine. She does get a couple of scenes where her shrieking and surprise need to be genuine and she sells it. Adam Scott as her husband Tom is just world weary enough to be honest with his son about his own frustrations with the holiday and the family, and instead of being the douche that he frequently plays, Scott comes across as sincere and empathetic. David Koechner on the other hand is exactly the blowhard you expect him to be. The movie has several critical barbs pointed at modern society and Howard is the stand in for all the conservative Uncles that the DNC wants to give you talking points for over the dinner table. The jewel in the crown though is once again the wonderful Alison Tolman. After her turn as Officer Molly in last years superb Fargo television series, I'd watch her in most anything. She is the somewhat browbeaten but loyal wife to Howard and the mother of three monstrous kids. She also gets a nice sequence where she gets to let loose with a great deal of ferocity.
The title character is shown mostly in shadow in the first sections of the movie and that is fine because as usual, the reveal is less than it should be for a horror film. One of the pleasures of the film though is that Krampus has a whole troop of helpers, sort of like Santa's elves and reindeer, but far creepier. Suffice it to say your Christmas cookies will be getting some extra sidelong glances and if clowns freak you out, be prepared to cover your eyes. These sequences play like the sour moments from "Gremlins", there is something just wrong about what you are seeing, but you can't help but laugh at it. My favorite scene involves all hell breaking loose in the attic, if for nothing else you should see the movie for the demented joy that scene will bring.
An impressive bit of animation is also stuck in the middle of the film. Reminiscent of "Coraline" or "The Corpse Bride", Krampus has it's back story told through a vivid imaging of Grandma's youth. It was really interesting that it was included in the film, it could actually be a stand alone short. Along with the house set and the creepy storm background, this sequence gives the movie a production design that is very much better than a film of this nature would expect. I had a little bit of an issue with the resolution of the film, but it also looks great so while the story was a bit frustrating, the visual imagination for putting it together was outstanding. "Krampus" is not as morally reprehensible as "Bad Santa" and it may not be as scary as "Black Christmas" or as funny as "Gremlins" but I am ready to add it to my annual line up of Christmas films. You should as well, but maybe keep it away from the little kids, visions of sugar plums will not be what fills their heads after seeing this.