‘Tis the time before Christmas and – for those who prefer subversive “Gremlins” to the sentimentality of “It’s A Wonderful Life” – this timely terrorizing tale, featuring a demonic Santa, may be just the manic, mindless diversion you need. Read on…
Opening with a slow-motion sequence depicting frantic Black Friday shoppers stampeding in a big-box store to the strains of Bing Crosby’s “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” the story follows wistful young Max Engle (Emjay Anthony), his teenage sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen), and their constantly bickering, dysfunctional, extended family.
Their financially successful but stressed-out parents – Tom (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Collette) – are hosting Sarah’s submissive sister Linda (Allison Tollman), gun-toting brother-in-law Howard (David Koechner) and their obnoxious children, along with boozing, cantankerous Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferell).
When an ominous, wintry blizzard cuts off heat, electricity and the phone/Internet, they’re suddenly besieged by nightmarish versions of familiar holiday icons, like sharp-toothed teddy bears, menacing snowmen, goblin-like gingerbread men, homicidal elves, and a huge jack-in-the-box clown – summoned, albeit inadvertently, by disillusioned Max when he rips up his letter to Santa Claus, tossing it into the snow.
According to a sinister German folk legend, malevolent Krampus is a horned, cloven-hoofed creature that appears every yuletide season, like “Santa’s shadow,” to punish children who have misbehaved – counsels Grandmother Omi (Krista Stadler).
Working with co-writers Todd Casey and Zach Shields, writer/director Michael Dougherty (“Trick r’ Treat”) relishes these marauding beasties, created by New Zealand’s Weta Workshop (“King Kong,” “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy). But Dougherty doesn’t really know what to do with them – or the titular Krampus who eventually appears. As a result, his formulaic film is neither scary nor funny.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Krampus” is a fast-paced, frostbitten 4 – but it does make the salient, family-values point that actions do have consequences.