Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Cinema Freaks LIVE: Krampus (2015)

WARNING! WARNING! Yuletide spoilers abound!

If your kids believe in Santa, the best thing to do if you're a normal parent is probably just let them keep believing in Santa. But if you're a terrible (read: hilarious and awesome) parent, you just tell them if they're bad, the Krampus will show up and kill us all, and it will be the worst Christmas since Uncle Jerry pissed in the mashed potatoes last year.

Director: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Emjay Anthony, Adam Scott, Krista Stadler

Co-written with Michelle.

This is Krampus, guys. Let's dive right in with a podcast:

Michelle and I saw this movie, by the director of Trick 'R Treat Michael Dougherty, which means he is trying to monopolize the holidays with horror movies. And that is a cause I can really get behind. Fuck Toys for Tots, give money to this guy so he can make more movies.

We both liked it. It's about this mythical beast called Krampus, a monster from Alpine folklore that punishes bad children at the holidays, and which I think is the much better alternative to Elf on a Shelf. Anyway, it is summoned to a house where a young boy named Max is dissatisfied with Christmas. He and his huge, dysfunctional family, stuck inside during a blizzard, have to fend off an assorted array of weird, bizarre creatures in the dark. It's all pretty wacky. But compared to red Starbucks cups, I have to say this isn't the worst slight against Christmas this year.

It's a horror comedy that actually has both horror and comedy – what a fucking revelation, right? That doesn't seem hard, but I guess I just don't understand the subtle nuances of where movies like The Visit and Thankskilling failed. Those films had terrible comedy and were terrible movies. Krampus works because it's funny and knows when to switch it out for the actual horror. Neither one feels half assed or phoned in, so it all works together and makes a better movie. The way all the characters bicker and fight is sort of like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation style. Like Christmas Vacation, too, there is a kind of softening of the characters, too, and they're never portrayed solely as loathsome douchebags like a lot of terrible movies do. They do have a humanity to them.

And also like Christmas Vacation, a monster shows up and kills everyone at the party.

...what? Did I get it mixed up with a different movie?

The horror elements are quite well done, rife with wintry darkness as they are, and the production value is outstandingly high. Finally we have a big budget horror film that uses it to craft some really good scenery and atmospherics. The creatures also look good. In terms of living Jack in the Boxes with vampire fangs and demonic teddy bears, this movie definitely has some of the better ones of those I've seen. A lot of the scares take place inside the house, which is normal for the holidays, but the movie manages to make use of the house well.

So the whole movie basically happens because main character Max wrote this letter to Santa pleading to have a good Christmas without anybody fighting. When his family found the letter and several cousins made fun of him, Max tore it up and threw the pieces out the window. Because he lost faith in Christmas, the Krampus showed up to kill his family, mostly through action scenes so dark that I suspect the power went out in real life on the set.

Now, at the end, Max faces the Krampus – looking like Santa if he spent some time living off the wild of the Everglades – and says he takes back everything and wants to revert things to how they used to be. I was really hoping here that the Krampus would do it, and everyone would be like 'Max, this was the worst Christmas ever, thanks for nothing you little bastard.'

But no, actually the Krampus just drops Max into a flaming hole in the ground too, which is awesome, and the way every Christmas movie should end. The movie doesn't actually end there, which Michelle and I found disappointing, but the actual ending - involving a macabre dream sequence of sorts - was fitting for the dark fairytale-esque nature of the film.

The film is skips along with a gleeful, evil sense of fun. It's a perversion of everything about the holiday is about, and that's great. Though, I do have to say it's kind of funny when you think about it. The Krampus kills people who don't believe in Christmas. That could be stretched, in a very liberal way, to people who want to take the Christ out of Christmas. You could make the argument that he is the ultimate protector of the holiday. Christian rights groups should be loving this guy! He should be their new poster boy.

We both liked the way this movie was a big mainstream horror flick that didn't suck. It isn't cliche, it has a cool idea and a lot of energy. It's a good movie, and it actually is not an indie flick like other luminary films like It Follows or The Babadook. I like that it's this wide-released, big horror movie that isn't a sack of shit. That warms my icy heart. Horror isn't dead, and Krampus is good. Merry pre-Christian Christmas.

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