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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Krampus movie review: holiday horror

Krampus red light

There’s no mythological weight behind this flick’s anti-Santa. This is more like a standard slasher horror, its baddie on a rampage of arbitrary carnage.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

You know that kind of horror movie that is so crammed with awful people that you can’t wait to see them all die in gruesome ways? Krampus doesn’t even offer that sort of pleasure. Oh, there are some deeply terrible people here, but the slaughter is so indiscriminate, sweeping the nasty and the nice up in its maw, that there’s little sense that anyone is getting what they deserve. Though based on authentic folklore, there’s no real mythological weight behind this flick’s idea of the anti-Santa Krampus: a demonic elf rather than a jolly one, he punishes everyone in the vicinity of transgressions against the Christmas spirit, putting, say, the frustration young Max (Emjay Anthony: Insurgent) has with the cruelty of the cousins he is forced to spend Christmas with on the same level as the cruelty itself. (Does an infant deserve to be punished because her family is mean and stupid? Does a dog?) So this is more like a standard slasher horror, its baddie on a rampage of arbitrary carnage, one that takes far too long to get to what is meant to be the scary stuff and then isn’t very scary once it gets there; recycling clichéd horror imagery (eerie clowns! things with strangely unhinging jaws! *yawn*) is bad enough, but dressing Krampus’s would-be terrifying helpers in dollface masks just seems like a cheap cop-out. Krampus sadly wastes a lot of talent — Toni Collette (Miss You Already) as Max’s mom is a mystifying presence here; I wish I knew what she saw in the script — along the way to a intentionally ambiguous ending that, no matter which way you take it, is both unsatisfying and makes everything that has come before moot. At least Santa’s lump of coal can be put to good, if practical use. This festive and not very furious punishment is ultimately pointless.


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Krampus for its representation of girls and women.


red light 2 stars

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Krampus (2015)
US/Can release: Dec 04 2105
UK/Ire release: Dec 04 2105

MPAA: rated PG-13 for sequences of horror violence/terror, language and some drug material
BBFC: rated 15 (strong threat)

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    Now if only someone had blended Love The Coopers with this gorefest… “oh, I am a whiny entitled rich person with terribly important problems, ARGH MY SPLEEN”.

  • Danielm80

    ARGH MY SPLEEN is my favorite metal band. Their holiday concerts are intense.

  • RogerBW

    Wear old clothes if you’re planning to sit near the front.

  • LaSargenta

    “I wish I knew what she saw in the script”

    Money, dear boy.

  • RogerBW

    Yes, but probably not a lot of it, with an all-up budget of $15 mil; and there’s the opportunity cost of not appearing in something, well, good.

  • Owen1120

    I advise you to not wear expensive jewelry in the splash zone.

  • I would love to see that movie.

  • I know everybody’s gotta work, but still.

  • My wife is so dead set on seeing this just because it’s called Krampus. You see, our family just discovered the whole Krampus thing about 3 years ago, and we love it. We joke about it all the time. So when the first trailer for this appeared, she immediately said that we HAD to see it. My first thought was “Ugh, that looks terrible”.
    She doesn’t pay any attention at all to all the truly great movies that come out, but this junk shows up, and she suddenly wants to go to the theater.
    Yeah, she’s not known for her taste in movies.

  • althea

    Hard to know if upvoting you would mean I’m criticizing your wife or supporting you, but then my best friend reads cheap romance novels – ALL THE TIME – so I get where you’re coming from.

  • Michelle Kirkwood

    Actually,this is a pretty good film—it’s both scary AND funny,and truly action packed. It’s definitely not your typical predictable sappy holiday flick at all. I wish people would actually see the film before making a judgement. Good Christmas horror flicks are actually few and far between, so this one is pretty unique because it actually IS good. Despite the PG-13 rating, this really isn’t a straight-up kids movie,even though there’s little gore in it. I’d recommend it for people tired of the usual Hollywood Chirstmas junk.

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