Impressions: Krampus

Krampus was the 2015 horror-comedy that followed Max and his family and their nights of being terrorized by the holiday boogeyman Krampus. Max is feeling defeated by his doubts about Christmas, his family being so distant and cold with one another, and overall disappointment with the holiday season. Once pushed, he ends up accidentally calling Krampus on the family.

The movie does an excellent job with pacing and storytelling. We get a lot of what we expect from a more traditional holiday movie, just ramped up. It’s not just a simple look at the death of the “holiday spirit,” but a more cynical and in your face look at what we have turned it into. Max wants so badly to have a great Christmas and to protect it, largely because he is torn in whether he believes or not. This might sound odd given his age, but the movie does take the time to show that Max’s grandmother is still a strong believer (with good reason) and that even his father does in his own way. Holiday movie, maybe one with a little extra oomph (and fists).


His family lets him down spectacularly, and Max gives up. The next morning the family wakes up all but trapped in the home due to snow. From there, the movie shifts full force into horror-comedy. We get some tension and build-up with them all trying to work out what is happening and some building horror. The movie moves pretty quickly at this point and is rather aggressive. Once the movie kicks off, you will get a cycle of truly disturbing moments, emotionally upsetting moments, and then strange but hilarious comedy in the horror itself. It goes from one to the next in rapid-fire, but it does manage to keep from being too much. It gets close to feeling muddled but manages to keep everything separate enough to land but moving quickly enough to keep up with the pace of the movie.

Even the intro holiday movie moments are short enough that the movie doesn’t drag, but is long enough to establish that this will indeed be a “Christmas movie” and give us a connection to the characters. Krampus could have easily gotten too long with all the balls it was attempting to juggle (scary, emotional, Christmasy, funny, etc.). Still, they were smart enough to know that keeping it mostly fast-paced helped the entertainment aspect.

Speaking of good choices, the casting is also top-notch. There are a lot of characters in this movie, and each manages to stand out. The movie was also wise in that it wasn’t afraid to heavily focus on the adults. The movie could have gotten way too “kid,” especially as a lot of the moments focused on the kids are a little cheesy. So it balances it well with longer scenes almost entirely featuring the adults, all of whom step up to fight. The movie does have a lot of “kid in danger,” which some people can get annoyed with, but I mean… of course it does. It is also unafraid of being cruel, which helps keep it from being childish as well.

The effects are well done, with only a few spots that were a little weak. The creature designs were all pretty interesting. Some stood out more than others, but they all had a little something. The sound was also well used in this movie. In fact, I can’t point to something and say “that hurt the movie for me,” everything was at the very least good if not great.

And yet

At this point, a lot of people have either seen this movie or felt they should avoid it due to the mixed response on release. I personally rank Krampus as my favorite Christmas horror film (although it is not drowning in competition) and is overall a horror movie that I love. Saying that I do kind of understand where some people were coming from at the moment. There were a lot of expectations for what this movie would be, and a lot of people felt deceived that it was a lot more comedy than they might have gotten from the marketing. I don’t know that I agree the marketing was deceptive, but I do think if you are making a horror-comedy, especially one like Krampus, that is meant to be approachable to a larger audience outside of the horror crowd, that you should be clear. Make sure people know what they are getting. I also think it’s worth mentioning that some people just wanted an uber dark Krampus movie with all the hype around the lore at the time, so there is nothing they could have done marketing-wise to avoid letting those people down.

For me, I thought it was a fun, entertaining, great horror-comedy, and Christmas movie. It is still all about learning a lesson about the spirit of Christmas, just with a darker edge. I understand it was not exactly what some people expected, or personally wanted, but I think it did what it meant to do very well. It managed to be creepy at moments, hilarious at others, and nearly made me cry a couple of times. It is a well-done ride that is entertaining from start to finish. If you haven’t seen Krampus I urge you to give it a try, just know ahead of time it’s a bit lighter. If you don’t like horror movies, this actually might be pretty approachable for you unless you wouldn’t care for the “fantasy” aspects. If you did watch it, maybe give it another go. I adore it and will continue to try to find room for it around the holidays.

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