This year’s Christmas releases have been an interesting mix, while Christmas With the Coopers took your more traditional route, The Night Before took many drugs and Krampus is attempting to take it down a whole other road, with a horror and comedy combination. The film is centered around a family gathering for the holidays, of which only one member (if you exclude the old-fashioned German Grandma) is actually excited and enthusiastic for, but when his excitement is ruined things take a turn for the worse. As the power goes out and everything turns dark, ominous strange things start to occur; Krampus has arrived and is ready to remind everyone why they shouldn’t take their life or family for granted.
Starring a host of popular actors: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner and Allison Tolman, most of which come from a strong comedy background, it is difficult to know how to perceive this film, can it really be a successful hybrid of Christmas-Comedy-Horror? Well the answer is: actually, yes it can. Being rated 15 and half or two-thirds a comedy of course the scares can only go so far but they are decent, with Krampus’ little helpers being a horrible mix of cute and hideous monsters. It would have been much too easy for them to go the route of keeping them all a mix of ironically cute but deadly creatures, but they actually threw in some genuinely frightening looking beasties; especially one unsettling Jack in the box. The attempts at scaring the audience may not quite reach the level of jumping out your seat but it also doesn’t play it too tame, a little bit of gore here and there to heighten the scare factor of the film may have improved it slightly, especially given the nature of cinema and TV today.
The actors make an actually convincing family, and an entertaining one which is a huge benefit as of course the first 30 or 40 minutes are used to introduce them. A majority of the comedy may not create a huge laugh, but it is still funny because everyone is familiar with having a sarcastic crack at the relatives during the holiday season. Although the choice of actors would not necessarily be one you could envision making a horror film together, they each do well to react and make their fear more real rather than comic. It could have been an easy fault to hit, for them to lean too hard on the comedy and leave the horror as more of a side story but it’s a fairly good ratio. The only thing other than a gore element to the horror that I would have to pick as a fault, is the role of the Grandma or Omi (the German word for Grandma), she plays a significant part and yet she’s basically introduced by sitting quietly in the background and it takes a long time before she’s really made integral to the story, at which point there’s no connection between the audience and the character; which would have made a beneficial difference if there were.
Overall the film makes a genre-mash work relatively well, which although sounds skeptical is no easy task, it’s a solid cast with some good laughs and the expectation of this from the outset is so low and towards it being a disaster, the fact that it works is impressive. Moving away from a light-hearted romp about a family that needs to reconnect or miracles, any of the cliches that encompass the genre of Christmas films, and giving a new spin (though an argument may be made for Gremlins, as a similar attempt) is a welcome change and makes an enjoyable film.