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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Krampus

April 25th, 2016

Krampus - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Video on Demand


Krampus, the mythological being, is suddenly one of the hottest movie monsters around. While searching for the the Amazon link to this movie, I found six movies that either had Krampus in the name, or Krampus was on the cover of the DVD / Blu-ray. However, of these, only Krampus earned a wide box office release and it became a low-budget hit earning more during its opening weekend than it cost to make. Did it deserve this success? Will it thrive on the home market, even though it is a long way from Christmas?

The Movie

The movie begins with a slow-motion fight scene during the opening credits. The smaller of the two boys is Max, who got into a fight with the older boy, during the Christmas recital, because the older boy was telling the young kids that Santa wasn't real. We learn this because his parents, Sarah and Tom, are still upset with him when they arrive home where Tom's Mother is baking. (They call her Omi, but I recognize that as Austrian for Grandma. So that's what I will call her as well.) Max's sister, Beth isn't mad at Max, but she is wondering why Max cares about Santa so much.

Max tries to keep everyone in a Christmas mood, but he fails. No one wants to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas or wrap presents, not one but Omi. Max and Omi talk and he asks her if she really does believe in Santa. She says yes and that believing is the most important part of Christmas. Although, when she talks about maintaining the Christmas spirit, she gets a faraway look in her eyes. She encourages him to finish his letter to Santa, but he's not in the spirit and doesn't know what to ask for.

They are not the only ones showing up, as Sarah's sister, Linda, and her husband, Howard, and their four kids (Stevie, Jordan, Howie, Jr., and Baby Chrissy) are set to arrive later. Beth is not happy about this, because the last time the family was all together, someone pooped in her bed and she's sure it was one of the three kids and not their dog. I believe she's right. It's one of the reasons she wants to sneak out of the house and visit her boyfriend, who is only a few blocks away. The final family member is Sarah and Linda's Aunt Dorothy, who is a surprise guest, one Linda apologizes for bringing, so you know how bad she is.

The family is their dysfunctional selves, but in ways I won't spoil. In the end Max yells at everyone there saying he hates them. Tom tries to cheer him up, but Max then asks why you have to be nice to your family, Tom draws a blank. As a result, Max tears up his letter to Santa and throws it out the window. Almost immediately, dark clouds form and the power goes out.

The next day, the power is still out and there's lots of snow everywhere, but for the most part, the family atmosphere is better. There is something odd going on. Max sees a snowman on the front lawn, but who made it? Also, there's a giant red sack that's been delivered. Beth wants to go to her boyfriend's place, just to see if he is okay. She's texted him a bunch of times, but no response. Sarah doesn't want her to go, but Tom figures she will be fine. But will she be fine? I could tell you, but that would be a spoiler.

Krampus is a dark comedy / horror comedy and those are really hard to get right. With the latter, there is usually trouble balancing the horror and the comedy. With the former, it is hard to get the edge right. If the characters are too dark, then moviegoers won't want to watch them, while the change in tone for the humor will be too jarring. In this film's case, the dark part of the humor is a little soft. The level of dysfunction isn't that much. Sure, the movie starts with the son getting into a fist-fight during a Christmas recital, but for the most part, they were just trying their best to get through a stressful Christmas. Granted, it would be worse if the characters were too obnoxious, but the movie has very little edge. Also, for a horror movie, it starts slow. There's nothing remotely scary for nearly 25 minutes, plus it takes another 10 minutes for the action to really get going. Finally, the ending is a cop out. Let's be frank about that.

So that's the downsides. Are there any upsides? Yes. For instance, while the movie doesn't have the edge needed to be a sharp black comedy, the characters are sympathetic and that's important. You care about the characters, so that makes the tension stronger. Not only are the characters better written than in most similar films, but the cast is also really good. Usually, acting isn't the number one priority for a horror movie. Additionally, while it does take a while to get going, once it does, it really goes. There are some great action scenes and some really well designed monsters.

It isn't as good as Gremlins, which is the gold standard for Christmas horror movies, but it is a great movie for fans of the genre and I think it could become a Christmas tradition for some.

The Extras

Extras begin with an audio commentary track featuring Michael Dougherty, and his two co-writers, Todd Casey and Zach Shields. Up next is an alternate ending. There are 14 deleted / extended scenes with a total running time of 18 minutes. Up next are five minutes of outtakes. There are also two making of featurettes, the first of which is a five-part, 30-minute general overview. The second one is a 10-minute look at Weta, who made the monsters. That's a great selection of extras for a midlevel hit.

The Verdict

Krampus is a great example of a very difficult genre and I think fans of dark comedies / horror comedies will like it. It does suffer from the usual issues these films have. It's not as biting as some dark comedies are, but the characters are more likable and the acting is excellent. The DVD and Blu-ray Combo Pack have more extras than expected and the overall package is worth picking up.

Filed under: Video Review, Krampus, Toni Collette, Conchata Ferrell, David Koechner, Adam Scott, Michael Dougherty, Emjay Anthony, Todd Casey, Zach Shields, Allison Tolman, Stefania LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler, Maverick Flack, Queenie Samuel, Lolo Owen, Sage Hunefeld, Leith Towers