Dark horror comedy full of Christmas spirits

YOU BETTER WATCH OUT: Krampus is a European Christmas devil that gives naughty children what they deserve. As a movie, Krampus is a two-in-one classic, which is great for both Christmas and Halloween.


    Dec 10, 2015

    Dark horror comedy full of Christmas spirits

    KRAMPUS (PG13)

    Comedy horror/98 minutes/Now showing

    Rating: 4/5

    The story:

    Young Max Engel (Emjay Anthony) believes in everything about Christmas. But when a cruel joke by his cousins is taken too far, Max tears up a letter to Santa Claus and throws the pieces into the wind, drawing the attention of Christmas monstrosities.

    CHRISTMAS is not all about good kids getting presents from Santa Claus. It is also about the badly behaved getting an unwelcomed visit by his antithesis, the European Christmas devil called the Krampus.

    This particular Krampus movie notches a great many achievements, but the most admirable one is in writer-director Michael Dougherty's complete control and command of his film's tone.

    It is a horror flick, a Christmas movie complete with all the extolling of the Christmas spirit such a film entails, and a delightfully funny comedy with a cheeky and morbid sense of humour. And not for one second does any part of the movie feel disjointed.

    If I had to make a comparison, then I would say that Dougherty displays all the signs of being capable of taking over Joe Dante's mantle as Hollywood's master of the wholesome and family-friendly horror-comedy, guiding Krampus with the kind of natural ease that Dante displayed in his classics like Gremlins (1984), The 'Burbs (1989) and Small Soldiers (1998).

    In this Krampus movie, Max (Emjay from last year's Chef), your typical good Christmas-movie kid, loves everything about the season.

    This is despite having to contend every year with obnoxious visiting cousins and his even more obnoxious Uncle Howard (a typecast David Koechner, effortlessly delivering yet another memorably obnoxious performance).

    The first part of the movie, in which Uncle Howard and family arrive to again wreak havoc upon the Engels' Christmas dinner, plays a bit like your standard festive comedy, only it is a lot funnier than many of them.

    The two families are a mismatch of personalities, with some clever foreshadowing of the real havoc later in the film.

    When Max loses his belief in Santa Claus after a cruel joke is played by his cousins, things take a turn for the worse and the film enters horror movie territory.

    An ensuing blizzard wipes out the electricity supply, heating, telephone lines and even mobile phone signals.

    Max's sister gets lost and his dad (Adam Scott) and Uncle Howard are attacked by an unseen monster.

    Soon, more critter attacks follow, with the creatures' cheeky cackles reminiscent of those in Gremlins. What's more, these attacks deliver the same kind of kicks you get from watching the antics of Gremlins' titular creatures.

    On the one hand, you feel and fear for the members of the family, but on the other, there is just something intrinsically hilarious about seeing a giant jack-in-a-box swallowing a child or a group of gingerbread men firing a nail gun at a poor victim.

    There is a very tricky balance of naughty and nice here that is very rarely achieved in mainstream horror movies these days and that makes Krampus something really quite special.

    And when a movie is wholesome enough to be perfect for Christmas but also gleefully anarchic to be perfect for Halloween, you have got yourself a two-in-one classic that should not be missed.