Do you love the dark, screwball Christmas classic "Gremlins," but hate the Vegetable Gremlin-filled nonsense of "Gremlins 2," and bemoan the fact that have been far too few entries into the Murder Christmas canon since 1997's "Jack Frost?" Then congratulations you crazy kid, because "Trick ‘r Treat" director Michael Dougherty is finally here with "Krampus," a devilishly entertaining nightmare that explores what happens when too many people in one family end up on the Naughty List.
The premise is simple: a boring, upper middle class suburban family led by Tom (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Collette) are too cynical and exhausted for any Christmas sprit, especially since their relatives -- a Trump-esque, blue collar Red State brood led by David Koechner and "Fargo" breakout Allison Tolman -- are coming to town with their terrible group of rude, grubby children. Their angel-faced young son Max (Emjay Anthony) is the only one left who has any generosity of spirit, but even that melts faster than Frosty once he's mercilessly bullied by his older cousins.
With this void of Christmas spirit comes, of course, the Krampus -- a hooved, horned, and ruthless cousin of St. Nick's from Alpine folklore, who gleefully consumes entire neighborhoods of curmudgeons as a supernatural blizzard renders them unable to leave their homes. It's a little too broad and a little too pretty to fully wear the crown of "Gremlins" 2.0, but if you sit back and allow yourself to enjoy the f--ked up sleigh ride, you'll most definitely have a total blast, and probably laugh your ass off. Here's why.
Its premise is insanely bleak -- and it sticks with it.Universal Pictures
This is a movie that stars several small children and has a PG-13 rating, so forgive me if I walked in thinking that, somehow, this family would be redeemed by the power of the holiday spirit. Nope.
When a young member of the extended family brood is picked off first, it becomes clear that "Krampus" isn't going to waver from its dark premise, and it sticks with it to the bitter end. These people are being punished for their actions, and no last minute "Silent Night" is going to save them from the horrors that await. Sure, it's a little obvious that you're rooting for the obnoxious gun-toting, Hummer-driving Red State-ers to die first -- subtlety is not in the "Krampus" wheelhouse -- but some characters, particularly the two mothers and young Max, are easy to root for as they try their darndest to keep Christmas going while the bodies drop.
The Krampus' little helpers are a sick delight.
The single best decision the "Krampus" crew made was using practical effects for the majority of Krampus' little helpers -- which include giggling gingerbread cookies, a crazy-eyed teddy bear, and a clown doll with teeth. They're as hilarious as they are horrifying, and it's incredibly gratifying to know that when Collette, Scott, and Tolman are fighting children's toys in the family attic, they're actually doing it.
The big guy himself doesn't show up in full until the final act, but until he does, it's fantastic to watch tiny Christmas toys unleash utter devastation upon suburbia. (Think those scenes in "Nightmare Before Christmas" with Jack Skellington's bat-hats attacking little kids, but in live action.)
It's gorgeous.Universal Pictures
If anything, you'll keep coming back to "Krampus" year after year for how insanely beautiful it is. The suburban paradise covered in snow is geared to make you nostalgic for the days of mom's hot cocoa and waiting up for Santa Claus in your PJs, kind of like "Home Alone" but with 20-plus years of technological and cinematic advancement making the snowy apocalypse look so real, you might just actually shiver.