Review: ‘Krampus’ Lots Of Potential; Too Much Disappointment
Promising Start | Cheap Scares | Lackluster
There are three ways Christmas horror movies can go. First, it could be excellent; a great example of a holiday classic mixed with a scary genre. Second, it could be terrible but still fun because it’s that bad. Third, it could be disappointing and lackluster, making you roll your eyes the entire time. You could say these three results/expectations apply to all movies, but the mixture of these two genres needs extra special attention. The only Christmas horror movie I truly like is the original “Black Christmas.” Most of the others are movies I watch because they’re so bad that they’re enjoyable.
“Krampus” is about a family that has forgotten about the meaning of Christmas and the true Christmas spirit. How did this Christmas horror movie mash-up go? Number three wins. The film was disappointing and lackluster.
Cinematics – 3
There’s no doubt about it; Michael Dougherty is a master when it comes to composition and moving the camera. I’ve always admired his camera work, and this film didn’t disappoint me in that department. Everything that has to do with the mise-en-scene (cinematography, costumes, design, etc.) is fantastic and the main reason the Cinematics category holds a three rating here. The characters’ costumes feel authentic and fit their characters, and the design of the creatures and Krampus himself are truly excellent. I want to say thank you to the filmmakers for keeping the CGI to a bare minimum; it did help create and solidify the film’s universe.
As for the acting, that’s where we’ve got a problem. Great camera work and costumes cannot hide lackluster dialogue delivery, and I’m not saying these actors cannot act. I’m simply saying a lot of lines of dialogue were awkward, didn’t fit, and were just plain cliché. It was these little cliché and cheesy lines that took me out of my immersion and into “rolling eyes” territory.
Act one introduced the characters in high fashion, establishing their inner demons and relationships very well. But, they all lost their strength and fluff soon after the film hit Act Two, and then once kids started getting kidnapped by Krampus’ minions, that’s when things truly went down hill. Not one tear was shed for the children that were kidnapped and presumably killed. Not. One. Tear. Not even by the parents. This, plus the cliché dialogue, completely ruined the characters’ believability they started off with, keeping things inconsistent and disappointing.
In this case, I cannot even blame the actors, to be honest. It’s the characters themselves that were disappointing. The film fell into the horror troupe of the characters/survivors being completely stupid. And when I say stupid, I mean this film has some brainless idiots. Let me ask you something. If you had an empty shotgun in your hand and a gingerbread man (a twelfth of your size) dives at you with a sharpened candy cane, would you cling to the shotgun and close your eyes? No, you’d swing the shotgun at that pint-sized thing. The character I’m referring to in this case didn’t. You could argue, “Well it was in their character.” No, I’m sorry, this character was the “tough brute” and would’ve swung the shotgun, but he didn’t, adding to the troupes, inconsistencies, and un-believability even more.
“Krampus” is an excellently made film that stuck to the standard plot points very well, including a great set-up for a rewarding ending we didn’t get, but the acting, dialogue, and characters truly fall short.
Entertainment – 1.5
I had high hopes for this movie, mainly because I loved Dougherty’s “Trick ’r Treat,” but I do love it when two genres are mashed together like this. It always has the chance to be good, so that’s what I was hoping for here. Like I said before, Act One sets up the characters nicely with some great comedy added to the mix. But, this is when I started to get worried. I don’t mind comedy in horror movies. It’s one of the troupes, if you think about it, but the comedy here rises to the point where it seemed like the movie wasn’t taking itself seriously, which I believe also lead to the cliché and cheesy dialogue. Some of the comedic dialogue was timed very well, but the predictability of the jokes killed any kind of laughter that it could’ve gotten from me.
The film not taking itself seriously honestly made it feel like one big horror movie troupe: Cheap jump scares, cheap characters with no emotions, predictable comedy, not seeing the creatures until the second half of Act II, and an unsatisfying ending. The great horror movies use these troupes, but they do it in such a way with creative twists and surprises that it’s a satisfying experience. Take “Trick ‘r Treat” for example. Nothing surprising or new there, but Dougherty masterfully manipulated the troupes until they were fun and satisfying. So, going into this film I was expecting to have fun and knew that the comedy was going to be a factor. But, it felt like the film was trying too hard to make the “fun creature attacks” seem like great, compelling, comedic action sequences, resulting in sequences that didn’t work for me. So, during the “entertaining” parts, I wasn’t truly entertained, except for Act One. The opening sequence is pretty funny and enjoyable, so that had my high hopes screaming.
Another aspect I was waiting for, one that was also in “Trick ‘r Treat,” was an unexpected moment where your heartstrings get pulled. Great horror movies always have these moments, and Dougherty has demonstrated his ability to do so. “Krampus” does have one of those moments. It occurs at the major setback in Act Two, and it’s the only moment since Act One where I truly cared about the characters. It felt good to feel that kind of emotion in a horror movie, but it didn’t hit me like Dougherty’s previous work. However, it did reveal that there was genius somewhere deep within this film.
There were some high moments that piqued my entertainment, including one of the most tension-filled Santa letter readings ever, but the entertainment got lost for me when Act Two began.
Rewatchability – 2
Maybe I’ll watch it again during the holidays, if it’s on TV. I will not be buying this film on DVD or Blu-ray. It didn’t have that impact on me, and it’s the type of movie where I know it’s not going to get better the more times I watch it. It’ll remain a disappointment and lackluster, but I do applaud everyone who worked on the film. Making a movie is one of the most difficult things to do, so the fact that the film was made, in this day and age, and released nationwide deserves a round of applause.
So, once again; Thank you.
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Krampus had lots of potential to start off with, but the lackluster characters, cliché dialogue, and inconsistencies keep me from recommending you to go out and spend money to see. It tries to have fun with its PG-13 rating and dysfunctional family, but it all comes off like they were trying too hard, resulting in some disappointing dramatic and action sequences. There's genius somewhere in this film and this script, but overall I'd wait for it to premiere on HBO or another television station after its video release.