Krampus opens like a traditional Christmas movie with a Bing Crosby song and vivid cinematography featuring people entering a mall on Thanksgiving evening. Within seconds, it is chaos in slow motion as elvish displays get knocked over and people are hurting each other. The scene concludes with Max (Emjay Anthony) defending the honor of Santa Claus.
After receiving a lecture from his mom Sarah (Toni Collette) and dad Tom (Adam Scott), Max must prepare for the annual Christmas invasion by his redneck family, herded in by Uncle Howard (David Koecher) and Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell). Max’s cousins are the spawn of every negative stereotype ever written about people from rural America.
Frustrated with the antics of his family, Max gives up faith in Santa Claus, rips up his letter to the North Pole and throws pieces of the letter to the North Wind. The pieces of his shredded letter end up in the underworld and Krampus is summoned.
The set-up is good, but the execution is clichéd. The second half of this low-budget film relies on flashing lights, dark cinematography and overly fast-paced editing. The cinematography solidifies the conclusion by returning the family to the land of Currier & Ives. However, this conclusion is as open-ended as an episode of The Twilight Zone.
When I heard the voice of Bing Crosby, I had “high hopes” for Krampus. In German Alpine folklore, Saint Nicholas rewards the nice children, while his opposite, Krampus, punishes the naughty ones. If this film focused on punishing the naughty children and adults of popular culture, Krampus could have become a classic like Tim Burton’s A Nightmare before Christmas.
During this busy season, I have learned the value of seeing a movie that provides escapism from the daily grind. People will leave Krampus wishing to spend more time with Saint Nicholas instead.