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John’s Horror Corner: Krampus (2015), a dark Christmas-themed fantasy film by Michael Dougherty, the man behind Trick ‘r Treat and the upcoming Trick ‘r Treat 2.

December 10, 2015


MY CALL:  This was a really fun movie experience.  Not at all scary, hardly even jumpy, and with minimal gore…yet very funny (in the first act), thoroughly entertaining and perpetually delivered with a dark, tongue-in-cheek atmosphere.  The ending is equal parts awesome, appropriate and predictable—but most importantly, the ending suits this dark holiday fairy tell perfectly.  MOVIES LIKE Krampus:  For more holiday horrors try Gremlins (1984), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010), Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), Black Christmas (2006) and Black Christmas (1974).


Ever since Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) I’ve been waiting for the next great holiday horror movie. Rare Exports was pretty good and I consider it a very special holiday horror fantasy that holds a place in my heart, but it didn’t quite live up to the two short films (“Rare Exports, Inc.” (2003) and “Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions” (2005)) that generated all the hype leading to its creation.  But there is hope yet!!!  Michael Dougherty—the brilliant mind that wrote and directed the much celebrated Halloween horror anthology Trick ‘r Treat (2007) and is working on the upcoming Trick ‘r Treat 2—has returned to bring us the twisted cautionary Christmas fairy tale of Krampus… (TRAILER HERE)


Krampus opens with an all-too-familiar but appreciated social commentary of our long forgotten family values.  Sharing, forgiveness, love and togetherness have been cast aside in lieu of rude comments, sharp-tongued jabs and obligatory gatherings.  The film doesn’t take itself too seriously in the beginning, which is good—great, in fact—as the introductory act is littered with holiday humor, including chaotic shopping scenes illustrative of our materialistic oblivion and crotchety family members clashing with one another.  There’s drinking to take the edge off dealing with family, unwanted relatives you can’t stand yet didn’t want to leave alone, children fighting, in-laws bickering, adult siblings competing and judging each other’s family values.  Needless to say, this will satisfy more sarcastic fans.


The plot is simple.  A boy who loses faith in his family inadvertently creates a terrifying holiday by summoning the Christmas demon Krampus.  Our monster’s victims boasts an impressive cast, including Adam Scott (Hellraiser: Bloodline, Piranha 3D), Toni Collette (Fright Night, The Sixth Sense), David Koechner (Final Destination 5, Cheap Thrills) and Conchata Ferrell (Edward Scissorhands, Two and a Half Men)—all of whom with a fair share of horror and comedy experience.




Writer/director Doughertys’s Trick ‘r Treat was an impressively nuanced Halloween anthology with diverse effects and expertly interwoven stories.  The movie blew away my expectations and left me hopeful that Dougherty has just as lovingly and patiently architected Krampus.  Well, Trick ‘r Treat fans should be quite pleased with Krampus, which likewise features a good diversity of Christmas-esque monsters presented in tongue-in-cheek scenarios.  I may not have been overly pleased with the elves or the baby angel doll, but the Jack in the Box and teddy bear monsters were absolutely delightful, the Krampus itself was pretty damn cool, and the gingerbread men had to be my favorite!




To my disappointment, the humor from the first act hardly transitioned through the rest of the story.  However, as it becomes increasingly obvious that something is amiss, witty exchanges are abandoned for darker scenes such as harrowing snowmen mysteriously appearing in the front yard, a dire chase with Krampus leaping across rooftops (all CGI, but very exciting), and the harbingering of toys and wrapped presents that offer us an eager but dark anticipation.

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 22_58_31



Budget limitations were apparent with inexplicably “masked” elves and the completely stationary Krampus face—like, he had a single frozen, open-mouthed facial expression.  That said, the elves still adopted an effective Gremlins-like menace and the Krampus monster still looked awesome.  And, again, I must say how much I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the scenes with the Jack in the Box monster and those gloriously fiendish gingerbread men!


This was a really fun movie experience.  Not at all scary, hardly even jumpy, and with minimal gore…yet very funny (in the first act), thoroughly entertaining and perpetually delivered with a dark, tongue-in-cheek atmosphere.  The ending is equal parts awesome, appropriate and predictable—but most importantly, the ending suits this dark holiday fairy tell perfectly.









25 Comments leave one →
  1. December 10, 2015 7:23 am

    Can’t wait to see this!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      December 10, 2015 9:12 am

      Yes you do. I was particularly pleasantly surprised by the diversity of monsters.

  2. Victor De Leon permalink
    December 10, 2015 4:17 pm

    stoked for this! heard pretty good things. I am a big fan of TrT and looking forward to the sequel. I will swing back around after I’ve seen the movie, John. hopefully by next weekend if all goes well. thanks!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      December 10, 2015 4:20 pm

      I will expect a comment and a friendly link to your review!

      • Victor De Leon permalink
        December 10, 2015 4:21 pm

        you bet, man!

  3. Lee of West Virginia permalink
    April 26, 2016 10:42 pm

    I felt that the frozen expression on Krampus’ face was a mask as well. He is obviously wanting to be like St Nick, so he’s adapted a mask to hide his monstrous features. This in my mind states why Krampus’ elves wore masks as well, to appear more like St Nick’s elves and less like demons(this of course is the bidding of Krampus). This poor creature does the best he can when he’s called, because he’s the shadow of St Nick. I never saw him as evil, it’s like saying the Grim Reaper is evil. They were issued a job to do but unlike the Reaper, Krampus only gets to work once every so often so of course he’s going to scare the crap out of you when he does show up because you weren’t expecting it and you know you’re F*CKED once he’s arrived(kinda like the IRS). HA HA… The only problem I had with this movie is that it didn’t take on the original depictions of Krampus with him holding a bundle of switches to strike misbehaved children.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      April 27, 2016 9:14 am

      Someone pointed out that it looked like a “skinned Santa Claus” was used to make the mask–which I like. Very much changed my perspective.


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