Review: ‘Krampus’ kills it with Christmas scares that are all in good fun

At least four different movies are jostling for position in the holiday horror-comedy “Krampus.” Half of them are pretty good.

Writer-director Michael Dougherty — best-known for the cult-favorite anthology “Trick ‘r Treat” — opens in the vein of “Christmas Vacation,” nailing the stress of the season in a story that pits an upscale family against their redneck, right-wing relatives. Adam Scott and Toni Collette play the effete rich couple; David Koechner and Allison Tolman are their gun-toting guests.

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The quality of the cast helps sell jokes that rely on broad stereotypes and even pushes “Krampus” toward genuine yuletide warmth and familial redemption … at least until the monsters come out.

The title comes from a European legend about an “anti-Santa” who takes instead of gives. The beast here gets summoned by a little boy, tired of his family’s Christmas squabbling. The Krampus is attended by evil elves, creepy snowmen and demonic toys, which all attack the family in relentless waves.


The horror scenes in “Krampus” are more assaultive than scary, with fast-paced editing that is difficult to follow. But Dougherty’s effects team is top-notch, and the movie takes unexpected chances with the style and the storytelling — including a beautiful stop-motion interlude.

This picture won’t make anyone forget “Gremlins” (which is a clear influence), but it has enough personality and ambition that it could easily become an annual tradition for those who prefer “Silent Night, Deadly Night” to “It’s a Wonderful Life.”



MPAA rating: PG-13 for sequences of horror violence/terror, language and some drug material.

Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Playing: In general release