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.
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 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