Thursday, December 3, 2015

You Better Watch Out for "Krampus"

Director Michael Dougherty (“Trick 'r Treat”) gives moviegoers another dose of holiday cheer with “Krampus.” The delightfully twisted vision of the Christmas season is written by Dougherty, Todd Casey, and Zach Shields. The cast is made up of Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”), Toni Collette (“The Sixth Sense”), David Koechner (“Anchorman”), and Emjay Anthony as Max.

While the holiday season represents the most magical time of year, ancient European folklore warns of Krampus, a horned beast who punishes naughty children at Christmastime. When dysfunctional family squabbling causes young Max (Emjay Anthony) to lose his festive spirit, it unleashes the wrath of the fearsome demon. As Krampus lays siege to the Engel home, mom (Toni Collette), pop (Adam Scott), sister (Stefania LaVie Owen) and brother must band together to save one another from a monstrous fate.

I know what you were thinking when you saw the trailer for “Krampus” the first time. “This has to be a joke. They can’t be serious.” Well, Director / Co-Writer Michael Dougherty is very serious about the follow-up to his 2007 film “Trick 'r Treat.” Just like with that movie, he explores the ancient folklore and beliefs of a superstitious world most of us have forgotten about.

“Krampus” takes itself serious, but doesn’t forget to have fun along the way. Even though it provides laughs along with its jump scares and thrills, the movie never feels conflicted or uneven. Director Dougherty found the perfect recipe for what could have been a major misfire.

Cinematographer Jules O'Loughlin drops us right in the middle of a normal middle-American suburb and somehow leaves us feeling completely detached from the outside world. You truly believe you’re trapped in the midst of a blizzard with no connection to civilization. I was totally immersed in “Krampus” and all the many sets and locations it was shot in and on.

“Krampus” reminded me very much of classic 1980’s horror films whose main heroes and focuses were children. A few movies that come to mind are “The Gate,” “Gremlins,” “The Monster Squad,” and even “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.” They captured our imaginations and fueled our nightmares as we grew up. Even though we might have been scared at the time, they’re memories we cherish and continue to take with us into adulthood.

As a Christian, I probably don’t need to warn others who share my beliefs of what many might find offensive. “Krampus” is based on the mythical beast which many pagans feared in pre-Christian times. However, like many traditions, the creature has been utilized by Christians since then. As a fan of horror and supernatural folklore, I just enjoy a nice scary story.

I look at this in the same way I look at “A Christmas Carol.” “Krampus” is a cautionary tale using goblins and ghouls as tools to tell the story. The lessons to be learned here is rather straightforward. “Be careful what you wish for” and “Be good and not naughty.” You could also say it’s telling us all to appreciate and respect our families no matter how irritating or pleasant they may be.

“Krampus” is rated PG-13 for sequences of horror violence / terror, language and some drug material. I would definitely not take a child under the age of 13 to see this, unless you want to lay awake with them until you take all the Christmas decorations down and board up your fireplace. The drug material the rating refers to is a scene where a candy cane bong is shown. No actual use of drugs is shown.

I’ve been a huge fan of Christmas horror films for many years now. I actually collect them and watch as many as I can every year. I own everything from “Silent Night, Deadly Night” to “Santa’s Slay” to “Black Christmas” and “Rare Exports.” “Krampus” is a welcome addition and a wonderful gift of fright for the season. The production values, CGI, special effects, and acting all come together to create a truly memorable experience I’ll be repeating on an annual basis.

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