It’s no surprise that after the success of last year’s Krampus more films on this subject would pop up, only with much smaller budgets. To be fair, Christmas’ anti-Santa had already been gaining steam here in the States before mainstream Hollywood decided to finally give him his big break. Personally, I loved Michael Dougherty’s film; saw it three times at the theater when it came out and another three this year at home. It’s pretty much replaced Holiday Inn (1942) as my favorite Christmas movie which is odd considering it’s dark nature. Or maybe not so strange at all. Despite the seemingly odd pairing of Christmas and horror, it’s often been a fun one. We’ve covered Yuletide horror movies before, many featuring murderous Santa Claus’, but never on any that dealt with Krampus. So this year I decided (with the amazing help of Jason Schoolcraft who works with the other Dave in Rhode Island and has been a great friend to both of us) that it was time to start sorting through all these Krampus-themed films and find out which ones are holiday gifts versus cinematic lumps of coal. Let’s get started…
Krampus (2015): Shortly after this film’s release, we did post a review on Krampus courtesy of guest writer, Jamie Lee Cortese. It’s just as well she wrote it instead of me because mine would likely have read more like a love letter to Warner Brothers. What can I say? Every once in a while, a movie comes along that just does it for you and Krampus had that effect on me. Maybe it’s because I’ve loved Toni Collette since Muriel’s Wedding (1994) and found rest of the cast just as enchanting. Perhaps it’s due to the imaginative and stylish designs of Krampus and his demonic toys/elves. Or maybe it’s because it perfectly captured why I’ve been so disenchanted with the holidays myself these past few years; an event that can be traced directly back to the one (and ONLY) time I made the mistake of shopping on Black Friday. Despite my eyes barely able to focus that 4 am at Wal-Mart, I’d end up witnessing the worst of humanity; actual fighting over merchandise and arguments with the cashier. Needless to say, I’ve been a faithful online shopper ever since with the Christmas lights and music leaving me cold. In my opinion, Krampus creatively illustrated how, despite the hustle and bustle, we’re ruining the spirit of the holidays with our insurmountable expectations of them. We think our homes should look like the set of a Hallmark Channel movie, that our loved ones need elaborate presents to be happy, and that our dinner table should look like the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. Krampus satirically gives us a hard look at the darker realities of Christmas while inadvertently showing us what’s really important. Once the villainous Krampus arrives and the characters lose all their holiday distractions do they actually come together as a family and their love for each other manifest. It’s clever and actually did change the way I approached the holidays this year. “Dear Warner Brothers…I love you!”
A Christmas Horror Story (2015): This is an anthology film featuring four interwoven stories and William Shatner in a small, but surprisingly delightful, role as the town’s Christmas radio DJ. The first story involves a group of teens breaking into their school over winter break to work on a film documentary on mysterious murders that took place there. The second story deals with a troubled couple whose son gets swapped with a deviant changeling while they’re illegally chopping down a Christmas tree. Krampus shows up in the third and fourth tale. In the third installment, he’s hunting down a dysfunctional family after their visit with a wealthy and eccentric aunt. I’d sure hate to be them because this Krampus looks like he could take on the Hulk. He brandishes larger than average Krampus horns, a muscular build, and can work a chain whip like Ghost Rider. In the fourth story, he takes on “Santa Claus” after first possessing his elves and wreaking havoc on the North Pole. Before you dismiss this, I should mention it leads to a great twist ending I honestly didn’t see coming. I really enjoyed this movie and, though some of the stories are better than others, they’re all fairly decent. That twist ending is very effective and, though Krampus doesn’t show up very often, he’s pretty badass when he does.
Krampus: The Reckoning (2015): I’ve got to give Director Robert Conway props for having chosen the most unlikely locale for battling an Alpine, Christmas demon … Phoenix, Arizona! The movie revolves around a creepy little girl named Zoe who summons her not-so-imaginary friend, Krampus, to kill off all the “naughty” people she encounters. It’s a bit hypocritical since she’s about the nastiest kid you could ever meet but, needless to say, the people that piss her off soon find themselves spontaneously combusting under the monster’s gaze. I’m using the word “monster” loosely as the SPFX is worse than a ‘90s video game (see cover image) and pretty much the embodiment of bad CGI. He definitely looks more like a zombie with horns rather than a half-goat demon while the gore is old school…and there’s plenty of it. The acting is laughably bad and there’s also a hilarious, unnecessary sex scene. Every time I see something like this in a really low-budget horror film I gotta ask myself how much these folks could possibly have gotten paid for getting naked. Regardless, this movie is definitely good for a laugh; especially if you’re with the right crowd and drinking the right egg nog!
Krampus Unleashed (2016): Robert Conway brings us yet another Arizona Krampus feature with the irony of the locale driven further home as we watch a family drive past desert cacti with “Let it Snow!” playing in the background. The success of Dougherty’s Krampus may have inspired Conway a bit in this installment as he ditches the creepy little girl in favor of a dysfunctional, extended family, gathering for the holidays. Through a ridiculous opening backstory, we see Krampus’ arrival courtesy of an ancient, Scandinavian “summoning stone” that somehow found its way into the American Southwest. This sets off his blood-thirsty rampage in pursuit of buried treasure. The plot seems more fitting for a leprechaun than Krampus and DVD cover (suggesting Santa Claus makes an appearance) is thankfully misleading as Jolly St. Nick never shows up. One thing that’s spot on, however, is the title. This unleashed Krampus rips people’s guts out, eats their hearts, and pops their heads off their shoulders like human PEZ dispensers. If you’re looking for some holiday gore, this is definitely the movie for you! The acting is ScyFy Channel grade quality and lower … I got a good belly laugh watching one of the characters try and be “distraught” over the death of his wife; stumbling around gasping with a constipated look on his face for several moments and not a single tear in sight. What this movie offers that ScyFy doesn’t, however, is old school gore effects (and LOTS of it), profanity, and an attractive set of bare breasts. Conway also made the wise choice of foregoing bad CGI this time around in favor of a cheesy, costumed Krampus. There’s never a moment when you aren’t aware that it’s a guy in a fuzzy suit but I did appreciate the effort. Remember earlier when I suggested a drunken get-together with friends and Krampus: The Reckoning? Bring this one along and make it a double feature!
Krampus: The Christmas Devil (2013): The only thing positive I can say about this film is that it came out two years before Dougherty’s Krampus making its director/writer, Jason Hull, something of a maverick. Other than that, it’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying this film unless you’re one of his friends/family members who played in it. While trying to sit through it, I actually started getting flashbacks of 1989 when a friend of mine dressed up like Michael Meyers and we filmed our own Halloween movie in the local church parking lot. We were eighteen at the time and wanted to make full use of an over-the-shoulder VHS camcorder I bought. I later read that this movie was actually filmed with a VHS camera too which explains my sudden burst of nostalgia. In this film, we see officer Jeremy (A.J. Leslie) desperately trying to hunt down Krampus, who had kidnapped him back when he was a child. Last year I attended a Krampus Krawl and most of the costumes there looked a helluva lot more convincing and this goat monster is just plain ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ad.
Krampus: The Christmas Devil Returns (2016): Jason Hull brings his bad Krampus back for an equally awful sequel. Police officer, Jeremy Duffin, returns to hunt down Krampus after local kids start to go missing. Of course, these kids are so horrible the only reason he should be tracking down Krampus is to give him a “Thank You” card. Krampus himself is once again a guy with a mask stumbling around like the town drunk though no amount of alcohol can make this worth a watch.
So there you have it! Another big thanks to our friend, Jason, for making many of these movies available!