Directed by Michael Dougherty
Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefani LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler
IMDb 6.2/10 Rotten Tomatoes 66% Metacritic 49/100
While this film is clearly categorized as a horror film, I found that it’s more of a Christmas morality tale…with a monster. Now, children are told fables from an early age. It’s a way to convey morality and life lessons to kids. They often involve animals and always seem to have some sort of character that could be classified as “a monster”. Inevitably, in practically every story, the monster comes in contact with a human being, mostly a child but not always, and just before the unthinkable happens our would-be victim has some moral revelation and defeats the monster and lives happily ever after…IN A NUTSHELL. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule but that’s pretty much the formula.
So, in this film we have a family getting together for the holidays. Not unlike what many of us do for Christmas, the homeowners in this movie are having family in town for the holidays. We have the homeowners, Tom and Sarah. They have two kids, Max and Beth. Tom’s mother also lives with them. They call her Omi. For Christmas, Sarah’s sister and her family are coming to stay at the house. This includes Sarah’s sister Linda, her husband Howard, their four children, Howie Jr., Stevie, Jordan and infant Chrissy and just for good measure, they brought Aunt Dorothy, who is nobody’s favorite person. Needless to say, not everyone is thrilled that everyone else is there. I mean, we all have family members that we would prefer NOT be at Christmas or that when they show up we take a deep breath and roll our eyes, preparing ourselves for the interactions that lie ahead. In this family, the homeowners aren’t thrilled that their, shall we say less sophisticated members are there OR that this particular aunt is there.
Max is young, about ten or twelve years old. He still believes in the spirit of Christmas and even still writes Santa a letter. When his two cousins, Stevie and Jordan, snatch his letter and read it aloud at the dinner table to embarrass him, Max loses control and gives in to his frustration and anger. Convinced that it’s not worth it and that Christmas will suck no matter what, he tears up his letter to Santa and throws it out the window causing the start of the worst night of their lives.
In losing their Christmas Spirit they bring about Krampus, the dark side of Santa Claus. Basically, Krampus comes to let you know that your life can always be worse. If you think it sucks having rude and disrespectful family get on your every last nerve, just wait until Krampus comes and slaughters your family and destroys your town, etc. After going through the loss of all his family members Max finally tries to confront Krampus, apologizing for losing faith, requesting his family back.
This film reminded me of something that would be the result of combining National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and some sort of Stephen King story like Dreamcatcher or something. Or wait, more like Christmas Vacation meets Puppet Master. While I thought it was a good movie, I had hoped for something a little more sinister and a little less comedic. The acting was good, although I only recognized two of the actors. I have to say the confrontation between Krampus and Max does not deliver on the buildup they manufactured leading up to it. The Krampus character looks really good though. But, there was just something about the movie that just didn’t sit 100%. I didn’t care for all the “implied deaths”. I feel like that was done to make it less of a horror movie and more of a family film. For me, it didn’t go over the way I think the filmmakers hoped. I prefer horror to be actual horror and kid movies to be kid movies. Besides, if I wanted to watch a moral Christmas tale I’d watch Miracle on 34thSt. or It’s a Wonderful Life. Some evil Santa shadow figure or whatever is more geared toward children, in my opinion.
I would definitely recommend this to families with pre-teens or early teens. I’m not sure showing a repulsive evil Santa monster is a good idea for young children, just saying.