Sunday, July 16, 2017

Krampus (2015)

We’re all familiar with Santa Claus.  He brings presents to the good girls and boys.  Americans aren’t that familiar with Santa’s opposite, Krampus.  Legend holds that Krampus comes to kidnap and punish those boys and girls who made the naughty list.  Krampus is better known in Europe, where films like Rare Exports have been made.  Shortly after watching Rare Exports, I had heard of a film to be released in America called, of all things, Krampus.  This week, I have some free movies from on demand courtesy HBO.  Lo and behold, one of those movies was Krampus.

I honestly had such high hopes for this movie.  It focus on a family that’s getting together for Christmas.  It starts a few days before Christmas.   Sarah and Tom are parents to Max and Beth.  Aunt Linda and Uncle Howard will be joining them until the big day along with their kids and dog.  Oh, and Sarah’s outspoken Aunt Dorothy will be coming along, too.  Surprise!  Rounding out the group is the grandmother, who seems to prefer German to English.

Sarah, Tom, Max and Beth are not looking forward to this.  They have varying degrees of hatred for Linda and Howard and their spawn, to say nothing of Dorothy.  Max is picked on by his two female cousins.  Dorothy asks Sarah why she hasn’t served ham, going so far to ask if she’s Jewish now.  Yeah.  This is the kind of petty family stuff we’re talking about.  It gets to the point where Max wishes it would all go away.  He just wants a normal Christmas like they used to have.  Big mistake.

What follows cannot really be described as a horror film.  Sure, it has it’s dark moments.  It also has a few throwaway lines, but can’t really be described as a comedy.  There are a few scenes that would suggest that those who created the film wanted a horror film, but they seem to have failed.  For instance, Beth goes missing quickly, prompting Tom and Howard to take Howard’s Humvee in search of her.  They come to her boyfriend’s house where they find a gingerbread man attached to a refrigerator door with a chef’s knife.  It’s funny, but in a foreshadowing way.

We have already seen a hit of Krampus at that point.  He jumps from rooftop to rooftop.  He’s meant to be scary.  At the very least, he’s ugly.  I may even end up with nightmares tonight.  That’s how bad it is.  It’s his helpers that I’m not sure about.  For some reason, he likes gingerbread men, who come off as comical, but will attack people.  They even take a nail gun to Howard.  (Who leaves a nail gun lying around, anyway?  Especially when they know children of varying ages will be around.)

Krampus also has some large porcelain dolls helping him.  Imagine if a porcelain doll were made in the image of a Predator.  And it wants to eat your kids.  It sounds scary, but it doesn’t always work.  Part of it is that you’re trying to scare the audience with something that’s cute.  You can’t go for flat-out horror with porcelain dolls and gingerbread men.

The other part of it is that the characters don’t elicit sympathy.  Max is the most sympathetic, in that he seems to act only when provoked, even if he is provoked easily.  He also just wants a normal Christmas.  The only other characters I didn’t come to hate were the grandmother, the baby and the dog, mostly because they were background characters.  By nature, the dog and the baby didn’t have any lines.  (The dog did have a few good moments, though.)  The grandmother was there mostly for background information, letting us know what Krampus was.

Howard, Linda and Dorothy are all adults that you want to take into the next room and slap.  You’re rooting for Krampus to get them, even when you earn a little bit of respect for them.  You soon realize that they’re still less than respectable.  Howard and Linda’s kids are the product of their parenting and can be forgiven to an extent, but are still responsible for their own actions.  Also, when I said Dorothy was outspoken, I imagine you get the idea that it’s in an obnoxious way.  I was hoping she’d go first.

That’s another thing.  Building tension requires some hope that the characters might make it out.  Krampus quickly lays waste to their surrounding area.  A utility truck is left idling, presumably as Krampus took the driver.  It’s just a matter of time before the family is eaten.  The only real question is how and when each family member will be taken.  There is a chance Max will be spared.  Even if he is, what then?  Will the town be restored?  Will Max be sent to a foster home?  How do you end a mess like this?

The movie is different, to say the least, but this is one of those cases where different isn’t always good.  It’s like the SyFy channel finally got a theatrical release.  It’s that level of mediocrity.  I was expecting so much more.  I was hoping for some level of depth.  No.  We have some scares and some one-liners.  That’s about it.  Krampus takes everyone in town and for what?  Because some kid wished his family away?  The twist ending doesn’t leave you wondering what just happened so much as why.

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