For me, the best part of Christmas is the horror movies – specifically, their taglines. Who can forget Black Christmas: “It’s beginning to look a lot like bloodshed!” Or from Christmas Evil: “He’ll sleigh you.” And now, we have Krampus, a festive horror/comedy whose tagline is simply: “You better watch out.”
In Michael Dougherty’s new film, an awful family Christmas (is there any other kind?) is rudely interrupted by the Krampus; the anti-Santa Claws from German folklore, with cloven hooves, goat horns and a Gene Simmons tongue. Like the Robot Santa from Futurama, Krampus punishes bad behaviour – and objectionable American families.
Adam Scott and Toni Collette are watchable leads, but the real pleasure comes from seeing them get their chaotic comeuppance. Essentially a slasher with slay-bells, this film is nuttier than a nut roast, bursting with coal-black humour, gleeful horror and more yuletide monsters than you can shake a candy cane at. Dougherty’s use of incredibly loud sound, folky European designs and old-school creature effects makes Krampus a welcome Christmas surprise; Dante’s Gremlins meets Dante’s Inferno.
From its satirical opening to its devilish ending, Krampus is demented fun all round, wickedly exploring the dark (furry) underbelly of Christmas. It’s a worthy successor to Gremlins – but while Joe Dante’s film is actually quite warm-hearted, this is festively nasty; a violent night, a bleak midwinter, a Mariah Scary.