Framed by everything you hate about the holiday and everything you love about the genre, Michael Dougherty’s Krampus is a Christmas delight of monster mayhem and creepy holiday spirit. After this and his Halloween-set Trick ‘r Treat, he could be given an Easter Bunny horror film and likely deliver on the giggles and haunts in equal measure. That humor and horror go so confidently hand-in-hand is partly why Krampus is the unexpected treat that it is: a new alternative holiday classic for those of us bored by the marathon of A Christmas Story and crave something a little more attuned to the frustrations of the season.
Because what is the Christmas season with its share of familial unease and resentments? Krampus‘s family is archly drawn and diametrically opposed with the bluntest depiction of the current American divide, which while it doesn’t allow for much nuance (is that what you showed up for, really?), it does thrust the majority of the film’s effective humor. Driven by his disappointments with his parents and his disdain for his bullying extended family, protagonist Max (Emjay Anthony, previously charming in Jon Favreau’s Chef) rejects the spirit of Christmas and summons the demonic Krampus – and his doting German-immigrant grandmother Omi (Krista Stadler) just may be a little familiar.