If you wanted to make a really corny, generic movie, you’d probably choose to work in one of two genres: the Christmas movie or the slasher flick. Krampus is a Christmas-slasher flick about an eponymous evil spirit who comes instead of Santa to brutally punish undeserving families.
You’d think any filmmaker would be aware of the potential for cheesiness here and take measures to avoid it; I expected the film, as a horror-comedy, to be comically self-aware of its own tropes, as many classic slashers are. However, while the film certainly doesn’t take itself seriously, it isn’t quite as intelligent as that. It combines lame horror with lame comedy, without any interplay or sense of irony, to create something lamer than the sum of the two. There is of course nothing wrong with a dumb horror movie, but when you’re trying this hard to show how not-serious you are, it helps to do so with at least a little bit of wit.
As a horror, Krampus fails. Not an ounce of suspense is created at any point, the film relying instead on grotesque monsters for cheap scares. Whenever one of its flat characters was in peril, I didn’t care. Director David Dougherty’s best attempt to generate a sense of panic is to shake the camera maniacally and turn up the volume on the sound effects; a display of inexcusable laziness.
As a comedy, it fails. Every joke is as hackneyed as its textbook horror tropes. Just about the only funny part was the laughably clichéd ending.
It isn’t even particularly engaging; the plot is unexciting and features long sequences where nothing of interest happens. It is clumsily edited and visually sloppy. One scene, in which the wise old German mother conveniently explains the monster’s origins, combines wholly incongruous animation with nauseating pseudo-drama.
Perhaps this film is more intelligent than I’ve made out; maybe there is some meta-concept at work here. After all, Krampus is meant to punish people at Christmas-time, and sitting down by the tree to watch this is about as harsh a punishment as I can imagine.
Image: Dave; Flickr.com