Krampus is an amusing but forgettable horror comedy because it doesn’t commit to its own conceit, wasting the clever twists that would have made it a rare genre-mixing success.

When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max (Emjay Anthony) is disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas. Little does he know, this lack of festive spirit has unleashed the wrath of Krampus: a demonic force of ancient evil intent on punishing non-believers. All hell breaks loose as beloved holiday icons take on a monstrous life of their own, laying siege to the fractured family’s home and forcing them to fight for each other if they hope to survive. [Legendary Pictures]

Krampus twists conventional elements in an attempt to deliver a Christmas horror story by mixing a family holiday comedy with creature feature horror.

Right of the bat, the movie exposes the less joyous side of the yuletide season, including the inescapable horror of Christmas: relatives. The movie features a well-known cast of comedy actors such as Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, and Conchata Ferrell.  They manage to deliver a decent performance out of their roles even though they’re caricatures divided into two clichéd types of dysfunctional families – the uncouth yet close rednecks on one side, and the privileged but detached middle class suburbanites on the other. Their interactions are nothing you haven’t seen before in other family holiday comedies, but it’s still a relatable enough set-up for what’s to come.

Krampus manages to be an amusing horror comedy by turning Christmas icons into soldiers of terror. The sparse use of CGI and emphasis on practical effects created an entertaining home invasion story. In one scene, only one of the kid’s shoes are seen as her body glides down into the mouth of jack in the box monster.

Unfortunately this is the only moment when the movie commits to its conceit.

The movie spends a big chunk of time delaying the reveal, so it’s unclear what’s happening. Whatever is happening becomes poorly visible under a sheet of gray from an obviously artificial blizzard that would have looked much more interesting with better cinematography and production design.

When the movie finally picks up, the scary scenes are toned down for a PG rating. The toy box of horrors are harmful critters rather than killing machines. The stock characters are all negligible, especially when they conveniently lose common sense. There’s a nice stop motion animation here that finally reveals the danger they’re in, but Krampus enters too late and ends up doing little.

Towards the end the movie finally finds its footing and delivers a clever ending that shows the real horror of Christmas.

Overall, the movie is still a serviceable distraction for the entire family (and your relatives too) but wastes its potential to become a genre mixing classic.

My Rating: 5.5/10