Review: Krampus, the shadow of Saint Nicholas

It’s hard to believe that we’ve had to wait this long for a new Michael Dougherty-directed feature film, marking Krampus as his first movie since 2007’s Halloween classic Trick ‘R Treat. And just like Trick ‘R Treat, Krampus explores holiday horror in terrifying fashion, cementing his new film as an instant Christmas-horror classic. In it, after his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max turns his back on Christmas, unknowingly summoning the wrath of Krampus: a demonic force of ancient evil intent on punishing non-believers.

This movie is just a nasty little treat from Dougherty, who very clearly wanted to invade the Christmas season with something mean and scary. It’s absolutely brimming with holiday spirit, creating a world that comes to life on the warmth and meaning of Christmas while covering it in a cold, snow-swept nightmare. And just like Trick ‘R Treat, Krampus masterfully blends the atmosphere of the holiday into its story, not just taking place on Christmas but thriving on it. And that’s what makes Dougherty the best at what he does (holiday horror), because the film doesn’t just take place on Christmas, it’s about Christmas. It’s a Christmas movie through-and-through, only Dougherty has injected it with dark humor and pure horror.

The film reflects this image of what Christmas has turned into over the years—this idea of taking instead of giving—with a monster, Krampus, representing everything Saint Nicholas isn’t. And that’s exactly what makes him so terrifying because he’s the farthest thing away from the jolly old fat guy, a demon that shows up in a screaming blizzard to take all those who’ve been naughty. It’s such a delightfully terrifying concept that Dougherty runs away with, destroying Christmas for little kids everywhere. But as scary as Krampus is (and he is one creepy bastard), it’s his little helpers—the elves and demonic toys—that are pant-shittingly awesome. Dougherty used practical effects every chance he could and the film comes to life because of it, allowing his wicked creations to run amok and do horrible things to this family. If ruining Christmas for children wasn’t bad enough, Dougherty’s monsters will no doubt crawl into their dreams and ruin those, too.

To me that was the biggest surprise about Krampus, too, was just how dark it gets. It almost caught me off guard because much of the movie is driven by these really funny characters and there’s a lot of dark humor that keeps the narrative moving along quickly, but man does it get nasty and go to some scary places. What few quiet moments there are in the film are torn apart by one creature after the next, a constant onslaught of not-so-merry monsters terrorizing Christmas. And while all of this is going on, the shadow of Krampus looms in the background, just waiting to be revealed. A lot of the movie just teases the presence of Krampus, and I love that Dougherty makes us wait before unveiling his titular monster.

This is just a fantastic movie, a sure-to-be holiday classic that captures the very spirit of Christmas and the horror of what happens when Krampus comes to town instead of Santa Claus, bringing with him monsters and demonic elves looking for those on the naughty list. A world where evil Snowmen, frozen in darkness, watch your every move on a Christmas night filled with terror.

4.5/5

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If you are ever attacked by a gorilla just sit back and relax while you enjoy the once in a life time feeling of your limbs being ripped off.

21 thoughts on “Review: Krampus, the shadow of Saint Nicholas

      1. Did you know that Walmart is carrying A Christmas Horror Story under the title A Holiday Horror Story and that Bloodsucking Bastards is Bloodsucking Bosses there? So stupid.

      2. That’s why I love shopping for movies at B & N or FYE; you may pay more but you get a far better selection. Ask a Walmart associate if they have any Criterion Collection films and see the look you get.

  1. Krampus was AH-mazing
    I really hadn’t expected it to be that good, since it’s incredibly difficult to make Christmas seem scary without it coming off as too ridiculous, but I love that Dougherty didn’t fall back on getting too campy with this
    The laughs were genuine, but so were the scares and the horror elements were perfectly serious
    Great review! I hadn’t thought about it before but you’re right, he really plays upon the holiday elements of the film rather than just have them in their obligatorily
    Out of interest, what did you think of the ending?

    1. Nice! Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. It’s such a great movie and so much fun. The horror elements were a nice surprise, too! At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about the ending but the more I sat on it the more I like it. It’s so sinister and fucked up and I love that Dougherty just went for an ending like that. So cool!

      1. **For anyone reading this comment there are SPOILERS**

        I totally agree. I thought it was far too clever a movie to end in any other way, although I heard the obligatory groans in the back of the cinema when people thought it was a dream sequence. That being said, I’ve heard a lot of people argue that it’s actually a HAPPY ending. I, like you, thought it was deliciously dark and kind of like a purgatory. I’ve read some people saying that it’s the director’s way of saying Krampus is “keeping a watchful eye” on them, and that essentially they are back in the real world and free to enjoy life again.
        I suppose it’s ambiguous and that’s what makes it so intriguing. Red Letter Media even seemed to be under the impression that they never actually show Krampus’ face but that he’s wearing a human face and all you see are his lil demon eyes peeking out! I didn’t agree with that, but I thought it was an interesting idea.

      2. At first I was really bummed by the idea of it being all a dream, but then it shows that last shot and I was like THANK YOU! I don’t see it at all as a happy ending, I mean, we do SEE the kid being thrown into the underworld at the end. I took that last shot as Krampus has just added to his collection of all the other naughty families out there. Dougherty did say that he left the ending open like that because there’s no right or wrong answer, which is pretty cool!

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