Krampus Comes to Town

Bust out the eggnog and gingerbread cookies (perhaps seasoned with some festive herbal greenery). “Krampus” has come to town!

Max (Emjay Anthony) loves Christmas. Despite looking 10, he still believes in Santa Claus, and wants nothing more than a peaceful holiday filled with love and kindness. Unfortunately, his boorish aunt and uncle (Allison Tolman and David Koechner) and their diabolical children are coming over to spoil the season. What’s worse, they brought obnoxious Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell) along. When dinner goes wrong, Max wishes his family would go away, and accidentally summons St. Nick’s shadowy twin Krampus, who causes yuletide chaos for all.

If you’ve seen any advertising for “Krampus,” you’ve probably been lied to. It’s being billed as a Christmas-themed horror flick, and if that’s what you’re expecting, you’ll be disappointed. Go in expecting a semi-nonsensical, yet mindlessly entertaining cinematic concoction of comedy and thrills, and you’ll have a good time.

Objectively, the film isn’t a masterpiece. The script isn’t particularly taut. Some of the jokes aren’t funny. A few of the scares aren’t spooky. The child actors aren’t great to watch, and there’s one flashback sequence that is, curiously, animated. It is, admittedly, visually jarring and definitely a questionable directorial decision.

Despite all that, the three people I saw this with and myself, had a pretty good time. The adult cast doesn’t phone the movie in, and they’re all fairly charismatic. Fans of “Parks and Recreation” will get a kick out of seeing Adam Scott play the bumbling beta, and Koechner plays a convincingly churlish redneck. Take it from someone who spent last year in rural Virginia; I’m familiar with the type. There are enough successful gags and absurdities to earn the comedy label, and some of the monsters are interestingly designed and markedly disquieting. They do a good job of holding back Krampus, making his reveal damn mesmerizing (a feat many monster movies struggle with). He, too, is well designed and stands out from the crowded list of modern horror creations. At least aesthetically.

While I won’t spoil it here, I feel I have an obligation to talk about the film’s ending. It appears as though the credits will roll about four times, and it’s a bit of a rollercoaster. The ending goes from interesting, to great, to frustratingly sophomoric, to frustratingly twee, to satisfying. Just hang in there until the final cut to black before passing judgement.

Of all the Christmas movies out right now, this is definitely the symbolic star atop the tree. If you’re looking for a subversively merry movie, but have already seen “The Nightmare Before Christmas” thrice too often this year, grab some friends and check out “Krampus.” There are definitely worse ways to spend $6.