Even with its goofiness and predictability, I still found Krampus weirdly enjoyable and charming. The movie channels a Christmas-Horror Spirit more similar to the black humor in Gremlins than that of Silent Night, Deadly Night or Christmas Evil. It’s a hyper-self-aware PG-13 movie that should be filed under comedy maybe more so than horror. So if you were expecting to see some carnage, this isn’t gonna give you your fix, you sick fuck.
But if you are sentimental like me, the movie might actually bring back fond memories of Christmas and all the fun that came with it! Homemade cookies, a warm fire, being left to die in the snow by my father who didn’t love me anymore, and opening presents with my cousins.
Santa is for good kids and he brings presents. Krampus is for bad kids and he brings torture and death. Fathers are for leaving you stranded in the snow to die a lonely death. This I know.
A kid makes a wish that his family would just fuck off, exactly like Kevin in Home Alone. “Fuck off, family!” (I’m paraphrasing) he scrawls on a little note, which gets carried into the night by a stray gust of wind. Krampus gets the kid’s letter and he shows up to slaughter the kid’s family. Krampus has a crew of killers who are all Christmas themed: There are some asshole elves, some asshole gingerbread men, some asshole toys (who really remind me of the puppets in the Puppet Master movies), and some asshole snowmen.
The real asshole is absolutely the dad character, who gets scared and leaves his daughter to die in the snow. One Christmas, my dad stopped in the woods on a snowy evening, read me a Robert Frost poem, and then pushed me out of his truck and drove away. The cold was biting and ruthless, but I swore my vengeance would be colder.
The “Christmas Spirit” part of the movie happens when the kid realizes that, compared to Krampus and his homicidal throng of death-elves, his conservative uncle isn’t that bad. He begs Krampus to spare his family. But Krampus gives the kid a “fuck off” of his own. I know a thing or two about begging. Try begging, try howling, into a dark Christmas night that howls back with a blizzard. Try begging to a God who abandoned you one night, to a God who turned his back as you trudged through 20 miles of snow. Try cursing your father who left you for dead, who cast you out like so much Christmas trash!
Anyway, the make-up and effects in the movie are great. Yes, there is some cookie-cutter CGI, but Krampus looks sort of like a Guillermo del Toro creature and his elves look like something out of an R-rated Where the Wild Things Are. There isn’t really any gore in the movie. The carnage is all PG-13 and/or off-screen. No dead kids, no blood and guts. No hands and feet made blue and feeble by your long trek in the snow, by your black march to the tool shed where you can barely grasp the machete on that night that left you without a God, without a family, and gave you instead a hunger for the blood of the father who had forsaken you. The movie doesn’t have any of that.
The moral of the story is to be thankful for what you have, even if all you have are assholes, because the asshole you know is better than the asshole you don’t know. Maybe if you feel wronged by someone, even if that someone is a family member — a father perhaps — you should take matters into your own hands. Instead of writing a letter, you should creep through the house with a machete on Christmas night, filled with a darkness more terrible and hollow that the darkness of a thousand blizzards, consumed by your one promise to yourself, your promise for vengeance, for blood. I think that’s the moral.