Krampus, the child-punishing, folkloric counterpart to Santa, has been having a pop cultural moment for some time. He's turned up in everything from merchandise to TV shows (i.e. Supernatural) and movies. But his highest profile appearance to date has been in last year’s Krampus, a glossy horror comedy from director Michael Dougherty (Trick 'R Treat). I adore the wonderfully weird Dougherty, who cut his teeth co-writing X2 and Superman Returns. But I don't envy him, because his first two films were instant holiday classics, so what the heck is he gonna do for an encore?
In any case, if you haven’t seen Krampus, and want a Christmas-y creature feature to screen along with Gremlins (a definite influence on Dougherty's opus) here are 12 reasons to give it a spin:
1: It's a Christmas movie. Sure, a movie about a creature who arrives to terrorize people for their lack of holiday spirit may seem offbeat, but Krampus is constructed deliberately as a Christmas movie, with a cozy atmosphere, a soundtrack full of seasonal staples, and an endearing theme of familial connection.
2: It's a horror movie. Maybe not the scariest one ever, but man is it fun! The film just keeps throwing surprises at you, from the big bad himself to his myriad of colorful helpers. Anybody who digs horror movies will have a ball with this film.
3: It's a comedy. Trick ‘R Treat was darkly comedic, so it’s no surprise that Dougherty and co-writer Todd Casey crafted an immensely clever screenplay for Krampus. The opening scene, set at a mall and accompanied by Bing Crosby's saccharine "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," is utterly hysterical.
4: The cast is phenomenal. Adam Scott and Toni Collette are the biggest names, but there's across-the-board awesomeness from the likes of Anchorman's David Koechner and Conchata Ferrell (as boozy Aunt Dorothy). The standouts are Krista Stadler as grandmother "Omi" and Emjay Anthony as Max, the sensitive son whose shredded letter to Santa inadvertently unleashes the wrath of Krampus.
5: The special effects are awesome. WETA Workshop, who provided the creatures for Peter Jackson’s two Tolkien trilogies, does a slam bang job with the menagerie of monsters that populate Krampus. WETA Digital, meanwhile, renders the army of killer gingerbread cookies that are one of the movie’s comedic highlights.
6: The music rocks. Douglas Pipes, who scored Trick ‘R Treat, does an even better job with this film. The themes boast a healthy amount of Danny Elfman vibes; the "Krampus Carol of the Bells" at the end is a sublime finale. Meanwhile, the source songs are exceedingly well chosen, especially the moody Bright Eyes cover of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" near the end.
7: There's an animated flashback to Omi's childhood which comes out of nowhere and maybe shouldn’t work, but it does, beautifully. **
8. There's a reference to "Max's noodle incident" and a gallery of gruesome snowmen, both seemingly straight out of the pages of Bill Waterston’s Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip.
9. What's not to like about a movie in which the family dog saves the day not once, but twice?
10. Every time Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh are thanked in the credits, you pretty much know the movie must be awesome.
11. This would make a perfect double feature with Black Christmas (1974), Gremlins, or another classic holiday horror flick.
12. The ending. No spoilers here, but I found it extremely powerful and cool, and have had a lively debate with my boyfriend over its meaning.