I purchased Krampus knowing nothing of real substance about the film. I was aware of the legend of the "real" Krampus and knew that this film was a comedy/horror, but that's pretty much it. My son was insistent that we get this film because he wanted to prove to me that he could watch a scary film and, like a big boy, go on about his day-to-day life without be afraid.
Well, the film is very good. It's enjoyable enough that I'll add it to my regular rotation of Christmas AND Halloween films, but it seems to have a little trouble deciding whether or not it wants to be truly scary or truly funny.
It starts out like a standard Christmas family comedy: Disliked relatives are coming over for their annual holiday visit. As soon as they arrive they cause chaos. There's an uneasy truce amongst the family until one of the host family youngster's wish list to Santa is read out loud at the dinner table and he gets into a fight with his cousins over it.
This standard set up is funny. Adam Scott and David Koechner carry the first half of the film, taking their respective dry and loud styles of humor to very enjoyable levels. After the young boy (Emjay Anthony) tears up his list and tosses out into the wind, declaring his hatred for Christmas all the while, the film takes a decidedly darker and spookier turn.
The first family victim, despite being a standard know-it-all teen character, is innocent enough, but the fact that this character is attacked first sets the tone for the rest of the film. Essentially, it lets the audience know that NO ONE is safe in the film, and Krampus and his minions continue to terrorize and carry off victim after victim until the climax of the film.
While the humor is still present in the second half of the film (primarily through the actions of Conchata Ferrell), it takes quite a few steps back from the horror aspects of the movie. Writers Todd Casey, Michael Dougherty (who also directed), and Zach Shields take innocent standards from Christmas films (think teddy bears, jack-in-the-boxes, cherubs, etc.) and turn them into devices of terror. Depending on your own perspective of these things, you'll either laugh (which I do believe is the point to a degree) or be scared. I laughed, a lot, but Dougherty amped up the horror just enough to make these silly-looking creatures genuinely creepy, and I believe that most younger audiences members will take away from these monsters.
When Krampus makes his final move against the family, one member takes a stand against him. I won't tell you what happens, but it's a pretty decent ending to the film. I do, however, highly recommend the slightly different alternate ending that makes the film better in my mind.
Overall the film is very enjoyable. The cast is excellent and the scares are solid. My wife cringed throughout one entire sequence that involved a cherub. The film is also very funny. I do sort of wish that the film would have taken a more solid route in either the comedic or horrifying direction, but I can understand why they tried to find a happy medium.
You better be good for goodness' sake!