There's something about the forced cheerfulness of Christmas that makes it ripe for ironically dark humor, or even horror.  Krampus is such an anti-holiday movie, using almost iconic holiday images and creatures for social commentary -- and to bring on the scares.

It's a miserable holiday for one family in suburbia.  Tom (Adam Scott) would rather work and drink than get in the holiday spirit.  His wife Sarah (Toni Collette) stresses over the perfect holiday dinner, and their teenage daughter Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) would rather be hanging out with her boyfriend, a few blocks away, than with her family.  Grandma Omi (Krista Sadler) is largely overlooked, leaving her to talk to herself in German.  Only young Max (Emjay Anthony) still has the Christmas spirit, working on his letter to Santa.
 Then the relatives arrive.  Linda (Allison Tolman) arrives, bringing her redneck husband Howard (David Koechner), three obnoxious young kids, a new baby, a bulldog, and the relentlessly insulting Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell).  After all the bickering, insults, and fighting, Max tearfully tears up his letter and throws it outside.

The town is immediately hit with a storm and blizzard that knocks out all power and communication.  The next morning, the streets are deserted and creepy snowmen are in front of every house.  Soon the family members start seeing weird things and begin getting picked off one by one; and a large horned figure with a sack wrapped in chains is leaping from roof to roof...
Krampus has some innovative creatures and pedestrian plotting.   There are horrific versions of familiar Christmas classics, from Krampus as a dark version of Santa Claus to elves with swords and wooden masks, a killer angel, and those horrific jack-in-the-boxes that contain nasty surprises.  But while the large cast means characters can get abducted almost at random -- no "the nice characters and main stars are around until the end" here -- the acting is pretty mediocre.  Furthermore, the commentary is heavy-handed, both in the message (be nice, or bad things will happen) and execution.  (How many times do we have to have cheerful Christmas music played ironically over the very bad things happening?)  It's nice to have a movie that's not relentless holiday schmaltz for the holiday, but Krampus is mediocre horror.

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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