Krampus is by a considerable distance the best of this week's Christmas movies – although that isn't saying much. The comedy-horror film has a bravura opening: a stampede of feral shoppers shown in slow motion rushing into a department store and fighting viciously over consumer goods as the music reminds us with heavy irony that it is "the most wonderful time of the year".
The film starts in familiar groove as yet another drama about families forced together at Christmas who can't stand one another. It then morphs into a full-blown and very witty horror film with a strong flavour of Joe Dante's Gremlins.
Unhappy little Max Engel (Anthony) has inadvertently summoned the "Krampus" – a horned demon with terrible teeth and a very long tongue who preys on disobedient kids and their bickering parents. The electricity goes out, the snowstorm intensifies, and the family finds itself under siege from Krampus and his Satanic little helpers. These include demonic, Bride of Chucky-like toys and man-eating cookies. Director Dougherty uses deafening music and sound editing to intensify the sense of dread.
Some of the viciousness here comes as a surprise. The whimsical comedy elements and occasional moments of animation sit uncomfortably next to the moments of bloodletting. Krampus has a 15 certificate, which may scare away the family audience at which the film is partly targeted, but this is a Christmas film with an enjoyably barbed edge.
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