US 2015, Universal/Legendary, 98m
In cinemas December 2015 (DVD/Blu-Ray due 2016)
When he gets fed up of his family's behaviour during another stressful Christmas gathering, young Max (Emjay Anthony) tears up his letter to Santa, unwittingly summoning St. Nicholas' darker counterpart, Krampus and his various assistants in the process...
After what feels like an eternity, Michael Dougherty finally follows up 2007's Trick 'r Treat with this enjoyably dark take on the festive season, which thankfully demonstrates that the Hollywood majors are still capable of putting out an intelligent horror flick when they put their mind to it.
Opening with a credit sequence which all too realistically depicts the nightmare that is pre-Christmas retail shopping, the scene is set for one yuletide tale which provides a more (uncomfortably) accurate picture of a family gathering than you normally see on-screen. It's no wonder Max has had enough of his relatives, and his renouncing of Santa seems quite understandable.
The creatures from the WETA studio are a delight. Making a gingerbread man look hilarious and creepy at the same time is no mean feat, but is pulled off here to great effect, whilst viewers with a fear of clowns will find sufficient material for a sleepless night or two.
Whilst Krampus doesn't quite scale the heights of Dougherty's first film (and to be fair, to expect such would be a pretty big ask), this is still top notch stuff. Yes, there is the occasional feeling that compromises have been made to secure a more lenient US rating, and the comedy and horror elements don't always gel quite as they should. However, when it does work (which is most of the time), this is a most enjoyable ride which blends elements of European folklore with the healthy festive cynicism and playfulness of Joe Dante's Gremlins.
If you're in need of a seasonal antidote to those mawkish Christmas flicks clogging up TV and cinema schedules, get yourself off to see this sharpish. Meanwhile, I very much hope the wait for Dougherty's next film won't be another eight years. When lesser, over-exposed film makers seem to churn out horror features like cheap burgers, his refreshing and idiosyncratic take on the genre is much needed.