“Krampus” is a holiday horror farce that teeters on the uneasy middle ground between “Gremlins” and the Finnish Santa-as-Monster movie “Rare Exports.”
Not that funny, not that scary, it falls somewhere between “Oh, why not?” and “Oh, why bother?”
It’s built around a German myth about Santa’s “dark shadow,” a hoofed, horned and bearded beast who shows up to punish kids who have been naughty around the holidays. Leave it to the Germans.
Omi, the grandma played by Krista Stadler (a Teutonic dead ringer for Sissy Spacek) knows this. But she doesn’t warn grandson Max (Emjay Anthony), in either German or English. Perhaps that’s because wishing the worst on his horrible extended family seems, well, justified.
Mom (Toni Collette) and Dad (Adam Scott) are stressed, and grown-up-too-fast older sister (Stefania LaVie Owen) rolls her eyes at Max’s lingering belief in St. Nick.
But it’s not until Aunt Linda (Allison Tolman) and Uncle Howard (David Koechner, the boss/neighbor/relative everybody loves to hate) show up with their redneck knucklehead brood that Christmas goes to hell.
Elderly Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell) is the indigestible nut at the center of this fruitcake.
“Looks like Martha Stewart threw up in here…Where’s the nog? I need to get merry!”
So much for Max’s wish for a “Christmas, like it used to be.”
One torn up letter to Santa later, a blizzard begins, menacing snowmen turn up in the yard, the power goes out and the family starts to shrink, one jerk at a time.
Co-writer/director Michael Dougherty (“Trick’r Treat”) tapped into an unknown horror goldmine here. But the monsters — assorted dolls, jack-in-the-boxes and gingerbread men come to life, — are more amusing than menacing. Nothing we haven’t seen in the “Insidious” sequels.
The laughs about gun-toting rubes, sugar junkies, bullies getting their comeuppance, are scattered and rare. Most of them come from unfiltered Ferrell (of “Two and a Half Men”), playing a cliche.
“Who doesn’t make a ham for for Christmas? What are you now, a Jew?”
Collette doesn’t give us much to cling to, and Scott barely registers. Koechner’s loser-lout doesn’t have enough funny things to say or do.
It’s better in conception than in execution, with all the energy hurled at the effects and murderous Krampus attacks. The actors fail to feel the fear.
And really, what’s Christmas without the horror?
MPAA Rating:PG-13 for sequences of horror violence/terror, language and some drug material
Cast: Toni Collette, Adam Scott, David Koechner, Emjay Anthony, Conchata Ferrell.
Credits: Directed by Michael Dougherty, script by Todd Casey, Zach Shields and Michael Dougherty. A Universal release.
Running time: 1:38