It might be the end of April but thanks to Legendary and Universal Pictures you will soon feel the chill of the winter weather…as well as the chill of fear when Krampus is unleashed on Blu-Ray on 04/26.
Now in all honesty when I first saw Michael Dougherty’s exceptional Halloween themed Trick ‘r Treat I felt I had found a kindred spirit, his love of that Holiday season and his rather trickster spirit is pretty evident in that 2007 film. That same playful side of Dougherty is also evident in Krampus as you can plainly see from his “Director’s Cut” of the trailer.
When I was offered the chance to review Krampus I was over the moon. For one I had seen the film four times in the theater when it was released back in December of 2015 and was more than ready to revisit the Engel family and their in-laws as the supernatural presence of the Krampus arrives to teach them an important lesson about the Holidays.
Make no mistake about Krampus – it is in fact a WONDERFUL Holiday film, Dougherty understands that and doesn’t diminish the message by making this a straight horror offering, he has delivered a movie that falls somewhere between National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Gremlins. Dougherty proudly shows his love of the Holiday and wisely takes his time letting us get to know and care about the Engels before the terror begins, a modern family headed by Tom (Adam Scott) and his stressed out Wife Sarah (Toni Collette who I think totally steals the show), their teenage Daughter Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) and their younger Son, Max (Emjay Anthony).
The elements that remind me of Christmas Vacation in Krampus come into play when Sarah’s Sister Linda (Allison Tolman) and her comically nightmarish Family arrive to spend the Holiday season with the Engles. You have her gruff Husband, Howard (played by Anchorman’s David Koechner), his socially inept Son Howie Jr. (Maverick Flack), his tomboy pair of Daughters Jordan (Queenie Samuel) and Stevie (Lolo Owen – the real life Sister of Stefania!) and their infant Baby Chrissy (Sage Hunefield)…oh and they’ve also managed to bring along Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell) who is artless in her opinions and the sharing of them. Dougherty smartly takes his time with these members of the Family as well…at first making them stock characters and then slowly step by step we learn they aren’t the hellions we believed them to be originally, but understandable and quite sympathetic.
I want to shine the spotlight on one other member of the Engels clan and that is Tom’s Mother, Omi (German for Grandmother) who is played by Krista Stadler and doesn’t speak a word of English…mostly. She wonderfully acts as the soul of the film, her personal connection to the Krampus is one of most moving moments in the film…and also the most visually stunning as it’s totally presented in stop-motion like you might expect to see from those classic Rankin and Bass Holiday specials…although with a darker outcome. Naturally.
The main story of Krampus is what happens when Hope is lost as is demonstrated when Max, who cares very much for the spirit of the Holiday and even harbors hope that Santa is more than a marketing ploy angrily renounces not only his beliefs but his love for his entire Family after a disastrous dinner encounter with his bullying Cousins. Every single bit of horror that descends upon the gathered group falls on Max’s head from his selfish if understandable dark wish, as it is his hardening of his heart that calls down the harsh lessons of “…the shadow of Saint Nicholas”.
The real question is will anyone be left alive to learn from the Krampus’ deadly lessons?
While there are plenty of moments of dread and fright mixed in with the humor there isn’t much in the way of bloodshed, which is fine, it’s not like it detracts from any of the Krampus’ dastardly minions as they lay waste to the Engels house…and Family members. Thankfully the filmmakers decided to go the practical route with the monsters which as a fan of horror movies I appreciate although I should mention they skillfully use WETA’s digital effects to add punch and menace where needed.
The Blu-Ray and DVD for Krampus contains some nice special features:
The Naughty Ones: Meet The Cast – At the center of this crazed story, filled with horrifying creatures and massive set pieces, are some of the funniest and most talented actors working today. This piece shines a light on the cast of Krampus as they share their experiences making this movie.
Galleries – Still Images from the set
Feature Commentary With Director/Co-Writer Michael Dougherty and Co-Writers Todd Casey & Zach Shields
The Blu-Ray also contains these exclusive special features:
Krampus and His Minions – In this exclusive feature see how Krampus and his twisted underlings gave the visual-effects superstars at Peter Jackson’s New Zealand-based Weta Workshop some creative and technical challenges. Viewers will have an insider look at how Krampus and his evil minions were created and executed.
Practical Danger – Stunt Coordinator Rodney Cook walks viewers through how the film’s thrilling stunts were done live on set while facing challenges with the creatures, children and set design.
Inside the Snowglobe: Production Design – Filming almost entirely on sound stages in the middle of summer in New Zealand, the art department and special effects team had to pull out all of their tricks to create sets that were realistic, ready for stunts and practical effects, all while creating the look of a winter wonderland.
Behind the Scenes at Weta Workshop: Krampus – Go behind-the-scenes at the world famous Weta Workshop to see how they brought the amazing Krampus creatures to life.
Dougherty’s Vision – In this featurette Director Michael Dougherty, along with the film’s cast and crew, reveal how his approach informed the tone, pacing, humor and performances of Krampus.
Krampus is available right this minute digitially on many platforms or you can wait until Tuesday so that you can enjoy all of those special features on Blu-Ray!
Just remember to keep your Holiday Spirit…or you too might be visited by the Krampus!