Zoe, a strange child, has a not so imaginary friend Krampus, who is the dark companion of St. Nicholas.
Typing Krampus into IMDB reveals at least 10 feature length films and short focussed around the Austro-Bavarian, horned anti-Claus. (IMDB also brings up Kramer vs Kramer which may have been down to a mistype of my own making) Admittedly, it is hard to deny the pull of a malevolent being dolling out punishments to wayward lil’ hoodlums at the most festive time of the year. It’s that dichotomy between the happiest time of the year, and having your face ripped off by reindeer. Begone mistletoe and wine, hello violence and pain. Why should Halloween have all the fun when it comes to horror?
Krampus: The Reckoning, directed by Robert Conway (The Encounter), has a distinct lack of festive cheer. This is mainly due to the numerous bodies turning up boiled alive like so many lobsters in a bistro. The connection between the cadavers appears to be moody foster child Zoe (Amelia Haberman), who has been bounced around from one care home to the next. A number of the people found dead seem to know Zoe in some small capacity. Zoe has a doll called Krampus, who she talks to.
Are you connecting the dots, dear reader? Are your little grey cells working feverishly to solve the case of The Mysterious Young Girl Who Leaves a Trail of Overly Black and Burnt Corpses Behind Her And Has An Imaginary Friend Called Krampus? Yes? Then you’re quicker than child psychologist Dr Rachel Stewart (Monica Engesser) who takes on Zoe’s case after her foster parents are burnt alive like all the others she’s had.
Okay, this is a horror movie and it’s a given that protagonists are allowed to be a bit slow on the uptake. If they weren’t, then most would be five minutes long and end with the busty cheerleader clearly stating, ‘Brad, we are not having sex in that abandoned graveyard. Take me home, so we can Netflix and chill.’ However, when Dr Stewart uncovers evidence that Zoe might not even be mortal, what does she do? Well, she certainly doesn’t try to set fire to the child, bury the charred corpse, throw salt on the ground so nothing will ever grow there again, and leave town like any normal person would. No, she goes ‘hmmm’ and talks to her police friend about how terribly confusing it all is. It’s just so frustrating, you’ll be screaming at the screen.
Equally frustrating is the overall presentation. At times, the film does look pretty slick for what is obviously a horror film on the low end of the budget spectrum. But when the Krampus reveals itself – not in that way, you dirty boy – it’s hard not to break out into fits of giggles. Jerkily moving across the screen like an 8 bit end boss, Jurassic Shark is profoundly more effective than this. Coupled with some shoddy acting from all avenues and there’s very little to keep Krampus: The Reckoning off the naughty list. As festive horror movies go, you’d do well to return to sender.
And there’s that niggling feeling that this was never a festive horror anyway. Despite a pretence at Christmas, this has all the hallmarks of a script that was floating around about a child and her demon care taker. Like The Asylum, some bright spark will have seen the trailer for the Adam Scott and Toni Collette Krampus and thought, ‘Nice name, we’ll take it.’
No, if you want your halls decked with guts and garters, and your holiday spirit trampled under foot, there are much better films out there to chill you to you bones, or leaving you feeling a bit giddy and bloodthirsty. I recommend Silent Night, Deadly Night or perhaps even, Santa Claus: The Movie. But not Krampus: The Reckoning. Never Krampus: The Reckoning. You may end up wishing you got a piece of coal in your stocking instead.