A modern twist on an ancient creature from German folklore, Krampus amounts to the Christmas reaper.
I had no idea that it would be, literally, a puppet show—and one 'backed,' as it were, by Peter Jackson's Weta Workshop. Imagine, if you will, Jim Henson creating a horror movie replete with elves, wicked Jacks in Boxes, and a hoofed, horned, anthropomorphic/centaur-like beast with a bag full of badness and a bell not terribly dissimilar from the one in The Polar Express.
Conceptually, the film had tons with which to work; its potential was limitlessly intriguing.
And frankly, had it been in the hands of Guillermo del Toro and involved a creature whose face was more animated and Pan's Labyrinthy, well, we woulda had a real creeper on our hands, and a powerful morality tale to boot.
There's an early scene, well staged, that thunders and roars and bodes of something wicked this way coming. It involves a sustained, ancient howl which sufficiently spooked everyone in the theater. It was blood curdling, and I think we all got riveted, anticipating more in that vein.
But then, poof, as quickly as it came, it evaporated, and the film along with it. The flick pretty much collapsed around minute 35.
Things then became spoofy, obnoxious, and we found ourselves overrun by lots of tiny critters, meanspirited gingerbread men, masked elves, malevolent snowmen, and a weird caterpillar of sorts. Just too much; way too much; kitchen sink much.
Krampus is ultimately another perfect reminder that less is more and, at its worst, devolves into something reminiscent of 1993's Leprechaun (starring a then 24-year-old Jennifer Aniston) or 1987's House II: The Second Story, in which Arye Gross delivers one of cinema's worst lines ever: "I devised a plan: to cut off my arms and legs." Great plan, goob.
In retrospect, a more winning Krampus formula would have been [del Toro] + [a knowing grandma more akin to Poltergeist's medium (Zelda Rubinstein)] + [an antagonist more like Legend's Tim Curry] + [a more remote location like, say, a mountain home rather than suburbia].
Anything on this order woulda been, wow, kill me now. Freaky.
As it is, Krampus is a 5, maybe a 6, and that's too bad, 'cause it coulda been insanely great, and a neat interpretation of an alpine classic.
Don't get me started on how cool Krampus could have been solo, accompanied only by a team of knowing reindeer (or their equivalent) who had understood him when he howled. Mmm...goosebumps. Legion-like goosebumps.