Review: Krampus: The Christmas Devil (dir. Jason Hull, 2013)

Krampus the Christmas Devil

Krampus the Christmas Devil
USA, 2013
Director/Writer: Jason Hull

Review by N Emmett.

Krampus – the devil who, in Austrian folklore, punishes naughty children at Christmas – has been something of an international star lately. He has starred in his very own comic series from Image, and will be getting the Hollywood treatment later this year. Alas, his recent fortunes are sullied somewhat by his appearance in this clunker.

Let’s get this over with. Krampus: The Christmas Devil is a badly-made film. It is seriously amateurish in just about every regard. The plot is rudimentary, the direction is home-video level and the editing is painfully erratic. Even the most basic shots are poorly thought-out, with clumsy composition and distracting business at the sides of the frame. The film is loaded with sound editing anomalies: screams that are obviously the same two samples being looped, background noise abruptly cutting out, volume changing within the same scene, and the occasional mysterious buzzing.

As for the acting, well, perhaps we should not be too quick to pass judgment – is hard to imagine even the finest thespian bringing this material to life.

The obvious comparison point here is with the cheerfully low-fi films of Troma. But the key difference is that a Troma film will at least kramp1contain a reasonable amount of gags. Krampus falls totally flat in the humour department.

Was it even meant to be a comedy? Well, the premise certainly indicates that the film is not meant to be taken seriously. When the gangster-like Santa Claus appears on the scene, showing his naughty list to Krampus as he orders hits on misbehaving children, we are clearly in spoofsville.

But yet, the majority of the film is played as an entirely straight (if ineptly executed) cop drama. All the hackneyed plot beats are here: the hero lives in the shadow of his father; he collapses into guilt after his partners are killed; he runs into trouble with his superior. None of this works as parody because it does not add any kind of twist to its material; the film seems to be running on the kramp2assumption that being badly-made is a good enough joke to sustain its running time.

Most bizarrely of all, the film eventually drops the Santa/Krampus plot thread – its entire raison d’être – and focuses on two human murderers. The climax sees one of the killers mounting a home invasion and menacing a woman bound to a chair; once again, there is no indication that this is meant as a parody. The villain makes a few wisecracks, but as these establish his sleazy and sadistic persona, the dialogue could just as easily have come from a straight thriller.

Exactly what went on in the film’s writing process is a complete mystery. It is almost as though a crude cop movie had a comedy subplot about Father Christmas tacked on at the last minute.kramp3

As a short video on YouTube this might have been mildly amusing, but there was simply no way it could ever work as a feature film.

And the most bewildering thing of all?

Writer/director Jason Hall is actually working on a sequel.

Disclosure: This review is based on a free screener copy supplied by High Fliers.