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Front Page - Friday, December 11, 2015

A letter to Santa (not that other guy)

The Critic's Corner movie review

David Laprad

Dear Santa,

I saw the movie “Krampus” today, and I have to find out whether or not the story is true.

I know every family has its black sheep, but Krampus takes the cake. As I understand it, he’s your shadow. Whereas you reward children for being good, he punishes them for being bad. I guess a lump of coal from you isn’t sufficient. (Which reminds me – I need to mail you a separate letter explaining my behavior this year. Once you see things from my point of view, you’ll understand I wasn’t that bad.)

I don’t think anyone has ever had more Christmas spirit, or been a better boy, than Max, one of the main characters in “Krampus.” But when his in-laws show up for the holidays, they’re a horror show, and before you know it, everyone is at each other’s throat. Max is devastated, so he goes upstairs, tears up his letter to you, and tosses it out his bedroom window.

I don’t want to stray off topic, but if you have a chance to see the movie, I think you’d like these early scenes. The cast is great; they seem like a real family – like people who have lived together for years, and are defined by all of the things that come with being related and living under the same roof. A lot of the credit for how good these scenes are should go to Michael Dougherty, who directed and co-wrote “Krampus.” Perhaps he deserves something extra in his stocking this year.

Anyway, when Max throws away his letter, it summons Krampus, who looks like your worst childhood nightmares come to life. He’s a horned, anthropomorphic creature with long claws, the kind of face even his mother couldn’t love (you can put that last comment in my naughty column if you like, but it’s true), and a thick cloak draped over his massive, Quasimodo-like frame. He also drags around big chains on loan from Jacob Marley.

You know from the list of Blu-rays I want that I like scary movies, and Krampus is an impressive piece of work. At the same time, I wouldn’t want to meet him on a sunny day, let alone in the blinding blizzard that rages outside Max’s house after he arrives. (While we’re on the subject of movies, I really want the “Mad Max: Fury Road” Blu-ray. I guess I need to send you my wish list, too.)

Krampus seems to be unfamiliar with the concept of mercy. Once he and his minions, which range from evil gingerbread men to scary as hell jack-in-the-boxes, have arrived, he begins to pick off the family members. I know this is supposed to be a letter about Krampus and not a movie review, but I loved the camera work in the scene in which Max’s older sister runs through her neighborhood, and Krampus leaps from rooftop to rooftop to keep up with her. The next scene, in which Krampus paces around a truck under which the daughter hides and then leaves behind a nasty surprise, is a classic.

In fact, a lot of the movie has a strong eighties vibe, similar to “Gremlins,” “Puppetmaster,” and other films that used practical effects and blended comedy with horror. The part of me that appreciates nostalgia enjoyed this aspect of the movie.

Unfortunately, after Krampus and his minions begin their full assault, I lost interest. The action dissolves into an incomprehensible blur, presumably to hide the gore and allow the film to procure a PG-13 rating. Whatever the reason, Dougherty deserves a lump of coal for how hard it is to follow what’s happening, and for how uninteresting “Krampus” becomes until its final moments, when we learn the family’s ultimate fate.

Thank you for reading this letter. Writing about the film has taken my mind off my fears. As you know, I never stopped believing in you, and have clung tightly to the Christmas spirit, even when letting it go would have been easier. But if you’re real, then there’s the possibility that Krampus is real, too. Perhaps the song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” was originally about him: He sees you when you’re sleeping / He knows when you’re awake / He knows if you’ve been bad or good / So be good for goodness sake! (I always thought that song was a little creepy to be about you.)

In closing, please let me know if Krampus is real or not. When I hear footsteps on my roof this Christmas Eve, I want to know they’re yours.



P.S. Sorry about the gluten free cookies and organic almond milk I put out last year. I was thinking of your health. I’ll be leaving you a plate of home baked chocolate chip cookies and a cold glass of whole milk on the dining room table this year. You can leave the “Mad Max” Blu-ray there when you’re done snacking.

Two-and-a-half stars out of four. Rated PG-13 for violence, terror, language, and drug material.

David Laprad is the assistant editor of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact him at dlaprad@hamiltoncountyherald.com.