There is a new tradition rising during Christmas. Where once friends would gather in front of the fire and watch the blinking lights around the tree and drink eggnog, now they’re getting together to watch their favorite Krampus film. Steeped in European lore, the counterpart to Santa who would punish those children who were wicked. The beast has slowly begun to make his way into the cinema and popular culture, and we’re hunkering down with our blankets to check out the newest entry KRAMPUS UNLEASHED from the imagination of Robert Conway.
The film’s synopsis proudly declares:
“The film sees the yuletide monster, the dark companion of Santa Claus, in town with a few days to kill. Some things are better left buried. In pursuit of a lost treasure, a group of fortune hunters mistakenly unearth an ancient demonic summoning stone that holds a terrible curse and awakens a timeless evil, the Krampus. After centuries of slumber, Krampus, the Christmas Devil, has awoken with a thirst that only blood will quench. He knows if you’ve been naughty!”
Our foray into the horned creature begins with a series of title cards that explain the backstory of an outlaws treasure and those who wish to seek it. This seems like something that might have been better integrated into dialogue, but they serve their purpose. This leads us to a group some years later that dig up said treasure and unleash the titular creature. I mean, it’s called KRAMPUS UNLEASHED, and they did it.
We’re then introduced to a normal suburban family on their way to a small gathering on Christmas Eve. Heading to her parents’ house, Amber (Emily Aitken) and her somewhat docile husband Will (Tim Sauer) drive with their kids, Tommy (Bryson Holl) and daughter Fiona (Caroline Lassetter.) While Tommy isn’t happy about spending a Christmas bullied by his cousin, this small family seems decent enough.
On the other hand, we have Amber’s brother David (Daniel Link) and his family: wife Vivian (Tori Osborn) and candidate for worst son ever Troy (Taylor Buckley.) Amber and David’s parents, Dale (Michael Harrelson) and Alice (Linda Cushma) are welcoming as the hosts of the get-together, and even being extremely tolerant of the lesser behaved half of the family.
We’re also introduced to neighbor Bonnie (Amelia Brantley) and a side plot with her overly concerned ex, local cop Dan (Dujhan Brown) and his dispatcher Fran (Juliet Serrato) who are stuck working alone on Christmas Eve. Throw in a goofy but humorous pair of locals who are searching for what they think is Bigfoot, and you have a cast of characters who, while some are unlikable, are all memorable on screen.
Special effects masters Marcus Koch and Cat Bernier never fail to deliver, as the blood flows freely, and the guts, gore, and the variation of kills (and there are many) are some of the best parts of the film.
The Krampus appears within the first couple of minutes, which is a refreshing pace to those films that want to drag out the creature reveal until the third act. Then we get some time in getting to know the main characters before it rises again. This has a tendency to slow down the film some, but once Krampus is summoned again, it’s full-on. When the family is hunted down by the ancient legend, it’s a quick and steady chase until the end.
The actors settle into their characters well. We gravitate towards those that we’re supposed to like, and the one’s that we’re not supposed to, well, we really don’t. Some may take issue with having a portion of the cast that is so unlikeable that we’re actively wishing for them to be killed, but in reality, we all have those family members at Christmas gatherings. Taylor Buckley should be commended on how well he betrays the absolutely horrible Troy, but if you imagine him as being Buzz McCallister after a few years and a significantly more terrifying Christmas, it helps.
While the low budget seems to creep in every once in awhile, writer/director Robert Conway makes the best out of it. He aptly paints a picture of a small community in the middle of nowhere, much like TREMORS’ Perfection, Nevada, complete with open desert and a group of colorful locals that are hunted down by an equally colorful monster.
Despite some earlier mentioned pacing issues, KRAMPUS UNLEASHED is a fun holiday horror film that should be enjoyed with a crowd of friends hunkered down during yuletide gatherings. Chestnut roasting is optional.
KRAMPUS UNLEASHED was released on November 1, 2016, on VOD and on DVD December 13th. Just in time for the yearly naughty or nice list!
Jason Stollery has horror films encoded into his DNA, going so far as to name his sons Michael and Fred. He can be found on Twitter @smegghed, and on his genre film blog and podcast at filmguild.net