It’s looking like its gonna be a Krampus Christmas!! Previously I reviewed the horror short, NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS, a family-friendly supernatural short film. But in Jason Hull’s KRAMPUS: THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL, we lose the kid-friendly angle and delve into some pretty dark territory as we get another view of this classic Christmas demon.
The film starts in 1983 with the Krampus throwing a burlap sack with a child in it into a frozen lake. The little kid is Jeremy (Jared Sidun) and we see his parents at home worried about him “ending up like the others.” We skip to the present and find that little Jeremy survived his ordeal with the Krampus and has grown up (played by A.J. Leslie) to be a police detective, obsessed with what happened to him all those years ago. Jeremy knows what kidnapped and attempted to kill him wasn’t human but he doesn’t make it a habit of telling that to everyone he meets. Every year around the holiday season Jeremy gets a little agitated and notices that the amount of missing and murdered children goes up exponentially. He’s also taken it upon himself to head up the investigation into these cases. Jeremy convinces Captain Farabee (Richard Goteri) that kids are going to keep disappearing and turning up dead unless they put some serious man hours into the case. So Jeremy’s cop buddies Bob (Jay Dobyns) and John (Jeremy Sidun) are assigned to the case and the three vow to hunt down and either bring into custody or kill who or whatever is responsible for the disappearance of all those kids.
I gotta give a lot of credit to writer-director Jason Hull for going the serious route here. Nothing is played over the top and the story is written in such a way that makes all this seem quite plausible. The main characters are written well, as we get good insight into the motives behind all of Jeremy’s actions. Some of the other secondary characters are simply in it to be Krampus fodder and aren’t developed at all. But that’s okay … every good horror film needs victims!! The story also flows along nicely as the three detectives get an early jump on Krampus and track him down to his lair. Things don’t go well for the detectives on their first meeting and although they now know where to find the Krampus, they aren’t any closer to taking him down.
What I also enjoyed in KRAMPUS: THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL is something we didn’t get in NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS … dark material. Hull isn’t afraid to explore the darker side of the Krampus legend. Krampus is essentially the Yin to Santa’s Yang. Santa rewards the good kids and Krampus punishes the bad kids. Hull doesn’t pull any punches as we see kids being kidnapped and killed, and we even get a rather chilling image of Santa as Krampus’ handler who gives him the list of the naughty kids to focus on. This, though, is one area I would’ve liked to have seen in a little more detail. Hull could have gone into Krampus’ methodology for determining and his criteria for what a “naughty” kid is. There seems to be no hierarchy of ‘naughtiness,’ but then when Santa shows up he tells Krampus to focus on the really naughty kids. At the top of the list is none other than Jeremy’s teenage daughter, Heather (Samantha Hoepfl). She makes the top of Krampus’ list and becomes it’s sole focus which only adds to the tension between it and Jeremy.
Hull also makes great use out of the Northwestern Pennsylvania landscape. KRAMPUS was filmed in Erie, PA and Hull makes the most out of the snowy, cold location. When Jeremy, Bob, and John are tracking down Krampus, the landscape becomes just as much an adversary as Krampus is. The deep snow and bitter cold make their journey all the more harrowing and really adds to the tension.
The acting is pretty solid all around with a few instances of overacting. There’s also a subplot where a violent criminal Jeremy put in jail has been released on a technicality. The criminal, Brian Hatt, is played by genre favorite Bill Oberst Jr. Oberst brings such an intensity to his character that he had me double checking the locks on my front and back doors before I went to bed that night!! Oberst only shows up in the final act but easily steals the show with his performance.
Overall KRAMPUS: THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL is a fun and welcome addition to my growing list of Holiday Horror Films. Aside from some minor acting problems there’s little bad to say about this one. There was a scene in the local bar where the other cops gang up on and beat the shit out of Jeremy that didn’t work for me. I just didn’t buy the motivation for a vicious attack on a fellow officer. Another problem I had was a minor scripting issue. We’re led to believe that Heather, Jeremy’s daughter, is the naughtiest kid in town. So naughty, in fact, that Santa doesn’t want Krampus focusing on any other kids besides Heather. It’s also implied that Heather has some serious psychological issues. But we never get any other details or examples of Heather’s “naughtiness.” We really only see Heather in the final act after Oberst’s Brian Hatt shows up at Jeremy’s house with a few cronies. We see what Heather is capable of but it’s never clear exactly how messed up (i.e., naughty) she really is.
These are all minor issues I have with this film. I had a really fun time with KRAMPUS: THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL and recommend it to everyone who’s looking for a fun, dark, and at times gory Holiday Horror treat.
Director: Jason Hull (& writer, executive producer, editor, & cinematographer)
Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer