Krampus: The Reckoning (2015) … Voodoo Dolls & Fire!!
Krampus. This dark companion of old Saint Nick seems to be getting more popular with every passing Christmas. And why not? There’s a lot of fertile material to be mined from Krampus. Santa rewards the good kids with presents while Krampus punishes the bad children by beating their asses with tree limbs and whips. Of course there is the new film by TRICK R’ TREAT director, Michael Dougherty, titled simply KRAMPUS (review to come), and there is also the 2013 indie horror film, KRAMPUS: THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL, written and directed by Jason Hull. This 2013 film was a ton of fun and gave us great history of what Krampus is and why he does what he does.
Now there is KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING–a pretty dramatic title if you ask me. This is a rather disjointed, confused film that seems to not know what it wants to do with the legend of Krampus, and ends up giving us a final product that resembles something more along the lines of a revenge flick. The story revolves around a little girl, Zoe (Amelia Haberman), who lives with some uncaring and downright mean foster parents. One night Zoe produces a small voodoo-looking Krampus doll and before you can say “chestnuts roasting,” the creature appears and kills the negligent foster parents. Now Zoe is in the hospital and Rachael (Monica Engesser) a child psychologist who works with the police on various cases, is brought in to evaluate Zoe and to see if she can tell them any details about what happened to her foster parents.
Zoe is an odd little girl who doesn’t try to get long with the other kids in the hospital, and she also seems confrontational with a few of the hospital staff. Detective O’Connor (James Ray) works with Rachael to try and get to the bottom of the mysterious deaths. But when one of the male nurses from the hospital dies in a similar manner as the foster parents, all the signs point to Zoe somehow being involved. The plot is unraveled–very slowly–until we get an ending that will have you scratching your head.
KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING has a lot of problems, but the acting wasn’t one of them. Director Robert Conway, who also wrote the film, put together a strong cast of actors who do a good job with the material. Haberman (Zoe) is a great young actress who puts in a convincing performance and plays her role well. She comes across innocent and as a victim when needed, but she is also able to convey her darker side as the film progresses. The actors who play Rachael and the detective also give strong performances as they slowly come to realize that Zoe is not the child they thought she was. Unfortunately, the main problem here is with the story. There’s a good story buried within the script, but there just wasn’t enough of a plot to fill the ninety-minute run time. The film drags in many places and as you watch it you’ll find yourself repeating, “They could have lost this scene in order to tighten up the film” over and over again. What story we have would have been perfect for a thirty-five to forty-five minute short film.
The other problem I had here–which turns out to be a huge problem–was the entire Krampus aspect. The film opens on Christmas Eve with a grandmother telling her grandchild about the legend of Krampus, but after the opening credits the Christmas setting is abandoned. We get voodoo dolls, revenge plots, and even hints of ghosts. As far as staying true to the actual legend of Krampus, KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING fails. In this film, Krampus becomes nothing more than a tool of revenge for a disturbed little girl who can summon the demon by making little voodoo dolls of the people she wants dead. I have a strong suspicion that writer-director Conway wrote a revenge-ghost story and the producers asked him if he was able to rework the story to include Krampus into it. Krampus is definitely a square peg that was trying to be pounded into a circular hole–it just didn’t fit. And Krampus’ preferred method of death? Fire. Again, nothing like the legend.
Krampus is no doubt a hot subject this Christmas season, but KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING is far from being a Christmas horror film. This is a revenge-ghost story that sneaks in the Christmas devil in order to try and sell more tickets. Add to this the dreadfully slow pace and you’ve got yourself a tedious film to try and get through. Definitely pass on this one and instead check out Jason Hull’s KRAMPUS: THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL or Michael Dougherty’s KRAMPUS.
Director: Robert Conway (& writer)
Plot: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 3 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer