Krampus: Origins Movie Review
Written by Kalem Klub
Released by Uncork'd Entertainment
Directed by Joseph Mbah
Written by Robert Conway
2018, 86 minutes, Not Rated
Released on November 8th, 2018
Katie Peabody as Josephine
Anna Harr as Adelia
Maria Olsen as Sister Rafus
Luke Waxman as Bram
Linda Cushma as Sister Martha
Cleon Gionet as The Krampus
Chandler Mantione as Nicholas
For a movie called Krampus: Origins – and the title alone ought to get horror buffs hyped – there's not much of either the titular holiday half-goat or its backstory. This film follows a recently widowed schoolteacher who finds an old book among the possessions of her late husband, an Allied soldier killed in action during a German raid. The tome holds the secrets of the eponymous Krampus, which comes to wreak havoc on her quiet Arizona orphanage.
It doesn't quite work as your standard pourquoi tale, unless you count the obligatory exposition. We're told, not shown – an even more egregious offense, considering that the film takes many liberties with the myth. Fairies play a big part in this origin story, but they're mentioned more in passing; the Krampus is for the most part explained away as a being of "pure evil." That the film is a period piece serves little purpose: the creature's ties to Nazi occultism – while a novel element in this reimagining of the folklore – are flimsy at best. Storywise it comes across more like a series of events that just happened to take place in Christmastime.
It has its moments, but the dialogue can at times be repetitive; characters are playing catch-up with the plot, echoing things the audience already knows. Clearly, the film could have benefited from an editing eye; it's padded with unnecessary scenes, or ones that go on for too long, that would've been better spent building tension. There are narrative turns, especially towards the tail end, that make it so that there are few real stakes on the line. It's strange, because Krampus: Origins opens strong, with American soldiers in World War I behind enemy lines. But the pacing goes glacial from there, and the way the story plods along makes for a very long hour and a half.
Its ensemble cast does a commendable job of soldiering through a clunky script, but even the likes of genre veteran Maria Olsen (Trophy Heads) as the no-nonsense Sister Rafus can't salvage it. Their lines occasionally sound as stilted as a result. That is, when you can manage to hear them: The audio quality wavers during some scenes, so conversations sound muffled. These technical glitches, coupled with the awkward delivery, does the film's production value a disservice. Though the decor is on the sparse side, care and effort clearly went into the little details that look accurate to the early 20th century – and these period-accurate costumes and set design don't go unappreciated.
We don't see our yuletide villain in action until about two-thirds into the movie, and even then the Krampus is sorely underused. Until its cameo appearance, Krampus: Origins is a little slow-going. Instead more time is dedicated to its human stand-in, who isn't nearly as menacing as the other characters make him out to be. In fact, much of the film's running time is spent seeing the cursed book (admittedly, a pretty good-looking prop) being passed around from one set of hands to another. It would have better served the film to let audiences drink in the Krampus in its true form, as the creature design is an interesting creative departure from its traditional aesthetic. This new look may not be to everyone's taste, but there's no denying that this Krampus is a commanding presence, and the special effects that bring it to life onscreen are near-seamless and well-rendered.
It's a shame, because the premise has so much potential. The lore with which the movie draws upon is rich and storied; this movie could have taken the legend any which way, but fails to capitalize on that early momentum. While Krampus: Origins is visually impressive and certainly deserves credit for its determination to serve up a fresh take on a well-loved legend, it falls short of its own ambition. At most, it could have been a bit of B-movie goodness. Instead it's a chore to sit through, largely squandering the goodwill of fans looking forward to some holiday horror.