These two horror movies are both directed by the upcoming Michael Dougherty, a writer/director who is making a name for himself for successful, holiday-themed horror films.
Krampus, a surprise holiday hit of 2015. The premise of the movie is simple: a family is holed up in a house, while they fight off consecutive waves of Christmas demons. I don’t think it is good. At least, not as good as many reviewers have made it out to be. In general, it is an entertaining film, but much too derivative. Too much is blatantly copied from other movies. Basically, it is a horror version of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and I’m not saying this because of the setup with a large family, but many small details were copied as well: the cranky aunt, the Christmas tree on fire, the shots of little calendar doors opening, the hillbilly cousin… etcetera.
Before going on with this line of critique, I wonder if Dougherty did this on purpose. That it is “part of the joke.” I am still not sure of it. His earlier movie Trick ‘r Treat did the same thing (see underneath). Nevertheless, the film is a lot of fun too. The opening scene is just great, and the crazy family characters have funny interactions, and they aren’t as dumb as many other horror characters. When the monsters attack, you’ll be reminded of Chucky in the Child’s Play films and Gremlins, but the scariness is generally well done by not showing too much, and a good buildup of tension.
Towards the end, the strong note on which the film began, evaporates. The struggles with the demons go on for too long. The buildup is much more fun than the climax, and the Krampus monster and the Elves don’t look scary from up close. I just can’t shake the impression that these are just actors with masks that they bought at the store, and it just takes me out of the movie and deflates all the tension. Overall, I’ve been very negative but Krampus is an entertaining romp.
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Trick ‘r Treat is a short film of only 82 minutes, and it is not really a single story but more like an anthology of Halloween’s greatest hits. We follow four short storylines that all end badly, and all are loosely tied together by happening in the same village. So, we have the story of a young couple who are not respecting Halloween traditions and meet a horrible end. We have a group of teenagers who try to scare each other and it all goes badly. We have a group of young pretty women who are more than they appear, and there is the story of an old grumpy man who is being haunted by a Halloween spirit.
These are all either very cliché stories, or you could see them as an homage to classical horror movies. There is no clear dividing line here between homage and cliché, and at this point in cinematic history it has all become the same. Modern horror is very self-conscious and the people who watch these movies also know exactly what to expect, and want it too. My guess is that Dougherty chose to add multiple storylines as an anthology because he knew exactly how cliché it all is, so the film becomes a sort of summary of what Halloween means for the horror genre.
The film was released straight to video, bypassing the theatre, but became a cult hit and is now considered one of the best horror movies of the last few years. A central character, Sam the Halloween demon, has now become an object of merchandise. He appears in all four stories, and the fourth story is his real show and also the climax of the film. The film is all right, but it’s hardly a masterpiece. Visually, it is very engrossing with a great festive spirit and nice autumn images of lights in the pumpkins and dark woods and so on. The characters only exist to push the plots forwards and are sometimes a bit odd. In summary, it has a good atmosphere but is occasionally a bit silly.
What did you think of these movies? Are there other ones like this that I should see?