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‘Krampus’ Reviews: Do Critics Love or Loathe Santa’s Evil Helper?

The Christmas horror comedy starring Adam Scott and Toni Collette opens this Friday

Krampus might be visiting some film critics this Christmas.

Universal and Legendary’s “Krampus” opened Friday to mixed reviews, but currently has a “fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes with 63 percent of critics counted writing favorably about it. Some say it’s “a dark delight,” while others slam the performance of star Adam Scott and Toni Collette, along with the jarring cinematography that makes the film hard to follow.

TheWrap’s film critic Robert Abele was among the critics who weren’t impressed. “The rest of ‘Krampus,’ however, which turns into the PG-13 version of a body count exercise, falls into the trap a lot of these movies do: The siege mentality takes over, characterization goes away, noises and screams dominate, and the photography and editing become unnecessarily jittery and jagged. It’s one more loud war movie.”

“Krampus,” based on an old European folk tale, follows a dysfunctional family targeted by the eponymous demon who punishes children for misbehaving.

Read a sampling of the mixed reviews below.

Tom Huddleston, Time Out:

“The film suffers from serious overkill: too many obnoxious relatives, too many evil critters crawling out of the woodwork and too many weak gags at the expense of fat kids and foul-mouthed old ladies. Trust us, you’d be better off staying at home with a roaring fire and a nice family favourite.”

Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly:

“If you love ‘Gremlins’ but don’t feel like rewatching ‘Gremlins,’ consider ‘Krampus’ a worthwhile diet caffeine-free alternative.”

Sara Stewart, New York Post:

“More problematic is the human element: This very capable cast has absolutely no wit to work with in a screenplay co-written by Dougherty. ‘It looks like Martha Stewart threw up in here,’ Max’s boozy aunt (Ferrell) observes of the house décor — and that’s about as funny as it gets.”

Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International:

“Krampus, when he eventually shows his cards, is a dark delight, but this film has more to offer than a single monster — Dougherty has a few puppet side-shows, including elves, a clown which comes right out of ‘Poltergeists’ closet and some stuffed animals which are the satanic mirror images of our ‘Toy Story’ friends.”

Ed Gonzales, Slant Magazine:

“The film’s impatient cutting never really allows the audience to take in the old-fashioned detail with which some of ‘Krampus’s’ cronies have been rendered. Regardless, these scenes still feel discordant alongside others–painted in ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’-style CGI brushstrokes–depicting the gingerbread men attacking Howard (David Koechner) in Sarah and Tom’s kitchen with a nail gun. This mess of discordant styles is matched by a message not so much mixed as it is craven, of Max being punished not for being bad, but for, to paraphrase one of Omi’s warnings, losing hope and letting the Christmas spirit die.”

Benjamin Lee, The Guardian:

“It’s nowhere near as good as many of the films it so wants to be positioned next to, but it’s nasty enough to leave an impression.”

Maitland McDonagh, Film Journal International:

“It’s not a weird masterpiece like the Finnish ‘Rare Exports’ (2010), the bad Santa movie to beat all bad Santa movies, but ‘Krampus’ nails the setup and delivers a satisfying second act that both makes sense and throws some nice curves-there’s a heavy dollop of ‘Gremlins’ in its DNA.”

Nick Schager, IndieWire:

“After remaining hidden for the tale’s first two-thirds, Krampus turns out to be a formidable ‘shadow’ of St. Nick, a hunched-back, cloven-hoofed beast with long fingernails, a longer tongue, and even longer horns. No matter his impressive appearance, however, he’s a rather ho-hum villain whose negligible personality and flair — most of his naughty deeds are carried out by shrieking elves — means that even the climactic pay-offs fall flat. Worse still, a postscript sequence ends things on such a perfectly creepy note that it leaves one imagining, and craving, the far more amusing and terrifying saga that ‘Krampus’ could have been. [C+]”

Peter Sobczynski, RogerEbert.com:

“In the grand scheme of holiday-related films of note, ‘Krampus’ is neither as creepy as ‘Love The Coopers; nor as sadistic as ‘Home Alone’ and it feels as if it is maybe one or two rewrites away from being the alternative classic that it clearly wants to be. It still has its charms–certainly more than one might expect based on Universal’s decision to release it without any advance press screenings–and just enough things going for it to warrant a mild recommendation. Besides, do you think I want to get on the bad side of Krampus by panning his movie? I may be naughty but I am not stupid.”

Scott Mendelson, Forbes:

“A film like ‘Krampus’ is the most frustrating sort of miss, because on the surface it seems to be doing everything right. The film features a plethora of good actors (among them Toni Collette, Adam ScottDavid Koechner, and Allison Tolman), a strong sense of mood, thoughtful character set-up, and a foreboding sense of menace. But in the end it doesn’t work, for one huge reason that I’ll have to dance around for the sake of avoiding spoilers. It’s not the disaster that may be implied by the lack of pre-release reviews or the last minute embargo, but is it a new holiday classic, either. Then again, I didn’t like ‘Trick ‘r Treat,’ so what do I know?”