Looking back at my original review of Krampus, it's amazing how little has actually changed in my opinion. I no longer dread the movie starting, I'm now filled with excitement. However, most of my major thoughts are still in my original review. I still think the movie is, in an odd way, fully a Christmas film. I also still think the visuals are stunning.
That said, I've now watched the film with a friend who has far more extensively studied folklore. The experience was interesting, because while she enjoyed the movie, she found herself horrified by how much the source material had been altered. She felt that this movie heavily conflates the legend of Krampus with the Wild Hunt. This is an interesting perspective, and I can certainly see her point, however I feel that these are legends that fit together far better than one would expect.
I still love the family. They're all fundamentally good people, who are driven apart by wildly different values. Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell) is a brutally-honest alcoholic who drives the rest of the family crazy with her lack of tact. Uncle Howard (David Koechner) and his brother-in-law Tom (Adam Scott) have a passive-aggressive relationship based on their wildly different values. Their wives, Linda (Allison Tolman) and Sarah (Toni Collette) are the very picture of sibling rivalry, constantly trying to be polite, while bitterness from years past keeps bubbling to the surface.
Our main character, Max (Emjay Anthony) finds himself the target of bullying from his cousins Stevie and Jordan (Lolo Owen and Queenie Samuel). The whole family relationship is captured in a microcosm there: Max, being an only child, has no understanding of his cousins' teasing as anything other than cruelty. The two of them seem to see Max as a surrogate sibling who they can play their usual games with.
During all of this hostility, Max's sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) and his German Grandmother Omi (Beth Engel) try to keep the peace. His remaining cousin, Howie Jr. (Maverick Flack) is kind of just there...Also, there's a baby (Sage Hunefeld).
It's this family rivalry that eventually leads Max to tear up his letter to Santa, and throw it out the window. With that, Krampus comes, and they begin to get picked off. The action scenes are, for the most part, awesome, and the visuals remain stunning in their use of practical effects. Every character gets at least something interesting to do, and kudos to them for finally making Krampus deal with the situation personally, after his minions have been defeated.
The big reveal of the movie is that Omi had been visited by Krampus previously as a child. I'm curious if this means that Krampus has a particular interest in Max's bloodline, or if it was just an amazing coincidence. The flashback, told as either CGI or stop-motion (I'm still not sure) is stunning, mixing Rankin/Bass with shadow imagery that reminds me of the ‘Tale of the Three Brothers’ from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.
The plan, apparently, was to leave Max behind as a reminder to keep the Christmas spirit, as Krampus took all the others to the Underworld. However, Max eventually begs Krampus to take him instead, and the entire family appears to wake up in Max's home on Christmas Day, with their spirit newly restored. The final shot of the movie makes it ambiguous if Krampus is still watching them, or if they're now trapped in a snow globe, but I lean towards the former interpretation.
This movie is a new classic. It should be watched every Christmas with the same regularity as It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. Krampus is a great character, intimidating and mysterious, but also complex. I really hope he gets to meet Sam someday.