Never loses its edge and is not afraid to kill off anyone
Like he had for thousands of years, Krampus came not to reward, but to punish. Not to give, but to takeKrampus, in Austro-Bavarian legend, is a demon that comes before Christmas to punish naughty children. The titular character is summoned by Max, a disillusioned child who wants nothing more than a happy Christmas for his family, but when that is ruined by the appearance of his unruly and uncouth cousins he loses his hope and with it brings about ruin. Michael Dougherty directs with a very sure hand, he perfectly captures the passive aggressive nature between the family’s bickering and brings out the natural comedy in such situations. But with the introduction of the demon, things take a very dark turn and the film should be lauded for the audacity and liberty it takes with the lives of the characters and its very sour ending.I was reminded of Joe Dante’s 2009 The Hole, in its early execution, but where that film loses all of its tension once the ideas are revealed, by contrast Krampus actually turns darker. The creature and production design is second to none (thanks to Weta Workshop) with most being practical effects which gives far more weight to the monsters. The acting is uniformly excellent and all the characters behave in a very ‘normal’ way, i.e. you never question their motives pulling you out of the picture. The premise, supernatural as it is, holds water even under scrutiny but what makes it so thrilling is that the film plays it straight, never loses its edge and isn't afraid to kill off anyone – including children. And it’s ending opens up a whole new bag of horror!
Picture QualityThe disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.39:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region free. Recorded digitally the image on show is sharp, clean and bright. Detail is pin sharp throughout with staples like skin texture and clothing weaves being easily discernible; while the food on the Christmas table looks good enough to eat (not that you’d want to!) Tree decorations are distinguished from the real tree, while wood grain and Christmas stockings are well defined. The snow does tend to look a little bit fake though.
The image on show is sharp, clean and bright.
Colours are bright and strong, with the green and reds being particularly well realised, never showing any signs of wash or bleed. Contrast and brightness are set to give wonderfully strong blacks, just what this horror needs, it reveals definite shadow detail, when needing to, but can also be impenetrable; check out the toy attack in the attic. White is just as clean and even in the depths of snow there is no clipping. Digitally there are no compression issues, edge enhancement or anything else. The original print is in pristine condition and being digital exhibits no issues either.
Sound QualityThe English DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track is just as robust as the picture, being defined and well detailed. Dialogue is clear, precise sounds very natural, given directionality when needed but is mostly confined to the frontal array. The score makes good use of the surround speakers to place you in the centre of the action. But it is with the effects where the track really comes alive. Whether it is the ever prevailing wind that permeates through the walls or the attack on the house by Krampus and his demons where the effects (such as thumping, footsteps, screaming, chattering etc.) emanate from all around the room, and when it comes to the roof, from above; really excellent placing of the sounds to really shred your nerves. Bass is tight and restrained and adds some wallop to the low end; LF effects are rich, powerful and numerous; just what you want from a horror. The track is immensely rewarding, being both eerie and bombastic when needed.
ExtrasAudio Commentary – Director and co-writer Michael Dougherty with co-writers Todd Casey and Zach Shields discuss the themes of the film, how it came about, casting, anecdotal stories from on set, the myth, working with Weta etc. in an engaging and enthusiastic chat, a little overlap with below, but light-hearted enough to be enjoyable.
Alternate Ending – Missing the final few chilling seconds that really help to make the film.
Deleted/Extended scenes – Fourteen in total running from a few seconds to a couple of minutes; none really add much to the proceedings, but equally wouldn’t really ruin the runtime either.
Gag Reel – Five minutes of messing around on set, fluffed lines and gaffs.
Krampus Comes Alive! – Is a making of featurette split into five segments which can be watched all together (for a runtime of 30 minutes) or individually; titles are: Dougherty's Vision, The Naughty Ones: Meet the Cast, Krampus and His Minions, Practical Danger, Inside the Snow Globe: Production Design.
Behind the Scenes at Weta Workshop: Krampus – Ten minute feature focusing on the practical effects and costumes.
Galleries – Five galleries of photos
Blu-ray VerdictKrampus as a film shouldn't exist; it is a Christmas themed PG-13 (15 in UK) horror aimed squarely at the youth market (a ‘gateway’ horror if you will) and such films don’t get made any more (think of Gremlins and you get the idea). The story of a kid who loses his Christmas spirit and in doing so summons the ‘Anti-Claus’, the Shadow of St. Nick, Krampus, a Christmas demon who preys not only on his own family, but the entire neighbourhood is pretty dark, and in the hands director Michael Dougherty becomes a near-perfect movie. In that everything that happens has a purpose, characters behave naturally, the idea is teriffic and is executed perfectly, the sound, creature and production design are flawless and the whole thing is played perfectly straight and crucially does not wimp out at the end; i.e. once the creature is revealed and the climax is in sight no tension is lost and in fact ends on a perfectly executed sour note. Outstanding!
See it, you won’t be disappointed!As a Blu-ray package, the set from Universal is very good; the picture is clean, bright, very well detailed with excellent blacks, while the sound design is reference all the way, with effects and score placing you in the centre of the action. The extras package is pretty good with making of features and a commentary. However, it is the film that should sell the disc, see it, you won’t be disappointed.
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