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Unaware of a curse that is laid upon a chest of buried treasure left in the desert by a Hessian outlaw, a group of men dig up a small box containing a swath of soiled strips of cloth. Beneath them lies a strange ebony stone with odd markings, of which one recognizes as a warning in old German about a demon named Krampus. Unbelieving in the tale, they bicker about the value of the rock until from the shadows, death emerges.
Flash forward to present times in Arizona and a young family in a SUV heads to the grandparents house on Christmas Eve. The parents, Amber (Emily Lynne Aiken) and Will (Tim Sauer), along with the kids, Tommy (Bryson Holl) and older teen sister Fiona (Caroline Lassetter) are joined by Amber’s arrogant eco-snobbish brother David (Daniel Link) and his family, including son Troy (Taylor Buckley), an obnoxious deviant type with more interest in touching his cousin than joining the holiday fun.
Not long after they arrive, while the good womenfolk work in the kitchen, David, Will, Tommy and Troy head to the nearby creek to pan for gold. By the water, they meet the lovely Bonnie (Amelia Brantley), a neighbor and ex-girlfriend of state police officer Dan (Dujhan Brown) but now dating James (Jeffrey Aguilar Jr.), a rebellious horny type who is a little wary of the cop. In the shallows of the river, Tommy discovers a smooth, ebony rock and takes it back to the grandparent’s house. You can guess what it is.
Meanwhile, a couple of redneck woodsmen named Rodger (Eric Lettman) and Terry (Owen Conway) are on the hunt for Bigfoot, though disagree on the purpose of that hunt. When they hear some strange noises in the trees at night, they suspect they’ve finally come close to their elusive prize, but we all know it isn’t Sasquatch traipsing about in the underbrush. Tommy’s little rock has unleashed Krampus. And boy is he hungry.
Directed by Robert Conway, Krampus Unleashed, a sequel in name only to the Krampus: The Reckoning (2015) is by no means a Christmas movie. Sure, it’s Christmas time in the story, and there are few decorations here and there, but that’s pretty much where it all ends. Not that it matters. This is a monster movie and that’s where it puts all its energy. Gory and violent, it doesn’t waste time with nuance or subtlety. The plot, if there is any need for one, is naturally simple, with any all questions answered by the late introduction of the obligatory wise old man with some relevant background. And a gnarly mustache.
Conway directs a few good moments here, setting an appropriately dark tone, especially in the opening sequence, the movie’s best part. Later as well, he makes good use of timing and shadows, but for the most part, this is made on the cheap and while some of the gore effects are good, the singular location and near constant low-light evening shots don’t make the action all that interesting. The cast does its best, especially the kids who seem to get the point, though surprisingly, it is Brantley who comes off best, seemingly cast only for the obligatory nude scene before evolving into a more meaty contribution. She looks great but is easily the most comfortable on camera. Naked or otherwise.
But truthfully, it is Krampus himself, portrayed Travis Amery, who makes it worthwhile. In a full body costume and some impressive makeup, he has a great look, and his presence, I won’t lie, is creepy. And it’s not one of those instant creep outs either, but one that kinda sneaks up on you so that only after you’ve seen him a few times does it sink in. He’s definitely the highlight and well, as the character doesn’t speak, just slaughter victims, it’s the manner in which he does that is gruesome yet weirdly fun. You just can’t escape him.
I liked too the Roger and Terry Bigfoot subplot, even though it’s a little short. These guys are set up to be one thing, and yet the movie makes a twist of the stereotype and in the process, actually makes these guys a likable pair. They disappear far too early and had a lot of potential to be heroes but sadly don’t get the chance.
If you like low budget shlocky horror, and I admit, I kinda do, Kampus won’t set a new bar, yet it does make for some gory fun. It won’t become a new Christmas classic, however it’s a solid effort that knows its material and audience very, very well.
Movie description: Krampus Unleashed is a 2016 horror film about an ancient demon, once trapped for centuries but now free and looking to feed.
Director(s): Robert Conway
Actor(s): Amelia Brantley, Bryson Holl, Caroline Lassetter