O scary night

With subversive humor that recalls Tim Burton and Joe Dante, Krampus can lay legitimate claim to being this generation’s Gremlins, which Dante directed in 1984. Yet it doesn’t skimp on the scares or the special effects, and an upscale cast of actors – all in on the joke – lends class to this imaginative diversion.

Director Michael Daugherty, who shares screenwriting credit with Todd Casey and Zach Shields, gleefully sends up those inevitable yuletide comedies (like the recent Love the Coopers) wherein a typically dysfunctional family’s holiday reunion goes from slapstick to schmaltz in utterly predictable fashion.

Toni Collette, Adam Scott, Conchata Ferrell, Allison Tolman (of TV’s “Fargo”) and David Koechner (who always adds a little something) are members of the bickering clan whose Christmas dinner goes very wrong when beleaguered youngster Max (Emjay Anthony) summons the title terror, a Christmas boogeyman and evil doppelganger of Santa Claus – an “Anti-Claus,” if you will – of European folklore.

The Krampus, whose fearsome visage is judiciously revealed throughout the film, doesn’t care who’s been naughty or nice; he’ll take you all the same. Bells are certainly ringing, but more with fear than cheer.

Daugherty sustains a neat balance between send-up and straight shocker, with some good jolts and some big laughs, too. Krampus isn’t particularly gory – all the better to maintain the box-office-friendlier PG-13 rating (which it stretches nonetheless) – but may be rather intense for younger holiday audiences.