Film scores

Soundtrack review: Krampus (Douglas Pipes – 2015)

In German speaking Alpine folklore, “Krampus” is a horned, anthropomorphic figure who punishes children during the Christmas season who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards well-behaved ones with gifts. There are parades and there’s also a festival in most Alpine towns dedicated to him. The plot of the movie says that a boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon to his family home. This is not your usual Christmas release but I’m surely going to watch it. The score was written by Douglas Pipes and scores to horror comedies like this one are usually a lot of fun.

The bells of the opening cue cleverly set the Christmas mood. “A cold wind” is nothing more than a half a minute insert but it announces the setting of the score as if it were the gong before a theater play. The bell sounds and the renditions of well-known Christmas classic songs scattered throughout this album never let us forget the season. I love how some of the Xmas themes are twisted and introduced in scary cues.

But enough joy and sweetness. “The wish” brings the shadow over the world of this score with an ominous choral motif that gives me chills and makes me very curious about what happens next. The musical story captivates me, even if I’ve heard it before. I think my favorite score for a dark Christmas story is Alan Silvestri’s “A Christmas Carol” and the shadows from “Krampus” remind me of that one. “Bells, bones and chains” satisfies my need for a tense and creepy melody, complete with the howling of the wind and the screeching strings that remind me of Michael Giacchino’s way of ending suspense cues on a high. That string motif is not the only thing that reminds me of Giacchino.I had a chuckle at cue titles like “Unholy night” or “Season’s eatings”.

Sometimes the suspense in the music is left unfinished and I have to take it for what it is. I keep waiting for an explosion of fantasy music but I can’t complain about the composer’s choices as long as the music sounds so good. I love the surprise in “Christmas Angels” which is about as far from Angelic as a cue can get. Moments like this make the score shine. That cue is also the turning point of “Krampus” towards horror. The music creates a special imagery in my mind and I actually feel scared even if I’m not listening to it alone in the dark. This makes “The snow beast” one of my favorite horror cues of the year.

I loved “Krampus”. It kept me on my toes a lot of times while it charmed me in other moments. The suspense was thick and palpable while the scary moments were actually, well, scary. This musical horror tale was like a trip to a very realistic theme park and I enjoyed it a lot.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 49 / 79

Album excellence: 62%

Highlights:

The Wish

Bells, Bones, And Chains

Christmas Angels

The Snow Beast

Season’s Eatings

Omi’s Story

All Through The House

Creatures Are Stirring

Elfen

Elegy

Sacrifice

The Bell

End Credits

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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