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Stars: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Emjay Anthony, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Krista Stadler, Stefania LaVie Owen

Director: Michael Dougherty

Chuckles and chills mix happily throughout in this impressively-designed and stylishly-made dark fantasy that takes that seasonal standard National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and turns it into a horror film.

Unlike the Griswolds, however, the Engels are a family grown apart - mom (Collette), dad (Scott), teen Beth (Owen), German granny (Stadler) and eight-year-old Max (Anthony). Like the Griswolds, however, the Engels find the in-laws from hell descending on them for Christmas: blowhard Howard (Koechner), lumpen wife (Tollman, the cop from season 1 of TV's Fargo), three awful kids, a baby and, worst of all, massive Aunt Dorothy (Ferrell).

Bullied by the unholy three, Max tears up his letter to Santa and in doing so summons up the demonic anti-Santa, Krampus - like St Nick, only with massive ram's horns and covered in chains - and his hellish crew; and they're all too familiar, from her own traumatised childhood, to Grandma.

Mind you, you might think that any family that allows its 14-year-old daughter to go out on her own in a blizzard deserves what it gets, but before long the house is under siege from toys 'evil-ised' and sprung to life, fiendish elves and, of course, the cloven-hoofed Krampus himself.

Imaginatively shot (in New Zealand) and vividly staged, the film is a tongue-in-cheek delight throughout, with a brilliant double-twist ending that will leave you open-mouthed at its ingenuity.

David Quinlan

USA/New Zealand/Canada 2015. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by FotoKem.
98 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 04 Dec 2015