‘Krampus’ beats the box-office odds: 5 reasons the holiday horror film defied expectations

Krampus defied box-office predictions this weekend when it racked up a far better-than-expected $16 million over its opening frame, beating estimates that had it pegged in the low-teen millions (and in some cases even worse). So how did it defy the odds to become the latest low-budget horror success? Here are five big reasons why. 

1. It capitalized on a dead period for horror movies.

“Victor Frankenstein” is the closest competitor “Krampus” had in the horror realm this weekend — which isn't much competition at all when you consider that the Daniel Radcliffe-James McAvoy flop fell to 17th place in only its second weekend, with a dismal $253 per-screen average in wide release and a total gross of barely over $5 million. This left “Krampus” as the only real alternative for horror fans this weekend, and it nicely capitalized on that advantage.

2. Audiences liked it, giving the film word-of-mouth momentum.

While a “B-” CinemaScore (based on audience exit polls) may not sound that impressive, it's actually better-than-average for a horror film, indicating that normally critical horror audiences liked it enough to recommend it to their friends. That likely helped boost the film's box-office take throughout the weekend.

3. It had a “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Rotten Tomatoes has long been the go-to critical aggregator for slightly-more-discerning moviegoers making their weekend movie plans, and “Krampus's” 66% “Fresh” rating — a better-than-average showing for a horror film — may have given it the extra boost it needed to appeal to audiences who may have skipped it otherwise.

4. The trailer was great.

The value of a good trailer should never be underestimated, and “Krampus's” promised a fun, unique horror film with a killer monster and instantly-memorable one-liners like Conchata Ferrell's “it looks like Martha Stewart threw up in here.”

5. It promised something different.

In a horror marketplace overrun with sequels (“Insidious: Chapter 3” “Sinister 2”), remakes/reboots/reimaginings (“Poltergeist,” “Victor Frankenstein”) and limp found-footage movies (“Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension,” “The Gallows”), “Krampus” offered the taste of something unique — not to mention an old-school monster of the sort we rarely see anymore. What “Krampus's” success demonstrates more than anything is the continuing hunger for original horror-movie concepts.