The film opens with a montage of crazed customers storming into a store for their Christmas shopping, trampling over the store's employees before maniacally grabbing every hot item they can get their hands on, all to the tune of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas". In the mall, we see two parents, Tom and Sarah Engel (Adam Scott and Toni Collette), run to their son Max (Emjay Anthony) as he is fighting with another child after this child spoke ill of Santa Claus to the other children. Max's sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) gleefully films everything on her phone.
The family returns home where Max's German grandmother Omi (Krista Stadler) is baking. Sarah continues working in the kitchen in anticipation of her sister and her family arriving. She is anxious, as is everyone else, but Sarah tries to keep the Christmas spirit alive in the house. She hangs up a picture of her family posing with Santa, but it's ruined by everyone looking uninterested and Santa checking out Beth's butt.
Sarah's sister Linda (Allison Tolman) arrives with her husband Howard (David Koechner) and their kids - Howie Jr (Maverick Flack), Stevie (Lolo Owen), Jordan (Queenie Samuel), and Baby Chrissy, along with the family dog Rosie. Also joining them, to Sarah's extreme displeasure, is their Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell), whom Sarah considers to be a nightmare. The family gathers for dinner, where Howard takes the time to boast about his use of guns, despite Linda telling him not to bring that up. Dorothy insults Sarah's cooking, so Sarah goes to get the dessert in the kitchen, where Dorothy follows her to make more complaints until Sarah shuts her up. Stevie and Jordan mock Max for still writing a letter to Santa. They swiped it off of him and start reading off Max's wishes. He wants his parents to be in love again, for him and Beth to spend time like they used to, and for things to go better between Linda and Howard. Stevie gets angry when she reads that Max wrote that Howard wishes she and Jordan were boys. Max loses it and fights Stevie to get the letter back. He yells at the whole family and says he wishes Christmas was like it used to be, but now he hates the holiday and his family before running back upstairs.
Tom goes upstairs to comfort his son and remind him that this is the time of year where they have to deal with family members like this. After Tom leaves, Max puts his Santa letter into an envelope, but he is too angry to go through with it and he tears up the letter. He throws the pieces out the window, which are then blown up high into the sky. A dark cloud then forms over the whole neighborhood, followed by a strong gust of wind that takes out the power.
The next morning, the whole family is struggling without heat and electricity as a snowstorms blows through the area. Max looks out the window and notices a creepy snowman having been built in front of the house. Someone knocks on the door and Linda answers it to find a delivery guy bringing some boxes. Next to him is a sack of gifts, but he claims it didn't come from him. Beth suggests that she walk a few blocks to her boyfriend Derek's house to see if he has power (and also so she won't be stuck with the family). Although Sarah is hesitant, she and Tom allow Beth to go out for an hour.
Beth walks through the storm and sees a large horned creature perched on top of a roof. The sky becomes darker, and the creature appears to follow Beth. She runs away as the creature pounces across rooftops. Beth finds the delivery guy literally frozen in fear. She hides underneath his truck as the creature lands on the ground, where Beth sees its hooves. To her side, she sees a jack-in-the-box playing a tune. It opens and a smaller creature emerges slowly before attacking Beth.
As it gets darker, Tom and Sarah become concerned when Beth doesn't return. Howard agrees to go out with Tom in his Hummer to find her, and Howard gives Tom a gun to carry just in case. They go to Derek's house and find it unoccupied and wrecked. The two see large hoofprints in the snow. They go back outside and Tom hears Beth screaming. He runs to find her, only for something crawling in the snow to grab Howard. It nearly drags him beneath the snow until Tom shoots at the creature and sends it fleeing. They find the Hummer has been destroyed and they run home. The ladies tend to Howard's leg, which appears to have a bite mark on it. Omi is seen looking nervous by the fireplace. Tom says they need to board up the house and look for Beth in the morning.
The adults decide to take turns keeping watch for anything suspicious. Howard volunteers to stay awake while Tom rests with his family. Howard also apologizes to Tom for thinking he was always a "spineless dick". Eventually, everyone falls asleep and the fire goes out. A hook descends from the chimney with a gingerbread man cookie tied to it. This awakens Howie Jr. He goes over to the cookie and takes a bite out of its head, only for the gingerbread man to come to life and frighten Howie. The hook wraps around Howie and starts pulling him up the tree. Sarah wakes up and runs to grab the boy, with the rest of the adults grabbing her for help. Sarah accidentally kicks a hot log toward the Christmas tree, igniting the presents and then the whole tree. Max runs to get the fire extinguisher and puts out the fire, but Sarah gets freaked out by the cookie, causing her to let go of Howie, and he is taken up the chimney.
Now convinced that something unnatural is occurring, Omi speaks English for the first time to tell the family that she knows who is doing this, and that this is all their fault. She says she experienced the same thing as a child. Through an animated sequence, we see Omi as a little girl in her old poverty-stricken village. She was holding a toy Santa and a loaf of bread, but the other villagers snatched the bread from her and fought each other for it. When Omi returned home, her parents didn't help matters through their own bad behavior, and her mother ripped the Santa doll. Omi lost her holiday spirit and threw the doll in the fireplace after wishing that her parents would go away. This wish would summon an ancient spirit that arrives to punish anyone that disrespected the Christmas spirit. His name is Krampus, and he brings multiple helpers to terrorize the misbehaved. Omi watched as Krampus and his helpers dragged her parents to their underworld, with Krampus leaving her with nothing but a bauble with his name on it as a reminder of what she's done. Omi shows the family the bauble, and to this day, she has regretted making that wish. Howard remains unconvinced that this is some supernatural entity, and he grabs his shotgun to go out and find Howie. As he opens the door, several demonic creatures lurk behind the snowmen, and Sarah pulls Howard back inside the house.
Tom devises a plan to get to the snowplow with the family and head to the mall for shelter. Meanwhile, Stevie and Jordan think they hear what sounds like Beth's voice coming from upstairs. They walk up to investigate, but then the adults hear the girls screaming. Tom, Sarah, and Linda run upstairs to find the same jack-in-the-box that attacked Beth, only much larger and more grotesque, as it swallows Jordan whole. They notice that the kids' presents had something burst out of them. The adults then get attacked by demonic toys. Sarah faces her mother's angel ornament that nearly hangs her with Christmas lights, Linda is jumped by an evil teddy bear, and Tom is attacked by a robot toy. Downstairs, Howard gets shot with a nail gun by three gingerbread men. Linda sees Stevie in the next room, driving her to grab an icicle and stab the teddy in the eye. She grabs a hatchet and swings at the angel and robot before running to Stevie. Sarah gets Howard's gun and shoots the robot to pieces. Howard shoots a lantern that burns the cookies, only for one to survive and pounce toward him, but Rosie eats it.
The family goes downstairs to the living room where the teddy, angel, and jack-in-the-box prepare to attack again. Dorothy takes the shotgun and kills the teddy and angel, but before she can finish off the jack, a group of dark elves break into the house. They take Dorothy, Howard, and Chrissy. A loud thumping is heard on the roof, signifying the arrival of Krampus. Omi stays behind while Tom, Sarah, Linda, Max, and Stevie escape. Omi then comes face-to-face with Krampus, who looks like a demonic Santa Claus with a long tongue. He opens his sack, and his toys pull Omi inside.
The family heads toward the snowplow, only for the creature in the snow to attack again. It first takes Tom before also getting Linda and Sarah. Max and Stevie get into the snowplow. Max tries to start it, but the elves attack and take Stevie. Max runs after her and he is faced by Krampus. He hands Max his torn-up letter that is wrapped around a bauble similar to what he gave Omi. This leads Max to realize that it's his fault that Krampus arrived. He follows the demons to a spot where they are preparing to take Stevie. Max calls to Krampus and throws the bauble back toward him. It sinks in the snow and opens up a massive hole in the earth that leads to the underworld. The elves hold Stevie over it until Max tells Krampus that he knows it's his fault that Krampus is there, and he offers to take Stevie's place. Krampus wipes Max's tear with his claw, but he and the elves start laughing as they throw Stevie into the hole. Krampus grabs Max and holds him over the hole. Max says he only wishes Christmas could be like it used to be. Krampus drops a screaming Max into the hole.
Max then wakes up and finds himself in his room, and it's now Christmas Day. He goes downstairs and sees the whole family together, looking more peaceful than they did a few days ago. They start to open presents, and Max hugs his parents, thinking the whole ordeal was just a bad dream. He then opens his gift to find the Krampus bauble, and suddenly everyone has an ominous look on their faces. The camera pans out to show that the family is being watched through a snowglobe by Krampus, along with hundreds of others in his collections. The evil toys then appear for one last jump scare.
*CUT TO THE CHASE*
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After Max (Emjay Anthony) sees his entire family devoured, killed or dragged away by a huge, carnivorous Jack-in-the-Box, a teddy bear with a mean temper, three tiny, malevolent gingerbread men, a giant, nasty, animated angel ornament, a pack of masked elves or Krampus (Luke Hawker) himself, Max confronts Krampus as the elves are about to drop Stevie (Lolo Owen) into a giant lava pit that is conjured in the middle of the street.
Stevie is dropped into the pit. Max apologizes to Krampus for losing the Christmas spirit, cries, hands Krampus the bauble his grandmother (Krista Stadler) was given when she encountered Krampus decades earlier and pleads for Krampus to take him instead of his family because Max "only wanted to experience Christmas the way it was" (before his family dissolved into a group that mostly bickers).
Krampus takes the bauble, wipes away Max's tear with a large fingernail, then laughs and throws Max into the pit.
Max awakens from his bed on a bright, sunny, Christmas morning, runs downstairs and finds his happy, loving family sharing Christmas presents around the beautifully decorated living room. Max opens his present and finds the bauble. The family grows silent.
We pull back to find that the house and the family are now encased in a pretty snow globe, one of many on shelves that Krampus has collected, apparently so Max can experience "Christmas the way it was" forever.
Stay to enjoy hearing Krampus Karol of the Bells, which is sung over the end credits.
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