Scary Little Christmas: Krampus-You better pay attention
Krampus is an evil mythical creature from Central and Eastern European folklore. He has pagan origins and predates Christianity, but the church absorbed the legend into its own myth and made him a kind of anti-Santa Claus. On the night of every December 5e (not the 25e) Krampus accompanies Saint-Nicolas on his tours to children’s homes. St. Nick rewards good children and Krampus punishes bad children.
The Krampus movie takes some freedom with the myth and creates its own kind of legend. It’s not just if you’re bad or good, it’s if you (and those around you) have lost the Christmas spirit from your heart. The very nature of Christmas is the sacrifice of giving. The opening scene illustrates this by featuring a crowd of shopkeepers arguing over toys, people yelling and screaming and clashing with their fellow buyers, arguing over stuffed animals and the latest gadgets. Max (Emjay Anthony) loves the holidays and writes a little later to Santa every year, but this year is a little different. His mom Sarah (Toni Collette) and dad Tom (Adam Scott) appear to be going their separate ways, his sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) has stopped hanging out with him to spend more time with her boyfriend, and the rest of her life the family just does not understand it. The only one who seems to really get it is Omi (Krista Stadler), his paternal grandmother. Max just wants Christmas to be like it was before. He wants to get his good and loving family back. An incident during a dinner with his cousins leads Max to tear up his letter to Santa Claus and throw it to the wind. So calling Krampus to their home and town. Omi is the only one who really knows what’s going on.
It’s a horror movie with a conscience and a lesson to learn. Most horror movies are morality tales, but this one in particular tries to remind us not to lose hope in our hearts and keep that magic that comes with the season. There isn’t a lot of fear or blood and gore, the horror is more atmospheric. There is a lot of light and shadow play. Snowmen popping up out of nowhere looking a little more menacing than Frosty ever did. Krampus, himself, remains in the shadows for much of the film, but once we see him he’s the distorted Santa figure but with the classic Krampus attributes: horned head, goat paws and a Long tongue. His servants are all twisted images of Christmas. Deadly gingerbread men, a fanged teddy bear, a spooky treetop angel and a jack in the box from hell. It’s like someone has taken all of the best Christmas memories and thrown them into a nightmare. As the film progresses and family members are taken away, the remaining cast begin to come together and come to terms with what was important.
Max is the real likable character in the film and is played very well by Emjay Anthony. I felt what Max feels in the movie. The overwhelming desire for what’s past and not wanting to let go of what has been, and losing control over your emotions when the world just seems to be falling apart. Toni Collette is wonderful as a woman who struggles to make it seem like the perfect mother and wife on the surface, but underneath is about to crack. Her sister got married in a different class structure, and the two sisters seem to envy each other’s lives, both having to reconcile their jealousy and realize that they are happy in their lives. I also like Omi played by Krista Stadler. She exudes a kind of calm and love, but also a kind of fear and remorse about what happened in the past and what she realizes is happening in the present.
The visuals are all well done, and Krampus’ design is terrifying in its portrayal of the shadow of Saint Nicholas, as are all of his minions. Nothing is more horrible than taking a perfect memory and turning it into a nightmare. The music adds to the atmosphere of each scene in an appropriate way. The screenplay is well written with wonderful moments between family members. The story goes well and the film has a good pace. Krampus was directed by Michael Dougherty who brought us the Halloween masterpiece Trick or treats.