Krampus Brings Terror Into Christmas

Suzanna Reviews Krampus

On Friday, I talked about some of the “anti-Santa Claus” characters that haunt folklore. The one topping my list was the Christmas Devil himself, Krampus. One, because I think his lore if fascinating. Two, I was super excited to see the movie of the same name. And I was not disappointed. Krampus combines the sentiment from Home Alone and the campy horror from Gremlins to make something wonderfully new.[bctt tweet=”#Krampus combines the sentiment from Home Alone and the campy horror from Gremlins to make something wonderfully new.” via=”no”]

The Setup

Krampus bellKrampus begins with slow-motion action that did not make me want to throw popcorn at the screen, like I swore I would if I ever saw it again. Why not? Because it was meant to be funny.

The director, Michael Dougherty, wanted to immediately establish sympathy between the audience and the characters. Nothing does that better than seeing a bunch of people rush into a big box store, trample over employees, and get into fist fights over the latest trendy gifts. And to make it even more relevant, there’s the kids’ Christmas pageant that ends with our movie family smack in the center of a brawl.

But that first scene also sets up for the major theme of the movie: Christmas has lost its meaning. It’s a bunch of shopping, pageantry, and decoration for people we don’t even like. This is underscored several times in the very beginning of the movie.

The most memorable is when the German grandmother, Omi, is happily baking while the Christmas Carol plays in the background. When the family arrives, the father, Tom, changes the station to the news and tells Omi not to work too hard because, “Sarah already bought a bunch of cookies from the store”.

Yeah, Tom, because Oreo’s scream Christmas.

When the obnoxious relatives arrive, things get worst and lead to the boy, Max, wishing his family would just go away. He gets his wish in the form of an ancient demon and his devilish helpers, all there to drag them into the underworld. Their crime?

They lost hope.

The Stereotypes

Krampus 2015

Sarah, the mother, is the “super-mom” whose house, according to Aunt Dorothy, looks like Martha Steward threw up. Aunt Dorothy is the alcoholic trailer trash while Howard, the brother-in-law, is the gun-toting, Hummer-driving Republican who wishes his girls were boys. Howard’s wife, Linda, is the estranged sister of Sarah and an all-round disappointment.

Just like the slow-motion, the stereotypes are on purpose. What Dougherty may be trying to do is creating a family everyone has to deal with, whether you’re on the side of the poor family with loads of kids or you’re the rich Martha Stewart types. Or, you’re on the side of Max and Omi, who just want to have a magical, hope-filled Christmas.

Normally, stereotypes bother me. When they break out the nuns with rulers or rednecks with guns, I start to get irritated. In Krampus, however, it’s treated very tongue-in-cheek and it’s not your straight stereotype.

Linda may be the disappointment who brings macaroni-and-hot dogs to the Christmas dinner but she’s trying. And Tom may be the often-absent-father but when his son has a meltdown, he’s right there to talk to him. These humanizing touches go a long way in rounding out what could have been flat characters.[bctt tweet=”Humanizing touches go a long way in rounding out what could have been flat characters. #Krampus”]

When It All Goes to Hell

After Max makes his wish and a blizzard shuts down their neighborhood, two possibilities emerge. Either the discordant families dissolve into a bickering mess or they come together.

Adam Scott in Krampus
Adam Scott in Krampus

Though Tom and Howard butt heads in alpha male fashion, they ultimately come together. Which is what people do! I loved it. A lot of times, when stereotypes are present, people do things that normally would never happen. In this case, the exact opposite happens. The former Eagle Scout and the NRA lover come together to protect and defend their family.

When Omi tells the story of Krampus, though there’s disbelief, they don’t stand around and argue it to death. Yeah, Howard brushes it off at first, but then he’s nearly skewered by gingerbread men. That’d make a believer out of anyone. After that, everyone focuses on survival. And by this point, the audience is really rooting for them and are very much involved in the story.

An Enjoyable Watch

I would definitely recommend going to see Krampus. The visual effects are good and I loved the costume quality of Krampus and his helpers. It gives the feeling of being sucked into a fairy tale, which I loved. It brought to mind Jim Henson’s Labyrinth.

And the ending was not what I expected. I expected everyone to fight their way out but, just as Max was the one who started it all, Max was the one who had to end it. And how he ends it is very poignant and beautiful.

This movie is certainly a must watch for every year, if only to remind us to have a little hope in a dark world.[bctt tweet=”#Krampus is certainly a must watch for every year, if only to remind us to have a little hope.”]

Did you go see Krampus? What did you think? What holiday movies are you looking forward to? Please comment!

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