krampus movie poster

A fairly recent movie, released just in 2015, Krampus is a horror-fantasy film that takes inspiration from the popular creature known as Krampus. This is, in fact, a very interesting character that can make for an ideal starting point for a good story.

Krampus – Plot

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Krampus (2015)
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After an extreme confrontation divides his problematic family during the holidays, Max decides that it is time to finally put Christmas behind him. What he doesn’t know is that his lack of holiday spirit will unleash the wrath of Krampus: an ancient force tasked with punishing the non-believers. All hell unleashes and beloved holiday symbols come to monstrous life, invading the house of this clashing family and forcing its members to fight for each other and try to survive.

Review

Talking about horror while approaching Christmas is far from easy. This holiday is usually characterised by joy and glee, by gingerbread men and family parties. But if one digs deep enough, the dark side of Christmas is right there and ready to be found. And how could we let the chance of talking about it in our Steps in The Dark collection slip by us?

A weird, large family

The family at the core of the movie is pretty obviously not perfect. The young protagonist, Max (Emjay Anthony), almost comes across as a cliché of the fantasy genre. He doesn’t have a lot of friends and he still believes in Christmas and Santa Claus. His mother is the kind of person who tries to control and make everything perfect and his father is almost always busy with work. Older sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) and grandma Omi (Krista Stadler) – seemingly the only one still in possession of some Christmas spirit – complete the picture.

Toni Collette and Emjay Anthony in Krampus (2015)
Toni Collette and Emjay Anthony in Krampus (2015)© IMDb

They’re joined by Linda, the mom’s sister, and her own family who, to be quite honest, come across as crude, rude, and impolite right to the most basic behaviours. The children are brought up on hot dogs and fast food, and they don’t shy away from openly saying they prefer that to what poor Sarah (Toni Collette) prepared for the occasion. The two oldest, twin girls, are driven and dedicated to their baseball careers to try and please their father who wanted boys. The little boy is not the sharpest tool in the box, probably because he’s left to his own devices and spends most of his time watching TV, and initially the youngest girl is outright forgotten in the car. Far from the perfect family picture.

The twin sisters are exactly what brings the events of the movie to unfold by stealing Max’s letter to Santa Claus and making fun of what he wrote. Humiliated and wounded, Max then rips his letter to shreds and creates the perfect occasion for Krampus to reveal himself and pay a visit to the family.

“Krampus came not to reward, but to punish. Not to give, but to take.”

Luke Hawker in Krampus (2015)
Luke Hawker in Krampus (2015) © IMDb

According to lore, or at least the version of it that grandma Omi recounts, Krampus is a dark creature that exists in the shadow of Santa Claus. When the Christmas spirit is lost, he makes his appearance and together with his nefarious helpers he uses the typical elements of Christmas to put things to its version of right. Murderous toys, devilish gingerbread men, and abhorrent snowmen. Even the elves seem to come straight out of a remote corner of hell. Krampus, portrayed in the movie like an almost zombie version of Santa Claus with hooves and long antelope antlers, uses these creatures’ help to drag to hell all those who lost their Christmas spirit and dared to awaken its need for revenge, in this particular case, Max’s revenge.

Krampus knows no mercy, he travels with chains and hooks, and once he’s been called, nothing can stop it from accomplishing its purpose. It only ever leaves behind one survivor, making sure that all know the tale of what happens to those who forget their Christmas spirit.

Pass or fail?

The movie itself is not a huge demonstration of originality. Certainly entertaining, but not a cinematic masterpiece. It’s a good way to spend Christmas a different way especially if one’s a little Grinch inside and doesn’t particularly love the holidays. There is definitely room for cheerier feelings in it too, it is, after all, still a Christmas movie.

Christmas consumerism

The opening scene of the movie Krampus
Krampus – opening scene

The movie opens with a scene that portrays what looks like a toy or general store onto which an avalanche of people has descended to be the first to get their hands on the things they want. The huge crowd quite literally launches itself inside the store, walking over the poor clerks and other buyers. They yank items from each other’s hands and even end up breaking them most of the times, filling up their carts with everything they need or don’t need, swiping credit cards, unleashing rivers of cash, and bringing home bags upon bags of stuff.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love buying presents. I would love to get others presents all year round and not just for Christmas if I had the means. But still, this massive bulk of people who seem to have lost all crumbs of humanity, a veritable army of zombies ready to eat each other, kind of makes you stop and think. Have we really become so insensitive? Are we really driven by owning more than others, showing off more than others, buying more than others? Do we still have time to ponder why a certain present is right for a certain person? Or is anything just the same as anything else?

Maybe, in most cases, our fanfare is really about making each other happy. Maybe we feel an obligation to each other because that’s how we’ve been taught it should be. But isn’t it that much nicer to give a present to someone who’s not expecting one?

Maybe we should stop for a minute and reconsider. Really think about what it is we desire for the people around us.

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