This approaching holiday season, commonly characterized by the phrase “good will towards men” and associated with the warm feeling of giving and receiving wrapped gifts, Universal and Legendary pictures will partner up to add a spark of hellfire to roast chestnuts to. The two powerhouse studios will be releasing “Krampus” in early December. What may come off as an ill-timed horror flick, is actually appropriate and, more importantly, a touch of genius on their part. What we are getting with “Krampus” is something simply not seen enough: a cross-genre movie marketable to two disparate holidays; in this case, Halloween and Christmas. Probably the most widely known film to accompish this in the past was “the nightmare before Christmas.” Which, funny enough, merged the same two holidays. While the former is certainly aimed more towards the Halloween audience, and the latter at the Christmas crowd, both themes are still present in either movie. Additionally, Universal and Legendary are intrepidly pulling from a lesser known list, setting themselves up for a more original monster that what audiences are used to and mostly bored with seeing. That naturally opens up the question, who or what is Krampus?
Krampus is one of many and myriad assorted folklores that have an opaque origin. No one can tell for sure where his story started, they can only speculate based on spotty records. Popular belief has Krampus pegged as Germanic paganism, stretching back far enough to predate Christianity. Somewhat ironically, Christianity would appropriate him sometime in the seventeenth century. Even though he is an older tale than Santa Claus, Krampus is a murky and gruesome reflection of the jolly, gift offering sleigh rider from the north pole. Instead of rewarding the well behaved children with exciting toys like Santa does, Krampus opts to punish the naughty brats at the end of the year. Keeping up with the gruesome reflection aspect, punishments from Krampus came in forms of humiliation and torture, and in some cases even death. Pulling on ears, shackling and forced attrition, ripping out hair, and providing escort to a lake of fire are all offensive attacks from Krampus’ playbook. Somewhere along the timeline, parents must have wised up to the concept of children responding better to positive reinforcement, and Santa Claus, by whatever name you prefer to call him, became the predominant winter time figure.
Universal and Legendary pictures are not the first studios to produce a film about the Christmas devil called Krampus. Going back to the late 1960s, “Der Krampus” came out of Germany, the country where the folklore supposedly spawned. It is true that for 40 years after that, the name Krampus was not even whispered amongst film lots and offices. But, starting in 2012 he began emerging in the underground and independent realms of the cinematic world. During a three year period, several small and micro budget studios have produced both short and feature length comedies – intentionally or inadvertently – centered on the dark Christmas creature. Of course, none of these films were successful or noteworthy. Not due to their low grade, cheap quality, but more their inaccurate depiction of the terror Krampus can generate in the air.
“Krampus” opens December 4th.