The legend of Krampus in Alpine folklore is a strange one. Saint Nicholas was believed to have a number of “companions” that accompanied him around Europe during the Christmas holiday. Among these was an anthropomorphic figure called Krampus, who was thought to be, in a sense, the anti-Santa Claus. Krampus, with cloven hooves and goat horns, would punish misbehaving children, often in gruesome ways. The truly troubling part of this legend, the film adaptation seems to argue, is that nothing can be done to curb the wrath of this devilish figure.
“Krampus” is being marketed as a black comedy, horror holiday film, which begs the question: when was the last time you saw, or even heard about, a movie like that? Think for a minute, what was the last successful Christmas horror movie? “Bad Santa?” Credit must be given where credit is due, and director Michael Dougherty (“Trick ‘r Treat”) deserves some recognition for bringing us a unique, if not totally strange, spin on the holiday film genre.
The movie appears to suffer from the all-too-common bout of jump-scares and possessed toys. Scary music cues, dark corners and restricted camera angles abound. While the demonic figure itself isn’t shown, viewers get the idea: twisted horns, a creepy gait, weird snarls. The true horror of the movie, as with the legend, has nothing to do with the monster or the surprise — it’s the idea that children, the innocent gems of the Christmas holiday, cannot escape evil.