You Better Not Pout, You Better Not Cry, Because The Krampus Will Hear You
The cinematic history of making Santa Claus films has been as traditional as dressing up for Halloween. My own childhood was riddled with these movies and I struggled with an identity understand of who the real Santa Claus was. For most, it was Tim Allen trapped in a legal magic “Clause” to deliver presents around the world.
A figure of magic and wonder, Santa Claus is based on an actual person known as Saint Nicholas of Myra. An early Christian bishop of the ancient Greek city of Myra. Located in Asia Minor, this is our modern day Turkey.
During the harsh rule of the Roman Empire, Saint Nicholas is revered by many Christians as a saint. His many miracles coined him the nickname of Wonderworker because of his reputation for secret gift giving, which gave rise to the traditional understanding of today’s Santa Claus.
On the dark side of Christmas, some of us know of the Anti-Claus, or the Krampus. If Santa Claus is based on a real person, then could the Krampus be real? Where in our world could the evil of the Krampus exist among us?
In Central European folklore, the Krampus is horned as an anthropomorphic figure. Described as a half goat and half demon, the Krampus shows up during Christmas to punish misbehaving children. He will ether torture or eat them according to legend. In some folklore, he will leave a bundle of sticks, like coal, and possibly beat the child with them. This is in contrast with Santa’s present giving to well behaved children. The origin of the Krampus is unclear, but anthropologists and some folklorists believe it to having pre-Christian origins.
The Krampus has become a part of several cultures world wide throughout history, mostly in Australian and European folklore, and may be seen harmlessly on a greeting card or as the shape of chocolates. Events also revolved around the Krampus with Krampus balls with dancing or floats and people in costume during a parade. He’s also been seen as a friend of Saint Nicholas in European culture, palling around with him on Christmas, but always acting as a bit of a trickster.
The Feast of Saint Nicholas is celebrated in Europe on the sixth of December. The night before on the fifth, is known as the Krampus’ Night called Krampusnacht. This almost goes hand in hand with Halloween’s “trick or treat” mentality.
The Krampus has been the focal point to several film and TV adaptations over the years. The first screen adaptation was played by Derek Mears in the eighth Episode in Season three of the hit TV show Grimm called Twelve Days of Krampus. In this episode the Krampus captures naughty children at night and hangs them in a basket from a tree to later feast on them. Some may argue that 2010’s Rare Exports was the first Krampus film, but it was simply an indie film about an evil Santa Claus.
The following years would contain a few independent films revolving around the Krampus until Legendary Entertainment and Universal Pictures released a blockbuster version director Michael Dougherty in 2015.
‘Krampus’, staring frequent fun horror film actors Adam Scott and Toni Collette, is about a dysfunctional family that is forced together for the holidays. Their squabbling causes young Max, played by Emjay Anthony, to lose his Christmas spirit, which unleashes the wrath of the fearsome demon known as the Krampus. What follows is a series of demonic torture and attacks from Christmas classics turned into nightmarish creatures. The Krampus makes a personal appearance toward the end as a vile looking Santa Claus with horns that is mostly interested in taking Max’s soul to hell.
This entertaining film focuses more on the Krampus being a source of anti-Christmas spirit and attacks those that ignore traditional beliefs. More of an anti-Buddy the Elf. It’s less about punishing naughty children and more about the idea that denouncing Christmas spirit will get you killed. Regardless, it can be said that Dougherty successfully adapted the Krampus to the screen for large scale audiences.
Later in 2015, directors Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, and Brett Sullivan brought together ‘A Christmas Horror Story’. A set of stories woven together by a festive radio host played as a cameo role of William Shatner, Santa Claus takes a stand against the Krampus in an epic battle for Christmas. The film is full of classic scares, but some of the other stories feel a little generic and don’t support the main attraction. Unfortunately, it was probably better suited as a short film.
The Krampus continued to grow in media and stared in ‘Krampus Unleashed’ 2016, ‘Krampus: The Devil Returns 2016’, and ‘Mother Krampus’ 2017 which changed its title to ’12 Deaths of Christmas’. Because the Krampus is based on folklore, it will continue to inspire new films and TV episodes for years to come, just as Santa Claus films will continue to be a Christmas tradition.
So if the Krampus is as real as old Saint Nick, hopefully he’ll only leave you a bundle of sticks tonight. Just to be safe, be good, embrace the Christmas spirit, and keep a firearm by your bedside. Just don’t shoot Santa, as some of us are expecting presents under the tree tonight.