KRAMPUS has been getting negative reviews.. nasty tomatoes thrown from some critics, even. Both professional and amateur movie reviewers alike have presented a mixed bag of thoughts regarding this film. But I never care about reviews until I actually see a film for myself.
There are a few Christmas films that stand out to me in my short life. SCROOGE comes to mind.. The GREMLINS is next – notice the pattern of creepiness? This movie, KRAMPUS, may have rattled my mental list of movies and given me a new favorite.
It took me about five minutes into the film before I decided that I absolutely loved KRAMPUS.
KRAMPUS opens with a scene of people hurling themselves into a store, striking down fellow shoppers over products, trampling over people, all the while ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’ plays in the background. The scene is reminiscent of any you see on Black Friday. Even this Black Friday, which paled in comparison to online shopping, still featured images of people knocking down displays and fighting over toys and cheaply made slave products from third world nations.
The immediate political commentary from KRAMPUS is obvious. You think there is a war on Christmas? There is. And you’re the ones beginning it, shoppers.
The movie features a drinking workaholic father played by Adam Scott. A panic-ridden most likely nerve-pill-popping-mom that Toni Collette effectively plays. There are other family members, a grandmother who knows legends, and a drunk aunt who decides to tag along with the family rejects for Christmas. There is humor. There is darkness. There is fear.
Things get set into motion when the child protagonist, superbly played by Emjay Anthony, rips up his note to Santa Claus and gives up the Christmas spirit. In doing so, he joins the rest of his immediate and extended family who have already done so. A blizzard sets in.. As does Krampus with his demented pack of creatures and elves.
The rest is horror and action, humor and sarcasm. The movie points you in a direction, and then pulls the rug out from under you. Without giving away anything further, the ending is impressive and conclusive. And it swerves you away from what you thought the film ended was, giving it the feel of either the final scene of JEEPERS CREEPERS or a TWILIGHT ZONE that was never made.
I listened to radio host Clyde Lewis last night describe his thoughts about seeing the film, and he said something that struck me deeply: He think that Krampus is the ‘Santa Claus we deserve” in America.
Think about that for a moment.
Is it possible that we do deserve Krampus during this time? Just yesterday, news outlets showed images of a person dying in the streets of New York City while a woman, watching, walked by and continued eating pizza like it did not matter. Shootings are common. Seasons beatings are happening. There is a war between cultures in America. There seems to be a sudden and immediate sense that we are divided and simply concerned over material possessions.
….so do we deserve Krampus?
The legend of Krampus is not new. Despite his sudden emergence in pop culture, he has been around for eons of time. I have written about him extensively for years. The horror that gripped populations in Germany for centuries can be attributed to Krampus. A sudden clang on the roof top and pounding knock on the door insinuated that Krampus arrived at a home to take away a bad child and send him or her to the fiery pits of hell. The gnome creatures who were the lower pawns of Krampus would sniff socks and shoes to see which ones were clean versus not. The unclean kids would have a strike against them immediately.
When I was in grade school, our class put our shoes outside the classroom as a tradition. We heard bells and when we checked there was candy in all of our property. Little did we as kids know what the opposite conclusion to our lives would have meant. . .
Krampus is a figure of lure that has been around for as long as stories about this time of year go back. Christmas was not always about Christ. Cultures, instead, utilized scary ghost stories around camp fires to watch the night until light arrived. They always shunned away evil spirits from their homes by lighting candles in every room. Throughout time, the darkness in December both depressed and annihilated hope within people. Thankfully the modern age features blinking lights and gigantic air-filled garden ornaments of Charlie Brown characters to keep us semi-normal.
In history, Krampus was a natural effect of fear of the lack of light. He would arise at this moment when the dangers of darkness were most present. As time went on, he became a bargaining chip. Kids were afraid of their punishment for being bad because of the horrid things Krampus would do to them, parents most likely often threatened them with the Krampus treatment for unruly behavior. Thankfully for the psyche of children as a whole, Santa Claus eventually rose to greatness and gave us the hopes and dreams of the season. Up on the rooftop, click click click, Krampus was replaced by ole’ Saint Nick.
Now that I saw the film, I read through some reviews of the movie. They were unkind and often, in my opinion, unfair. They also seemed to not understand the legend of Krampus or the meaning of the season that he actually gives.
I will never forge the scene in the GREMLINS when the little creatures were involved in a fight that included a blender while DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR played on a record. KRAMPUS had about four scenes that will stand out to me now, in the same nostalgic way GREMLINS did.
Even more, KRAMPUS is somewhat like NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION meets JEEPERS CREEPERS. When the extended family shows up, they bring with them dysfunction and chaos. Fighting ensues, family quibbles turn into battles. And when the Christmas spirit, once strong, is gone, it gives rise for darker forces to enter.
There were moments of KRAMPUS where I got sentimental alongside of times where I got genuinely freaked out by the characters on display. There are times it was more like a dark fairy tale, a grim scene followed by a series of unfortunate decisions by the family. By the end, even though we do not get to like this family—I don’t think it was meant to be like that—we still are rooting for the main child. The one who suddenly regains his holiday spirit while staring into the endless hole to hell.
I have long believed—and have written a number of times—that Christmas is potentially the most paranormal of all seasons. Think of the reason so many celebrate: Jesus Christ, the savior of mankind, was born of a virgin in a stable, with people following stars in the sky to bring the new kind gifts. There is nothing at all more paranormal than that.
One of the most famous stories of all time for this time of year is A CHRISTMAS CAROLE, featuring ghosts of past present and future Christmases.
KRAMPUS, which in my opinion, does all the right things, has brought a new form of celebration into the season. You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout, and I’m telling you why. Not because Santa Claus is coming with gifts, but because if you lose the reason for the season, the spirit of the time, and the deeper feeling of helping humanity and caring for others, then you will be greeted by the king of darkness and the one who capitalizing on the decreasing Christmas spirit. Krampus.
And it won’t be pretty.