WHEN his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, sensitive and thoughtful young Max Engel (Emjay Anthony) grows disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas. But his lack of festive spirit has unleashed the wrath of Krampus: a Christmas demon intent on punishing nonbelievers.
A horror-comedy, “Krampus” is a dark and subversive alternative to the traditional holiday classic.
All hell breaks loose as twisted doppelgangers of beloved holiday icons— from frost-bitten snowmen and demonic cherubs to feral teddy bears and wickedly delicious gingerbread men— take on a monstrous life of their own, laying siege to the fractured family’s home and forcing them to fight for each other if they hope to survive.
Directed and cowritten by Michael Dougherty, “Krampus” stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Stefania LaVie Owen and Krista Stadler.
German folklore warns of Krampus, a myth that has been traced back centuries throughout European cultures. It is described as a horned beast that captures disobedient children on Christmas.
Dougherty explains that it was about 15 years ago that he was introduced to the dark side of Christmas.
“The same way that Americans send out Christmas cards, Europeans have this rich tradition of sending out Krampus cards,” Dougherty said. “I was shown these beautiful illustrations of this creature called Krampus, who stole children, and images of people cowering in fear. Still, they had such a fun, mischievous quality, similar to our Halloween. I found that appealing because it made Christmas more enjoyable to know that there was this dark, mischievous side to the holiday that we Americans didn’t have yet.”
The more he explored, the more Dougherty realized how intricate the cloven-hooved demon’s history actually is.
“One theory is that Krampus goes back to the roots of the holiday itself, which go all the way back to pagan history,” Dougherty said. “Before it was Christmas, it was the winter solstice. It was closer in tone and style to Halloween, in that it was more debaucherous and more of an outlet for our pent-up frustrations. When Christians rolled in and took over, they saw how much people liked the solstice celebration, and so they co-opted it and parked Christmas on top of it.”
“Krampus” opened on Dec. 2.