In German-speaking Alpine lands, as Americans are increasingly aware, St. Nicholas is accompanied on his gift-giving rounds by the devilish Krampus, who’s said to punish naughty children with stinging blows from birch switches, by stuffing them in a sack and carrying them off to hell, throwing them in a lake, or even eating them -- punishments that all seem infinitely more pleasant than sitting through Michael Dougherty’s horror-comedy Krampus due in theaters December 4.
I am not a film critic. I was invited to a preview screening because of my involvement in co-producing Krampus events in Los Angeles since 2013. Over the course of these events and in writing a book on the subject, I’ve had conversations with dozens of Europeans who don the suits annually. I’ve talked to mask-carvers, and Austrian cultural anthropologists, and gotten close enough to Alpine Krampuses to smell their animal pelts and steamy, schnappsy breath. I know the Krampus pretty well, well enough to say this film has almost nothing to do with that old devil.
Even from the trailers I already knew we weren’t exploring authentic traditions. I expected some creativity with the tradition and wanted to be entertained. I was there as a horror fan. I’ve been one all my life. By the age 10, I could tell you the release date, directors, lead players and usually the make-up artist behind any of Universal’s classic horror films. But sitting in the Carl Laemmle building watching this, I could hear the old man cursing the very first pfennig he dropped in a nickelodeon. Read the rest