From its opening moments, pharmacy Krampus reveals itself to be a different type of Christmas movie. As the film opens, audiences witness some of the most unpleasant aspects of the holiday season including unruly families scrambling for last-minute...
The horror comedy Krampus has finally arrived on Blu-Ray, nurse DVD and Digital HD.
The December 2015 feature stars Emjay Anthony as Max, an idealistic boy who doesn’t want to give up on Christmas, despite the repulsive family members he’s surrounded by. Directed...
The end of 2016 is quickly approaching. With that in mind, patient I went back and created a list of all of the films that I reviewed this year and the different ratings I gave them. Of course, story this isn’t a complete list of all of the films I saw this year....
Imagine this. It’s 3 in the afternoon. You’re lying in bed with your wife. You’re watching a Christmas movie. Suddenly you understand at the same time the purpose of family, the absurdity of reward without punishment and the naivety of European man who thought he could live as a goofy creature of materialism while shutting out from himself the darkness of existence. You think back to some boomer or tradcon or whatever bellyaching about how muh leftists are trying to take the Christ out of Christmas and make it ‘just some holiday about snow.’ You think about the Division Azul on the shores of Lake Ladoga. You think about what that’d feel like, for a hot-blooded son of the sun-kissed Mediterranean to suffer winter in the far north. You think about the bone-deep sadness of the Division Azul song. You think about flowers, about cold, about that one time when you lost your shoe in the mountains. You think about reading Lovecraft and the claustrophobia that cold can induce. You think about your old hare-brained idea that the whole Spenglerian infinite space thing began as cold-induced escapism in the dead of winter. And then you realize, there’s a real good goddamn reason why Christmas is a holiday about snow.
Well, that’s how I spent my New Year’s Eve.
The movie in question was Michael Dougherty’s 2015 comedy horror Krampus. In a cinematographic rendering of the old German folk tale of Krampus, we are faced with something quite riveting, didactic, eerily and comically human, a sort of contrast of old and new, the world that is and the world that was, and the memory of our tribe. We are faced with our history, in a sense.
By we, I mean white people in general and Germanic people in particular. The movie is refreshingly devoid of nonwhite faces. I don’t know how the hell they pulled it off, but it’s there. Not even the delivery guy is black. God be praised, the teenage daughter’s stoner boyfriend isn’t black. And no, the invading mythical creatures are not black. I think. They behave like savage tribesmen, but they’re supposed to be elves or Fair Folk, so I doubt they wuz kangz.
I’m getting ahead of myself. The plot’s well-crafted. Note to the traveler, here be spoilers. A young preteen boy, Max, is desperately trying to hold on to the spirit of Christmas. His workaholic dad Tom is at loggerheads with his bitchy mom, Sarah, due to frequent business trips. His sister is a bratty teenage bowl of cynicism more interested in doing God knows what with her stoner boyfriend (thankfully, not black). His only ally is his Omi, his grandma, who speaks most of her lines in German and is played by the dignified and graceful Krista Stadler. She, in her words, believes in St. Nicholas, equating him to the spirit of giving and sacrifice. This stands in stark contrast with the film’s opening scene which shows what I hope is a highly overwrought scene of Black Friday violent shopping. On the one hand, I cannot possibly believe that human beings could behave like that. On the other, the baron Evola had some choice words about Americans which I’m not going to repeat here.
Max’s parents are apprehensive about the arrival of Aunt Linda, the mom’s sister and her husband, Uncle Howard. The Mother speaks of them in dismissive tones. When the relatives arrive, they’re . . . well, they’re not exactly Obama voters. They have four children, first and foremost. The very butch Jordan and Stevie (who are female, believe it or not), the overweight and mute Howie Jr. and baby Chrissy. Uncle Howard is an inspiring physical presence who believes in man’s man things like protecting his family (with firearms), and he drives a hummer named Lucinda. Aunt Linda is the very image of a still-young matronly woman who’s given birth to four children. This causes no little amounts of tension between the folksy relatives and Max’s upmarket family. Aunt Linda and Uncle Howard tote with one Aunt Dorothy, who is a rather unpleasant fat spinster, the kind who is best friends with alcohol and hasn’t got a kind word for anyone, not even at Christmas. Unfortunately, you know her kind. Every family has one.
Jordan and Stevie steal Max’s letter to Santa and read it out during family dinner, airing out his concerns about the family’s lack of Christmas spirit. Max is, of course, so mortified by shame that he runs upstairs and hides in his room. His dad tries to comfort him, but Max pointedly asks what’s the point of having a family who’s bent on doing you ill. The father has no answer. When the father leaves, Max tears up his letter to Santa, and invokes a much darker spirit — the spirit of Krampus. Unlike his mythical counterpart, who puts misbehaving children in black sacks and beats them with reeds, this movie’s Krampus drags the entire town to the underworld to punish a single family for their lack of Christmas spirit.
Now, while much of the plot in set in motion by Max, and the action is centered around the adults, the way I saw the film, Grandma sits square in the center of the whole thing and what makes it a film about the way whites, especially Germans and Nordics go about Christmas, and why we have a holiday about snow, even though it’s not just about the snow. I see no point in counter-signaling Christianity. The globohomo hates Christianity, so I’m not going to join in their gayndeer games.
The choice of actress is very interesting. You can call Krista Stadler an old woman and old she indeed is. But she is also a woman who is clearly beautiful. There’s a beauty, unmarred, but rather enhanced by age. Her face has many lines and each tells a story, of a girl, of a maiden, of a wife, a mother and finally grandmother. Omi is complete, dignified and brings joy to Max as he gladdens her weary heart. Her clothing is modest and elegant. She is in many ways European. In the film, this is achieved by Stadler’s slender frame and understated acting, but there’s a sense that a woman so complete and dignified would not be less beautiful if heavier or more jovial. Contrast that to the blubbery and unpleasant Aunt Dorothy, who as I mentioned before, has no kind word for anyone. In times of hardship, when the electricity goes out, Omi makes hot chocolate over the fire and shares it with everyone, whereas Aunt Dorothy lets the children drink peppermint schnapps when entrusted with their care.
Omi knows how to deal with Krampus. Omi knows how to speak to children. Omi is very aware of the danger that is out there. Omi warns the family, repeatedly, not to mess with the creature on its own turf, but huddle near the fire and keep it going. Omi, in a sense, is a treasure trove of wisdom and knowledge. Indeed, in pre-literate societies, the aged were walking libraries who carried within them the tribe’s memories. And cheerful, friendly Omi carries some dark memories indeed. Of cold and pain and the punishment of those who renounce St. Nicholas, the spirit of giving and sacrifice, and participate instead in greed and selfishness, or worse yet, as the family does at meal-time, in pettiness and mutual sabotage. Omi remembers the fate of those who forget that families cannot be taken for granted, that actions have consequences, that insults cut deep when spoken by blood. Above all, Omi can recall that horrible thing under the very thin veneer of civilization that will devour us should we forget what built this great house of ours.
No people but a people under constant siege, and nothing can siege quite as constantly as the winter cold, would have developed our mythology. Christianity papered over it, barely. Tall and bearded St. Nicholas, who historically was the generous and wise bishop of Myra, is in the mind of white, and particularly German man yet another avatar of Odin. Not for nothing is St. Nicholas, even when transmogrified by modern advertising into a Coca-Cola salesman, heavily associated with magic. Folk tales abound of him engaging in miraculous, magical acts. The Orthodox Church calls him St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker. Magic, as we know, is Odin’s preferred way of doing things. In the darkest night, we summon our all-father, under a new name, to warm us in his magical glow, bringing us the spirit of giving and sacrifice — gods above, sacrifice! — so that we may live through the cold, through the darkness, through the hunger, so that we may see the end of the ice giants. Jolly old St. Nick brings joy to good children, but totes with him Krampus to punish the bad. The wages of sin is death, sometimes literally. What our elders used to call sinful behavior wasn’t just normatively bad, as the left would have you believe, because of something something patriarchy. No — sinning meant death. Adultery meant death — pissing off your family is never a good idea when each winter you need them to survive. Pride, envy and wrath mean death for the same reasons. Gluttony, sloth, and greed mean death, for if you can’t control your flesh, you’ll starve or freeze or both.
And this is essentially the whole point of family. Like most modern people, I see little to like in my extended family. Even close to home, eh . . . but nobody else will hold my hand while I’m going through the various agonies of food poisoning. You need your family for tail events, for when you’re sick, for when you’re broke, for when shit hits the fan, and everything is wind except blood.
What I particularly like about the film is that the ending is ambiguous, and I interpret it as bad. It’s in many ways a film about the white and German experience of winter, but a bad ending reinforces the old Sicilian saying: “You fuck up once, you lose two teeth.” There’s no restarts and save-scumming in real life. If you turn your back on Odin, you give yourself to the ice giants. If you turn your back on God, you give yourself to the other guy.
Krampus is a film that tells that story in an action-packed and humorous, yet frightening package. It does so without poz, with good-looking actors, with a well-written script, good visuals and without an over-reliance on special effects. It somehow manages to be a good film while still hailing from the year 2015. Thank our old friend St. Nicholas under any of his names for this Christmas miracle.
We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.Movie ReviewChristmas is supposed to be a time of glad tidings and good cheer. Instead, greed, gluttony and grievances often rule the holiday season.
That's certainly what it's like in Max's family. Oh, it wasn't always that way. Max, who's perhaps 10, recalls a time when the annual Christmas gathering of his extended family was something to anticipate.
Now? Not so much.
That's because Max is just about the only one left in his family who has sheltered even a flickering flame of innocent Christmas joy and wonder. He loves the idea of writing his annual Christmas letter to Santa Claus (even though he knows the jolly old elf isn't real). He longs for his bickering family to behave better, to appreciate one another, to stop backbiting.
His parents, Tom and Sarah, have given it a good go, but, frankly, they're tired—of each other, of Christmas, of, well, everything. His older sister, Beth, is increasingly sinking into adolescent rebellion, mocking everything and plotting with her boyfriend to sneak out and hit a bong with him.
Then there's Sarah's sister's family, who soon arrive from—as Beth snarkily quips—the "shallow end of the gene pool." Howard drives a Hummer packed with guns and dresses his two tween daughters, twins Jordan and Stevie, as boys … because he never wanted girls. Meanwhile, chubby Howard Jr. rarely speaks, but loves to eat. Howard's wife, Linda, tries in vain to keep the peace and takes care of their littlest family member, baby Christine.
This year Sarah's invited Aunt Dorothy—a trash-talking, schnapps-drinking spinster—to join the family's dysfunctional yuletide fray. Only Max's gentle, German-speaking grandmother, Omi, is an ally of sorts as she quietly encourages Max to pen his letter to Santa once more this year.
And so he does.
But when his mean-spirited cousins (who have dubbed him "Maxipad") pilfer the letter and read it at dinner, Max has had enough with their petty, Grinch-like attitudes. In a fit of frustration, he tears up his letter, tossing the fragments into the December night while wishing that his family would just go away.
As always, you should be careful what you wish for.
Max's wish opens the door for something unexpected to come down the chimney that Christmas Eve. And let's just say right up front that the uninvited goat-horned-and-hoofed entity named Krampus is much more interested in who's been naughty than who's been nice.
Or, as wise old grandma Omi puts it, "Krampus came not to reward, but to punish. Not to give, but to take."
[Spoilers are contained in the following sections.]Positive ElementsMax's letter to Santa isn't full of the kinds of requests one might expect from your average tween. Instead, we hear that he's wished for his parents to love each other again, for Howard and Linda's struggling family to have more money to pay the bills, and for Uncle Howard to realize that his twin tomboys aren't ever going to be the real boys he's longed for.
In short, Max, more than anyone, realizes that his family is in bad shape. He wishes they could all learn to love and accept one another, despite their personality and ideological differences. And in the midst of a heated argument over a meal, Max's father, Tom, affirms his son's idealistic desires, saying, "That's what family is: trying to be friends even though we don't have much in common."
As Krampus and his devilish helpers invade Max's home, everyone has moments of realization about how petty they've been, how they've failed to love well and be thankful. Multiple family members put their lives at risk to try to save others from being picked off by Krampus and his henchminions. One of Howard's family mottos, which Tom adopts, is, "A shepherd's gotta protect his flock." And so they try to do just that. Spiritual ContentKrampus derives its "inspiration" from a Germanic alpine legend which posits Krampus as a goat-like entity that comes at Christmastime to punish children who were bad—something of a darker, shadowy counterpart to St. Nicholas. Krampus builds on that conception of this pseudo-mythological being, imagining him as an enormous, seriously creepy goat-man of sorts, who, along with twisted toys, evil-eyed stuffed animals, wicked gingerbread cookies and dark elves, wreaks havoc upon Max's family.
Though these beings seek to maim, wound and devour, there is still—unexpectedly—an observable and coherent spiritual worldview in play here. Specifically it's stated that Krampus only shows up when people have lost all vestiges of the true "Christmas spirit." Omi tells the family that Krampus took everyone in her family in post-World War II Germany except her. "He left me as a reminder of what happens when hope is lost, when belief is forgotten, and when the Christmas spirit dies."
So while Krampus isn't big on mentioning Jesus (outside of taking His name in vain, that is), or the true spiritual ideas of sin and redemption, we're told that everyone has committed misdeeds that deserve judgment, and that only the sacrifice of someone who is "good" can mitigate that deserved judgment. That sets the stage for this: As Krampus drops Max's family one by one into a hellish, fiery hole that's elsewhere referred to as the underworld, Max pleads with the being to take him instead. The boy's willingness to sacrifice himself, paired with the fact that he still possesses vestiges of Christmas "belief" (not in Jesus, but in the possibility that things can be better again), seems to finally set things straight again.
A magical bell then serves as a moralistic reminder of what's transpired, a warning that they need to keep putting others' needs ahead of their own if they hope to avoid a second visit from the goat-horned anti-Claus. Omi, too, emphasizes first to Max, and later to the entire family, the importance of clinging to the true Christmas spirit. She defines that as becoming people who are willing to give, to sacrifice and to keep on believing (though, again, the object of that belief isn't explored). The true meaning of Christmas, she says, is to focus on others' needs, not our own selfish desires.
We do hear some Christ-focused Christmas carols. And Howard says, "Jesus was born in a barn." A Rankin/Bass Claymation special includes a scene telling the Christmas story. Sexual ContentThere's talk of sex-triggered shotgun weddings. Dorothy tells someone, "Life is coming at you with its pants down" and jokes about squirrels "playing with their nuts."Recommended ResourceA Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey With Your Kids About SexKevin LemanEven the bravest parents feel timid about discussing sex with their 8- to 14-year-olds! This resource offers reassuring, humorous, real-life anecdotes along with reliable information to help you with this challenging task.Buy NowViolent ContentA montage of greed-propelled shoppers shows them fighting, hitting, Tazing and generally assaulting one another. Max (dressed as Rudolf) gets into a fight during a play. Another fight ensues with his cousins when they steal his letter to Santa. (Max bites one of his persecutors.)
Krampus employs Christmas toys, as well as goblin-y elves, to help do his violent bidding. People battle huge, bloody-teethed "angels," bears and clowns who try to devour them (and do successfully eat a child). A baby is kidnapped. Howard's leg is mauled (and we see blood seep through his clothing). Gingerbread cookies assault him with a nail gun, with several metal missiles sinking into his flesh. Howard Jr. is pulled up a chimney. Other people are yanked into holes in the snow. Someone is hanged by Christmas lights (then cut down). Another person is repeatedly stabbed by a crazed robot.
The humans fight back with Howard's pistol and shotgun, bloodily obliterating creatures that, not surprisingly, refuse to stay "dead." We see Krampus drop two screaming children into a fiery pit. And it's implied that Krampus is attacking not just Max's house, but the entire town, as we see him pouncing on rooftop after rooftop.Crude or Profane LanguageTwo f-words and an interrupted use of "m-----f—." Ten or so s-words. God's name is misused a dozen times, twice paired with "d--n." Jesus' name is abused four or five times. We also hear "h---, " "a--," "a--hole," "b--ch," "b--tard" and "d--k."Drug and Alcohol ContentBeth's boyfriend holds a Christmas-themed bong and invites her to join him. Aunt Dorothy isn't shy about her penchant for drinking, mingling peppermint schnapps with hot chocolate … and offering to serve the same to the three tweens. She later jokes about having a bad hangover. References are made to beer. Sarah reportedly takes Xanax.Other Negative ElementsSarah says her sister's family is proof that people should have to have "a test before breeding." We hear crude references to vomit, excrement, hemorrhoids and feminine hygiene products.ConclusionNearly 15 years ago now, Christian film director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister, The Day the Earth Stood Still) published an article in Christian Century about why he was attracted to horror movies. He said, "My work in the horror genre has made me controversial among Christians. But as a Christian, I defend horror films. No other genre offers audiences a more spiritual view of the world, and no other genre communicates a more dearly defined moral perspective. … More than any other genre, horror clearly communicates the distinction between good and evil."
That quote has stayed with me for a long time, and I frequently think about it when I see horror movies. In the abstract, I get what Derrickson is saying. But here's a harsh reality: the vast majority of horror movies I've reviewed in the last decade don't deal with the battle between good and evil in any sort of profitable way. Much more often they just indulge in gore for gore's sake or proffer a hopeless, nihilistic worldview in which evil wins and all the good guys die.
Which brings me to the seriously curious case of Krampus.
I expected this "comedic" horror-lite bit of jetsam (which many are rightly comparing to 1985's Gremlins) to major in gore and nihilism. Surprisingly, it does neither. Oh, there's a lot of violence here, to be sure, and some wickedly creepy imagery, the kind that could easily keep youngsters awake at night for decades.
Still, Krampus is exactly the kind of movie I think Derrickson was talking about. Namely, one that deals seriously (amid its campy goofiness) with spiritual issues. Though we never hear the word sin, the film strongly shows that we're all guilty of it, and that we're all deserving of judgment. Those are biblical themes … even if this is hardly a biblical movie.
Parallel to those themes is the idea that there's no deliverance from said judgment without belief. In this case, it's not in Jesus, but in the vague-yet-earnest concept of the "spirit of Christmas," which involves selflessness and sacrifice. In the end, only Max's willingness to sacrifice himself for the sake of others saves them all. But given the fact that he's really the only "good" character in the film (aside from, perhaps, Omi), it's hard not to see him as a Christ figure of sorts.
So does all that mean you rush out to soak up the spiritual lessons Krampus hints at? Um. Not really. I'm quite sure the spiritual ideas buried in this unsettling movie can be unearthed more easily in ways that don't involve a goat demon gleefully dropping children into a fiery afterlife—you know, just for fun.Pro-social ContentObjectionable ContentSummary AdvisoryPlot SummaryChristian BeliefsOther Belief SystemsAuthority RolesProfanity/ViolenceKissing/Sex/HomosexualityDiscussion TopicsAdditional Comments/NotesEpisode Reviews]]>
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