The holiday season is the most magical time of the year, but there is another, darker Christmas legend whose shadow over pop culture is growing.
Ancient folklore warns of Krampus, a myth that has been traced back centuries throughout European cultures. A horned beast who captures disobedient children for Christmas, Krampus is part merry, part monster.
Santa rewards the nice; Krampus punishes the naughty. Santa brings laughter and joy; Krampus unleashes darkness and mayhem.
Santa gives presents; Krampus takes souls.
Now the legendary Krampus is immortalized in a new film that will cast a merrily malicious shadow over Christmas for years to come. Legendary Pictures’ Krampus, the darkly festive tale of this yuletide ghoul, reveals an irreverently twisted side to the holiday.
Writer/director/producer Michael Dougherty has long taken an interest in the delightfully dark and subversive. From his breakout feature, 2007’s Trick ’r Treat, which began as a small release and has grown to attract a rabid cult following, to his unexpected research into the origins of the winter solstice, the filmmaker has discovered that the dark side of pop culture and folklore is often much more fascinating than the humdrum stories we’ve been told.
Dougherty explains that it was about 15 years ago that he was introduced to the dark side of December’s beloved holiday: “The same way that Americans send out Christmas cards, Europeans have this rich tradition of sending out Krampus cards. 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. It was lurking in the shadows waiting to be rediscovered.”
The more he explored, the more Dougherty realized how intricate the cloven-hooved demon’s history actually is. He states: “One theory is that Krampus goes back to the roots of the holiday itself, which go all the way back to pagan history. 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.” He pauses. “There are theories that Santa Claus was even created as an antidote to Krampus.”
Read the full feature in the December 2015 Christmas edition of our SFF Time For A Movie Magazine: