Why don’t we have more Christmas horror movies? American horror movies are rife with jerks who get what’s coming to them and Krampus is the perfect Christmas twist. Krampus, for the uninitiated, is a demonic goat creature who, instead of enticing children into good behavior with the metaphorical carrot like Santa does, goes for the stick instead – which in Krampus’ case means bundling naughty children up in a sack and beating them with a switch (movie!Krampus ups the ante with the sinners getting sent to the “underworld”). It’s all very Grimm and primal, which makes sense considering Krampus’ pre-Christian roots and its popularity in Austria and other European countries. Krampus’ dark theme also offers an additional layer to the typical punishment people get in American horror movies because part of the attraction of horror movies (and fairytales and the superhero genre, by the way), is due to the fact that the bad guys always get punished.
Fifteen minutes and several obnoxious in-laws into Krampus and the movie looked like it might continue in the same “Scourge of God” vein, but when the biggest sin as well as the impetus of Krampus’ attack is revealed to be losing Christmas spirit and hope, the movie becomes a lot less enjoyable. After all, horror movies are only fun if you can indulge in thrills and chills while still being in a safe environment…and very few minorities in America, myself included, are feeling safe—never mind merry and bright—today. If Krampus really did exist and made punishing those who lost hope and the Christmas spirit his whole life goal, he’d be working double-time this year.
[pullquote] After all, horror movies are only fun if you can indulge in thrills and chills while still being in a safe environment…and very few minorities in America, myself included, are feeling safe—never mind merry and bright—today. If Krampus really did exist and made punishing those who lost hope and the Christmas spirit his whole life goal, he’d be working double-time this year. [/pullquote]It’s rather messed-up if you think about it – all of us fearful, depressed, and despairing minorities would be getting taken by Krampus’ horrific, Christmas-themed underlings while the privileged enjoy their ignorant bliss and lack of one-way tickets to hell. As if we weren’t already terrified of being shot, attacked, or deported, now we have to worry about the personification (demonic goatification?) of the War on Christmas if we lose faith once. Movie!Krampus doesn’t care about the political or socioeconomic backdrop of your life. Heck, if a starving child presumably living during wartime doesn’t get his sympathy the rest of us don’t stand a chance. No matter your past support for the spirit of Christmas (including actually punching out another kid over it), one single moment of frustration and disillusionment and boom! insta-blizzard and a horrific home invasion. Sure, it’s a Christmas movie staple for people to learn that they really love their family (see also: Home Alone), but going to hell seems a bit of an overreaction…and it’s also only coincidence that the same people who burst the kid’s bubble in Krampus also get the reminder.
And what about today? It’s a lot harder to love relatives who voted for a Vice President who wants to shock the gay out of you or parents who ostracize you because of your gender or sexual identity. Should we really love the people who hurt and dehumanize us? And is it fair to punish those of us who just can’t bring ourselves to do it? I may have only been in Catholic school for three and half years, but I’m pretty sure that while Jesus encouraged us to turn the other cheek, he certainly didn’t call for us to be dragged to hell for not being able to.
In the end it’s a struggle to find a positive takeaway from Krampus even if I do subscribe to the interpretation that the family ends up being monitored, not imprisoned, by Krampus. If I were to scrounge a bit of hope and faith from the movie it’s that perhaps your annoying relatives aren’t as bad as you think they are. They can still joke about punching your already bullied, friendless kid with a new pair of knuckledusters (haha?) or disrespect you right in front of your kids (still not cool), but in the end they’ll be there for you when you get attacked by demonic Christmas entities…one hopes.