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Holiday Streams: Krampus recounts tale of terrifying Central European mythical creature

Krampus is a choice that’s beyond your typical holiday-watching pick, one that can itch the scratch for something Christmas-themed with an edge.

Holiday Streams: Krampus recounts tale of terrifying Central European mythical creature

A still from Krampus | Universal Pictures

  • Devki Nehra

Last Updated: 11.57 AM, Dec 08, 2021

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The legend of Santa Claus is centuries old, and links back to the jolly patron saint of Christmas, St Nicholas, who rewards children for being good throughout the year. There's also his evil twin Krampus, a menacing and gaunt man, who brings only destruction wherever he goes. The 2015 film gives a Hollywood touch to the legend, offering a mix of laughs and screams.

Krampus, co-written and directed by Michael Dougherty, focuses on this Central European folklore figure, and how he besieges the Christmas celebrations of the Engel family. The film opens with Tom (Adam Scott), Sarah (Toni Colette) and their two kids Beth (Stefanie LaVie Owen) and Max (Emjay Anthony) preparing to host a barrage of insufferable relatives over the holidays. It doesn’t at all feel like they are going to bring in a festival together, but then don’t all family gatherings bring out our dysfunctional best?

During dinner, after some snarky back and forth between everyone, one of the teenage cousins steals Max's letter to Santa, and, to his humiliation, reads it out loud. This launches another argument and fight, only for Max to tear his letter and throw it out of his window.

Max (Emjay Anthony) in Krampus | Universal Pictures
Max (Emjay Anthony) in Krampus | Universal Pictures

All seems okay at first even when the family wakes up to an angry blizzard, no electricity and dead phone lines. But then Beth decides to take a walk to her boyfriend’s house, gets attacked by a half-human half-beast of a creature and never returns home. The family worries, but soon realise that staying together and waiting for the storm out is a far safer option. However, Beth’s disappearance is only the beginning, as the family gets attacked over and over again by creepy creatures. This adversity unites them, and together they attack back to their best abilities. Eventually, Tom’s mother (Krista Stadler) realises that this particular incident is the work of Krampus, someone she had encountered when she was a child — the animated sequence could be from a Tim Burton film.

Krampus is enjoyable in bits, amusing even, especially with the presence of Conchata Ferrell (She was hilarious as the sharp-tongued housekeeper Berta in Two and a Half Men). One good thing about Krampus is that it doesn’t belong to one actor, all of them together run the show.

A still from Krampus | Universal Pictures
A still from Krampus | Universal Pictures

This film is a choice that’s beyond your typical holiday special, one that can itch the scratch for something Christmas-themed with an edge. There’s not enough blood, guts and gore in the story, not enough to have you cowering under your sheets or at least physically shudder once, but I would still suggest you not watch it with children.

A still from Krampus | Universal Pictures
A still from Krampus | Universal Pictures

Bitterness, resentments, fights are all a part of reuniting with family on any festive occasion, as is usually depicted in Hollywood films. They bring out the best, but can also bring out the worst and make you forget that Christmas is a festival of giving. The ultimate lesson of the story, though it doesn't really have a happy ending is that festivals are meant to unite, to celebrate our commonalities and differences. But most importantly, be careful what you wish for because you might just not know how good it was till it's gone. 

Krampus is available to rent or buy on YouTube, Apple TV and Google Play.

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