The horror that revives the nightmare of Christmas, without a fusty relative in sight
A boy accidentally summons a demon in creepy Christmas horror Krampus.
IT HAS HOLIDAY SPIRIT
After setting 2007’s Trick ’r Treat around Halloween, director Michael Dougherty is now exploring the darker side of everyone’s favourite time of year. “I’m fascinated by all the holidays,” he tells Red Alert. “With Christmas and Halloween especially, we’re encouraged by customs and traditions to believe in magic. Both holidays stretch back to pagan times, as they’re really pre-Christian holidays that have been Christianised, so many of the traditions that we hold so dear have strange mystical connotations that lend themselves well to films like this.”
HE KNOWS IF YOU’VE BEEN NAUGHTY
Known as the Christmas Devil, Krampus is based on an old North European myth about a half-goat/half-demon, who hands out considerably more brutal treatment to bad children than filling their stocking with coal. “He’s sometimes called the Shadow of St Nicholas or the Anti-Santa,” says Dougherty. “But if you dig a little deeper, you find out that Krampus predates Santa so it’s actually more appropriate to call Santa the Anti-Krampus. What’s really fun with this creature is that he’s a sort of gateway into a much deeper mythology, and there’s something fun about learning the truth about a holiday we all know so much about.”
IT’S A TWISTED FAIRYTALE
With Dougherty noting that, “it’s a mix of horror, comedy, fantasy and dark fairytales,” Krampus harks back to ’80s classics like Poltergeist and Gremlins as well to the more sinister likes of An American Werewolf In London, A Nightmare On Elm Street and Hellraiser. “Those films were trippy, borderline surreal horror films,” he recalls. “They were much more creative and looser with their rules whereas a lot of genre films we have nowadays are very grounded to the point where they’re dismal. We wanted to create something that had a bit more of a fantastical feel to it.”
IT’S TWO FILMS IN ONE
Starring Toni Colette, Adam Scott and Alison Tolman, the film centres on a young family who are haunted by the vengeful Christmas spirit after their young son declares his disbelief in Santa. “We needed to cast actors that you would think would star in a normal Christmas drama because that’s how the film starts out,” explains Dougherty. “The first act is really a straight-up Christmas movie with comedic elements but then it shifts, so part of the fun was finding actors that could really pull off that sudden genre switch.”
KRAMPUS HAS HELP
Brought to gruesome life by Weta Workshop and Weta Digital, Dougherty resorted to a combination of digital and old-school effects to bring Krampus’s numerous minions to the screen. “We have a multitude of different creatures,” says Dougherty. “There are these creepy toys that come to life, so for them we used actual puppets and then used computers to erase the rods and wires and the puppeteers themselves. But then we would use digital for certain other creatures that I don’t want to give away yet.”
Krampus opens on 4 December.