The hor­ror that re­vives the night­mare of Christ­mas, with­out a fusty rel­a­tive in sight

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A boy ac­ci­den­tally sum­mons a de­mon in creepy Christ­mas hor­ror Kram­pus.


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.

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