Sunday, December 6, 2015

Krampus, The Tale and The Movie

I grew up with German stories and folk tales. Most of them were scary, and as I have determined in my later years, were designed to encourage children to behave. There was Peter, to whom terrible things happened because he wouldn't get his hair or fingernails clipped. Of course Jonathan didn't eat his food and finally died. The little girl who played with matches burned herself. Those were just a few. It was all nasty, horrible stuff.

Thankfully, what I never heard about was Krampus. My son first brought this character to my attention. "Tell me about Krampus," he said.

"What, who?"

"Krampus", he repeated.

The puzzled look on my face probably said it all. I had never heard of Krampus. He seemed disappointed. On the other hand, he was twenty five years old at the time, and I was unconvinced that he'd be damaged for life.

Research has told me that Krampus is a hairy, horned beastly figure that punishes children at Christmas. It is said to have originated in Alpine countries. There's often a parade, which includes celebrants dressed as the beast. At one time, the Krampus figure was found on greeting cards and other paraphernalia. Apparently, it has become less frightening and has appeared more friendly in recent years, being more humorous than fearsome in order to promote tourist approval.

So when it was announced that this Christmas, there would be a movie entitled "Krampus",  I made a date...with my son. The film would be in theatres on December 3rd. We went today.

The movie began with a family awaiting the arrival of an unruly bunch of boisterous relatives. I was immediately reminded of the Griswolds and Cousin Eddie's family in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. There was even a dog. The difference was that this crew was neither endearing, nor funny. The family is having a meal and are bickering and being rude and insulting to each other the entire time. The son, Max, gets disillusioned about Christmas, rips up his letter to Santa, and it's then when a terrible storm, power failures, and odd happenings ensue.

There are some good actors in this movie. I particularly enjoyed the oma character who spoke German but for some inexplicable reason suddenly became fluent in English. She tells the story of her childhood encounter with Krampus at which point the movie changes temporarily to an animated "Nightmare Before Christmas" type of thing. Come to think of it, if someone were to put together several Christmas movies, add some lines from Air Force One, and some other assorted phrases, and cliches, that would describe the dialogue in Krampus.

The anti-Santa is somewhat frightening but then the whole story turns hokey when the writers invoke every child's greatest fears to help with the scare factor. I'm fairly certain that Krampus has nothing to do with clowns, Chucky dolls, evil gingerbread cookies, armies of nasty snowmen and the like, but then I might be mistaken. After all, what do I know about Krampus?

Of course, the American solution to every problem becomes evident before long. There's a Hummer belonging to the redneck type relatives. Inside are weapons (not of mass destruction, but none the less an assortment of guns). These prove to be pea shooters against the evil that tunnels with heads, dolls, clowns, and other nasty toys. Soon...all hell breaks loose, both literally and figuratively.

The ending is a bit unusual. Yes, there's a dream sequence. I don't feel I'm giving away the plot by telling this secret. In fact, the plot is pretty much non existent except for an hour and a half of a frightened family fighting against the latest in terrorism which has arrived in their midst.

So what was the best part of the movie? The best part was seeing it with my son. We shared a lovely lunch, chatted, shopped a bit, and saw the film.

I thought I'd surprise my son with some Krampus playing cards, a novelty item in his Christmas stocking this year.
 It appears that I am a bit late. He's already cornered the market on the Krampus merchandise. When I dropped him off he showed me his Christmas ornament and a book containing a collection of old postcards and of course, the real story of Krampus.

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