I shall be unwrapping Krampus, tearing through its film and ripping out its contents to discover if it’s a gag gift or God’s gift to cinema. So read on only if you’ve already seen Krampus, or don’t plan to.
0:02:25 Well done opening credit scene. A Black Friday style massacre in a Mucho Mart filmed in the style of holiday Christmas special, using Bing Crosby’s “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” as the music. Everything I hate about the holiday in one neat, little package.
[N.B. The movie on in the background is Scrooge / Christmas Carol.]
Emjay Anthony as Max Engel
Adam Scott as Tom Engel
Toni Collette as Sarah Engel
Stefania LaVie Owen as Beth Engel
0:07:18 My copy doesn’t have subtitles for all of the German the elderly woman (Krista Stadler as Omi Engel – N.B. ‘Omi’ is ‘Gran’ in German) is speaking. Is it just me, or was no one allowed to ride her train of thought?
Beth [on the phone, talking about house guests]: Yeah, my cousins are crawling out of the shallow end of the gene pool.
When horror movies quote The Lion King.
0:08:18 The not-distant-enough family members arrive and their motor car shakes the house; a metaphor that their arrival is akin to an enemy invasion.
0:08:46 The relatives embark and I recognize Allison Tolman, the actress who plays Linda (Sarah’s sister), as the lead from season 1 of Fargo. Her husband is Howard, played by David Koechner, who we saw earlier in Cheap Thrills. Thus, when they mate, it’s Cheap Thrills in Fargo.
Who doesn’t make a ham at Christmas? What are you? A Jew?
Aunt Dorothy during a cliché family dinner
Tom and Sarah exchange a nervous glance. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assert that the Engels are Jews celebrating Christmas, adding another level of irony to the comedy of the film. My only proof (apart from the exchange I’ve just referenced) is the names. Both of the women have Hebrew first names (Sarah and Beth), and, according to Ancestry.com, one source of the name ‘Engel’ is “Jewish (Ashkenazic): ornamental name from German Engel ‘angel’”.
0:15:42 Max’s cousins (gender fluid girls called Stevie and Jordan), tease him because, at ten-years-old, he still believes in Father Christmas. The way I still believe in this film.
0:16:22 WTF!? Stevie (Lolo Owen, younger sister of the actress who plays Beth) reads Max’s extremely personal letter to Santa 🎅 aloud at the crowded dinner table and no one, not even any of the adults, does anything to stop her? Max’s parents are more careless than caring.
0:19:25 Act 1 ends with Max destroying the letter and throwing it out of his window, into the Christmas night. The letter now becomes air mail.
0:20:08 Before going to bed, Max opens a door on an ancient advent calendar, ushering in the dream sequence.
0:20:26 This eerie snowman shows up in the front garden the morning after the storm began, when all the power is out. He gives Max shivers.
0:21:23 Sarah explains why they can’t talk to the neighbours about the power outage.
The Turners are in Hawaii, the Lamberts are in Florida, and the Cartwrights stopped talking to us after Max’s noodle incident.
The reference to the “noodle incident” is a trope (i.e. running cultural joke) that began with a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.
0:22:08 A mysterious gift bag is left on the doorstep. Bad things come in good packages.
0:24:10 On Beth’s way to visit her boyfriend, in the middle of the blizzard, night suddenly falls harder than a fat man riding a unicycle on ice.
0:24:43 Krampus appears on the roof of the house. Beth says, “Oh my God,” but I think it’s someone else.
0:25:16 Beth hides under the DHL van which is parked in the middle of the street because the driver is a scared quite stiff at this point of his death.
0:27:07 The Jack-in-the-box Krampus leaves under the van with Beth is intense, until the image on my tablet is not neat enough to see what kills her.
0:30:16 Tom takes Howard’s SUV to look for Beth in the storm, despite Omi’s protests. For all the German I speak, she may be warning them about the SUV and global warming.
0:30:42 In the truck, Howard says he’d like to listen to Bing Crosby. He should watch the opening credits of this film.
0:32:14 After finding an abandoned snow plow that has obviously been attacked by something, Howard opens up the boot to access his weapons cache. Looks like this Christmas, he’s going to hunt more than bargains.
0:35:00 In Beth’s boyfriend’s house, Tom and Howard find the place is in a tip. Either that or it’s university housing.
0:35:34 It’s clear from the damage that whatever havoc was wreaked in this house, it entered by coming down the chimney.
0:36:18 Tom and Howard discover giant goat tracks in front if the fireplace. Only at this instant does Beth decide to begin screaming loud enough for the men to hear. Or maybe she couldn’t be heard over all the WTF.
0:37:21 Tom shoots something shark-like in the snow that’s attacking Howard. Reminds me a great deal of Avalanche Sharks, except it’s good.
0:40:32 Tom distinctively heard Beth screaming, yet he left her to bring Howard back to the house and bandage his wound!? WTF!? Like a new father subscribing to a parenting magazine, she’s going to have daddy issues.
0:42:04 In less than two minutes, the family agree to give up on Beth as though she were a leper drowning in acid.
Tom: She [Omi, his mother] always gets a little weird around Christmas.
Max: How come?
Tom: I don’t know. She never wanted to talk about it.
This sentence will come back to haunt us like a ghost of Christmas past.
0:48:14 While on watch, Howard Sr. falls asleep (along with the rest of the family). A giant hook with a gingerbread man attached is lowered down the chimney and when the pastry calls out, only Howie Jr. (Maverick Flack) hears the noise. He walks over to it and, when he takes a bite out of it, it comes to life and wraps him up on the chain. No one else hears a thing until the lad decides to scream when being pulled up the chimney. This scene would’ve been much more clever if it didn’t come at the expense of so much WTF!?
0:50:42 Omi remembers she speaks English just in time to tell us the story of Krampus. I’m betting it doesn’t start with American Dad.
0:53:44 The story is that when Omi was a sad little girl in a depressing village, she wished Christmas would go away. In its place, Krampus came and ate her family. At the beginning of this film, Max destroyed his letter to Father Christmas much as little Omi threw her Santa doll in the fire.
Krampus didn’t take me that night. He left me as a reminder of what happens when hope is lost, when belief is forgotten and the Christmas spirit dies.
Krampus may not bring out the Christmas spirit in you, but he can bring out your spirit.
[N.B. This scene is critical to understanding the ending. Krampus kills Omi’s family, but spares her. Instead of killing her, he leaves her with a bell as a reminder of the Christmas spirit she needs to keep.]
0:55:18 Howard goes out to rescue his son (at least one parent here isn’t ready to sacrifice a child), and when he steps into the front garden, there is a graveyard of snowmen because all of the night’s victims have been transformed into snow-creatures. Instead of his rifle, Howard might want to carry a flame thrower.
0:55:22 Howie Jr. was also made into a snowman. That’s cold.
0:57:08 Aunt Dorothy has this to say:
0:59:58 Up in the attic, the gifts that delivered themselves are moving. Either that, or it’s presents of mind.
1:01:12 Stevie and Jordan have to go upstairs to use the ‘crapper’, ostensibly because Aunt Dorothy clogged the one below. The real reason is that the writer needed the girls upstairs to be lured by a monster speaking with Beth’s voice. So, in fact, both excuses are full of shite.
1:02:42 Following screams from the attic, Tom, Linda and Sarah rise to the challenge by going upstairs to investigate. Howard, however, remains downstairs to protect Omi, Max, Dorothy and a baby, which he does by abandoning them to investigate noises elsewhere in the house. WTF!?
1:05:24 A wild Jack-in-the-box eats Jordan like a snake. His stomach won’t be the only thing upset.
1:05:47 Some gingerbread men shoot a nail gun at Howard. In other words, he gets nailed.
1:06:30 An evil angel doll swoops down on the trio like an owl. Logical, as angels love to prey.
1:07:28 Now an evil robot toy attacks Tom. This turns Tom off, automatically.
[N.B. The four monsters (the doll, the Jack-in-the-box, the Teddy bear and the robot) are a hommage the 1992 direct-to-video hor-com Demonic Toys.]
Fear not, Howard’s dog somehow ate this in midair without making a sound, or a movement. They went a little heavy on the WTF!? in this recipe.
1:08:32 Linda, seeing her daughter on the attic floor covered in slime, is overcome with heroism. She stabs Teddy in the eye, takes an axe to the doll, kicks the robot off Tom’s back and goes after the Jack-in-the-box, who slithers away at the last moment. She’s not somebody to toy with.
1:12:24 Everyone meets in the living room, where Max lets Rosie the dog (Thor) loose in the vents. Unfortunately, the pup falls through the ceiling with the evil toys and gets eaten by the Jack-in-the-box. Aunt Dorothy proceeds to shoot everything with her shotgun and, like much of this film, she’s on target.
1:14:06 Suddenly, a patrol of evil elves breaks in and absconds with Chrissy the baby (Sage Hunefeld) and Aunt Dorothy. Howard leaps on the Jack-in-the-box’s tail and follows the evil like a spammer on Instagram.
1:18:02 Either Omi’s facing her demons or haemorrhoids grew a face.
1:18:30 Omi disappears into Krampus’s bag of evil toys, making her a bag lady.
1:20:18 Tom sends the family ahead to the protection of the plow while he shoots at an invisible snow-mole with his infinite bullet shotgun. The plan works as well for him as it does for any Storm Trooper.
1:21:02 Both of the mothers are pulled into the snowbanks by invisible snow sharks. It’s an ice way to say goodbye.
I don’t even know how to drive a stick. We have a hybrid!
Max trying to start the snow plow
For someone who still believes in Father Christmas at puberty, knowing how to drive anything is a plus.
1:21:52 Stevie gets pulled through a broken window by the evil elves, leaving Max alone in the cab of the lorry. For some reason, the engine that was running is now turned off, and he decides to pursue the evil he has escaped. Some people are never happy.
1:22:26 Krampus alights right in front of Max and tosses the letter to Father Christmas Max had torn up at Max’s feet. Krampus doesn’t care about human life or the environment. #FatherChristmess
1:22:54 After Krampus kills Max’s entourage, he gives Max a big bell and takes off, just as he had with flashback Omi.
[N.B. After Krampus takes Max’s kin, he gives Max his life and the bell in a tacit pact that Max will celebrate Christmas and keep the Christmas spirit. This is the same bargain he had with Omi.]
[N.B. The entire text of the bell reads ‘Gruss von Krampus’, or ‘Greetings from Krampus’.]
Omi [in flashback voice-over]: He left me as a reminder of what happens when hope is lost, when belief is forgotten, and the Christmas spirit dies.
This for those who are slower than a snail in paste…
1:25:06 Walking away from the scene, Max happens upon the evil beasties with Krampus in what appears to be an open air courtroom to judge Stevie. Max yells that he takes back his wish. After he throws his Krampus bell back, the earth opens and a gateway to Hell opens. No one, it seems, likes to deal with gift returns.
[N.B. This scene is critical for the ending. As we saw at 53:44, when Omi complained about Christmas as a child, Krampus eliminated her family and spared her, leaving her with a bell as a reminder. At 1:22:54, Krampus gave Max a bell, entering into the same contract with the boy: I’ll take your family but I’ll give you this bell as a marker against your life, for as long as you honour Christmas.]
1:26:52 Max pleads with Krampus to undo the evil he’s done and offers himself up as a sacrifice to replace his family. Krampus slowly touches his long, sharp claw to Max’s tear and…laughs as his minions toss Stevie into the hell pit. Now I’m afraid, I’m afraid the film is going to ruin this gorgeous development in favour of a happy ending.
1:27:08 Krampus holds Max over the pit by his head and the boy starts screaming to be let go. Apparently, that whole ‘take me instead’ bit was just a bluff.
[N.B. This shot is a nod to the 1970 version of Scrooge, where the miser tumbles backwards into a grave and falls all the way to hell.]
1:27:42 Max wakes up in a room that is noticeably brighter and tidier than the one he went to sleep in. His dreams must not have been dirty.
[N.B. The observant viewer will notice the posters referencing the TV shows Robot Chicken and Rick and Morty. The explanation is that Seth Green, the force behind Robot Chicken, and Justin Roiland, the voices of both Rick and Morty in the animated series, have cameos in this film, playing antagonists ‘Lumpy’ and ‘Clumpy’, respectively.]
1:27:55 The first thing Max does is open ’25’ on the advent calendar, symbolizing the end of the dream that he began when he opened ’23’ at 0:20:08. Like my love life, this film is simply a nightmare.
[N.B. This ending is a reference to A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens (the story of Scrooge), where a man who hates Christmas is visited by ghosts in his dream and wakes up on Christmas morning full of the Christmas spirit. This ending is foreshadowed in the opening scene where the film version is on the telly.]
1:28:48 Not only was last night a dream, but now the families who had been at each other’s throats are closer than a brother and sister on their honeymoon.
SOL Smirk Out Loud
1:30:42 The requisite ‘it was all a dream…or was it?’ ending.
1:32:18 Yes! Brilliant! Just when we start to get used to the idea that it was a dream ending, Max opens the bell gift and everyone becomes deadly serious. The mood changes to one of fear and the camera pulls back to reveal the happy scene is taking place in a house in a street in a snow globe. Krampus had miniaturized them and is keeping them on ice in a glass ball on his shelf. Bonus points for the unpredictable ending.
N.B. The ending to Krampus has stimulated a lot of debate. There are two camps, those who believe that the ending is a metaphor where Krampus is watching over the family to ensure they continue to respect the yuletide holiday, and then there are those who are right. The film makes it clear that when Max renounces the bell, he reneges on the deal Krampus made with him and so is condemned to the same fate as the rest of his family. Points that support this opinion are:
- The moment Max returns the bell, he is dropped into Hell
- Max’s room and the rest of the house is much brighter in the globe than it was in reality, proving it is a reproduction of the original
- The look on the family’s faces reflect an awareness of their fate
1:32:41 Nice closing credits using a wooden advent calendar. This way, Adam Scott has a date.
1:36:26 While the credits roll, we see Christmas photos of the cast and crew and hear Krampus carols, Christmas carols whose lyrics have been changed in honor of Krampus.
Gruß Vom Krampus Karol of the Bells (to the tune of “Carol of the Bells”)
Children take care,
Please be aware,
All that you’ve done
Will come to bear.
Have you been good?
Behaved as you should?
Those who have not,
Krampus will come,
Looking for some.
You are unsafe,
Fast as you run.
You’re on his list,
Not what you wished.
This Christmas morn
You will be missed…
You can hear the whole song at the bottom of this playlist (the singing version begins at 3:56):
- WTF!?’s: 9 that left me cold
- When to Follow: Any time during the month of December.
- Where’s This Found: Destined to be a Christmas horror classic. While there are no real scares (it is PG-13, after all), the production value is evident when looking at the special effects and the A-list cast, both of which really elevate this film above standard horror comedy fare. And the uncompromising ending earned it an extra ‘F’ from me. Out of a possible 10, I have 8 F’s to give (and ‘9’ in the two weeks before Christmas).
- What To Feedback: What is your opinion of the ending? Answer the poll here and please leave a comment with your proof!
Left Over WTF (Way Too Funny) Photos
Left over GIFs
Left over photos
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What to Follow Up
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