I gotta admit that until 2011 when Anything Horror’s very own Deggsy wrote a holiday article titled, “Holiday Horror Cultural Icon: The Krampus,” I’d never heard of Krampus. But this year it seems the Krampus is everywhere. In case you’re like me and aren’t familiar with the Krampus, here’s how Deggsy described it in his article:
[I]t seems that in ancient Alpine and German tradition, the Krampus was a naughty sidekick to Saint Nicholas, bit like a rude, goat-faced Zack Galifinakis (in other words, Zack Galifinakis). Both of them would show up at houses together, but while Nicholas would pass out gifts from his sack to the good children, Krampus would scare the naughty children by ringing loud cowbells, or beating them with the birches. In fact, if they were particularly bad, the Krampus would chain them up, stick him in his basket, cart them off, kill them and eat them.
You can see how horror filmmakers would be drawn to the Krampus!! Let’s face it; the ‘killer Santa’ has been done to death (ah-hem) and there’s not much that’s horrifying about the Christmas season. But leave it to Germany for providing some fuel for some new holiday horrors. I in fact have two horror short films I’ll be reviewing that has the Krampus as the main antagonist. First up is the short film, NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS, written and directed by Thomas Smith.
NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS starts off on Christmas Eve as Bobby (Lucas Curley) is teasing his little sister Lisa (Chloe Dykes) about the recent disappearance of some local children. Bobby is doing the typical NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD tease … you know what I’m talking about: “They’re coming to get you, Lisa.” During the teasing they think they hear something downstairs and immediately get excited. They run downstairs expecting to catch Santa in the act but instead come face to face with the Krampus. Both are scared, but Lisa was a good girl all year and has nothing to worry about. But Bobby, on the other hand, was naughty and is taken by Krampus. We then flash over to the main characters in the cast. There’s Rue Morgan (Khristian Fulmer) who works in a very active cemetery; Herb West (voiced by Soren Odom), a talking, wise-cracking skeleton that Rue carries around with him; and Claire Renfield (Erin Lilley), who works the day shift at the cemetery. Are you catching all the horror references in these names? This will also give you the overall tone of the short. NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS wasn’t made to be a gore-filled bloodbath. This is, in fact, a Christmas short that is safe for the entire family.
The three main characters, Rue, Claire, and Herb, appeared in Thomas’ previous short film, THE NIGHT SHIFT (2011). Here they were introduced and we get the backstory as to how the cemetery sits on an “inter-dimensional rift.” The main characters are quirky, likable, and always seem to find themselves in some kind of supernatural trouble. In NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS Claire starts noticing that there’s an unusually large rash of missing children in the neighborhood. And due to Claire’s Mulder-esque encyclopedic knowledge of everything that’s supernatural, she figures out that they are dealing with the Krampus.
This short plays out more like a supernatural-mystery as Rue, Claire, and Herb try to unravel the mystery of what the Krampus is and who’s controlling it. There’s no gore here but I found myself having a pretty fun time with it. As mentioned above, the three main recurring characters are likable and I did like the fact that this short is kid-friendly. I in fact showed this one to my kids the next day (they are 5 and 8) and they thought it was a lot of fun (they loved Herb). Now that they have the Krampus in their heads, as they get a little older I’ll be able to start showing them more of the horrific side of the legend (I always have a plan!!).
As the mystery unravels and they figure out who’s controlling the Krampus, they come face to face with the creature. Again, we get a very G-rated final battle, but it was satisfying. The creature itself looked a little like a demonic werewolf from one of the AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON dream sequences.
NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS isn’t going to blow you away on the horror meter and it’s not a perfect film. Even though the acting is good overall, there are a few problems like one child smiling all the time even when he’s in danger. This is, though, a kid-friendly supernatural mystery safe for the entire family. Smith also keeps everything moving along at a nice pace so even smaller viewers don’t lose interest (it clocks in just shy of 26:30). If you go into this one expecting something more along the lines of a Scooby Doo mystery then I think you’ll have a fun time with it. Me and my kids certainly did.
Director: Thomas Smith (& writer)
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 0 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer