Christmas Reckoning


Back in summer, I watched Krampus (2015), having missed it last Christmas season. The perfect time of year, right? Well, it wasn’t the most spectacular yuletide horror flick of all, but it had its moments. Its subtle homage to all sorts of classic Christmastime pop-culture references was witty. Perhaps the issue was that the movie was truly effective and made me squeamish. Clive Barker’s Hellraiser mythos has the same effect on me.

Last night, I saw A Christmas Horror Story (2015). I enjoyed that film more for whatever reason. Maybe it was the quirky touch that only William Shatner can bring as the local radio host of the quaint little hamlet of Bailey Downs on Christmas Eve who’s getting more liquored up and loosened up by the hour. Multiple storylines are at play. Most stalwart of all is Santa Claus in the mode of a somber action hero going to war against his elves turned by infection into foul-mouthed zombies. Spoiler alert! At last, the final showdown as beleaguered and bleeding Old Saint Nick lays eyes on the bringer of evil lurking in the snowy shadows, “I knew it. Krampus — vile enemy of Christmas.” Once Nicholas has bested the beast, he rouses from his waking nightmare to realize he’s just a shopping mall Santa who’s been carrying out a homicidal bloodbath upon seasonal employees in a delusional state, and the Bailey Downs SWAT team is bearing down on him. Perhaps Santa was suffering severe alcohol-induced psychosis. Or perhaps it was some sort of Christmastime spirit that possessed him much like the spirit of Krampus possessed and transmogrified others in a parallel storyline. Shatner as Dangerous Dan covers the murder and mayhem at the mall, laments the horrific annual abnormalities of Christmas Eve in Bailey Downs, and proclaims the urgency for us all to recapture a classically spiritual Christmas rooted in Christ. A good message indeed.

I know that I have certainly been fascinated by the symbology and history of Krampus the Christmas Devil over the past few years as I’ve encountered his Alpine mythos. He made an appearance (albeit a very cuddly revision of him holding mistletoe) alongside Sinterklaas on my family greeting cards as the traditional Christmastime Justice Duo.

It seems that pop culture has experienced a growing interest in Krampus — a Krampus Resurgence — in the last decade according to Jonathan McDonald writing at Dappled Things last December. The whole piece is a short and worthy read. McDonald muses about what this pop culture manifestation of a reworked Krampus concept says about ourselves after we’ve deconstructed and reconstructed Santa Claus for generations:

Carl Jung would doubtless have written a two-volume set about what Krampus Resurgent means about our collective unconscious. Maybe our country is using this to work through its growing hatred of Christian holy days. Maybe we’re tired of paper-thin happiness and manufactured joy. Maybe it’s an indicator of our increased cynicism about the commercialization of Christmas. Maybe subconsciously we all know that our anti-religious attitude is going to get us dragged down to Hell someday, and we’re manifesting that fear through pop culture. How long until we start seeing the Krampuslauf on our city streets?

It leaves me wondering just what we’re collectively unconsciously expressing. And the Krampuslauf (or Krampus Run) would be quite a terrifying sight on American streets right alongside a Christmas parade! Look one up on YouTube and see for yourself.