Krampus has been gaining cred in current pop culture, since Monte Beauchamp started curating and exhibiting 19th and 20th century Krampuskarten or greeting cards. Appealing to our beloved psycho-tendency toward humanoid holiday reapers and edging on perverse, the greeting cards illustrate the Alpine-rooted beast as a hoofed, horned and lolling-tongued goat-man, chaining and stuffing his sack with hysterical children, sometimes women. As the story goes, misbehaved kids are then dragged into the underworld or Krampus’ lair.
It seems the Krampus phenomenon has yet to breach Corvallis, though it was suggested as a costume for those attending last Saturday’s SantaCon. Most recently, Krampus has debuted in his own feature film. Krampus, the movie, supplements the myth with infectious boo-hoo-bah-humbug spreading amongst a family whilst celebrating Christmas the modern way, with store-bought cookies and a blatant distaste for extended relatives. Most affected is the son, Max, whose crushed Christmas spirit catches them a Krampus visit.
Its current 64% critic and audience agreed rating on Rotten Tomatoes matches exactly my level of excitement exiting the theater. Only halfway to campy, the scenes rarely evoked equal parts humor and horror. Yet the Krampus culture thrives on, its official website offering a directory of events like Krampuslaufen, boozy costume runs occurring the night before Dec. 6, when Krampus is reputed to come. Originally during Krampuslaufen, men would dress up and hammer door to door demanding spirits (the drinking kind).
Old Krampus, the tortuous scare-tactic of Austro-Bavarian Christmases past, though not the most appropriate tall tale, provides an interesting view into old-world antics. While new, cinematized Krampus catches on our capitalist staples of Christmas—a population consumed by consumerism and convenience. I suppose our big screen dose of morality this season is get your fa-la-la-family together and bake those cookies from scratch, lest you be damned to an eternal inferno of apathy and disdain.
By Stevie Beiswanger