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Ink & Pixel: Krampus

12.08.2016

Ink & Pixel is a source of pride and joy for me as a writer and as such, I'm always striving to take this column further for those who read and enjoy it. In an effort to widen the reach of our continuously growing fan-base, Ink & Pixel has broadened its horizons with the inclusion of films from the Horror, Sci-Fi, Action-Adventure, and Fantasy genres. Additionally, if you yourself, or anyone you know, helped to make any of the amazing feature films found within this column, I would love to talk to you to further my knowledge. Please contact me at steveseigh@joblo.com so we can discuss it further.

Once again, we’ve arrived at that special time of the year when we forgive a little easier, hold our faith a little bit tighter, and strive to become better people before the year is out. Whether you’re gathering with your loved ones for a Hanukkah celebration, arguing over who gets to place the star atop the family Christmas tree, are gearing up for a festive Kwanzaa, or choose to abstain from the holiday madness altogether, I wish you a safe and joyous end to the complete and utter dumpster fire that has been 2016.

In the face of a crumbling democracy and a laundry list of celebrity deaths, I thought we’d do our best to conjure some good, old fashioned holiday cheer by taking a look back at the horrendously hilarious Christmas horror-comedy, KRAMPUS. Directed by Michael Dougherty, this survivor's tale of a family trapped in a wicked winter wonderland and fighting for their lives, is the perfect film for anyone looking to add a splash of intensity to their annual watchlist of merry motion pictures. Before KRAMPUS, each and every year was filled with 24 hour marathons of A CHRISTMAS STORY, A MIRACLE ON 34th STREET, and more recently, ELF. Not that there’s anything wrong with those movies. I’m merely suggesting that it’s about time we horror fans were treated to a bonafide Christmas classic outside of the D-movie ranks like THE GINGERDEAD MAN, JACK FROST, BLACK CHRISTMAS, and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT.

I want to make sure you have all the details. As I’d stated earlier, KRAMPUS was directed by TRICK ‘R TREAT alum Michael Dougherty. Heading up production of the film were Alex Garcia, Jon Jashni, Thomas Tull, and Dougherty himself. A man of many talents, Dougherty wrote this clever bit of yuletide terror with help from both Todd Casey and Zach Shields. The film stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Stefania LaVie Owen, Emjay Anthony, Allison Tolman, and David Koechner, just to name a few. Released during the 2015 holiday season - courtesy of Legendary Pictures in a partnership with Zam Pictures - KRAMPUS dazzled audiences with its gift for side-splitting comedy as well as its terrifying take on an underappreciated creature out of German folklore.

It’s funny, almost everyone knows the story of Santa Claus, yet very few know the tale of Krampus; a rather disquieting figure from the pages of Germanic mythos. According to National Geographic, Krampus is a half-demon, half-goat-like beast who acts as a shadowy guardian of the sacred Christmas holiday. With his coarse, matted hair, razor-sharp horns, and jingle bell-laden chain, Krampus stalks the rooftops and chimneys of families whose hearts have grown small and black with seasonal despair. Commonly known as the son of Hel in Norse mythology, Krampus has a tendency to target children, who he aims to beat with a bundle of birch sticks before dragging them down to the underworld where they’ll be tortured for all eternity.

I know what you’re thinking. This all sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? Well, there’s got to be some manner of consequence for earning yourself a place on the Naughty List, right? I mean, keeping kids in line during what is notoriously one of the most stressful times of the year is essentially why Krampus was created. Word has it that the malevolent satyr arrives in town the night before December 6th - known as Krampusnacht or Krampus Night. It’s then on this eerie evening that German children are instructed to leave either a shoe or boot outside the front door of their home. The following day - recognized by many as Nikolaustag or St. Nicholas Day - the nervous youngsters will check the content of the footwear as a way of gaining a heads up about their fate. If you were a good boy or girl, you got gifts. If you were naughty, an unremarkable rod would be left leaning against the vamp of your boot. Those who were unfortunate enough to receive the rod would then be instructed to strap a pair of boots onto their feet and start looking for a place to hide.

Interestingly enough, in a time when advanced computer generated effects are the standard, KRAMPUS kept to a more practical, old school approach when designing its special effects. A wide range of puppetry techniques were used to bring several of the film’s beasties to life. We’re talking some straight up Muppets-style animation here, my friends. That means stationary wire work and hand-in-mouth manipulation at its finest. Additionally, other methods such as the building of animatronic robots, stilt work, prosthetic limb extensions, intricate rubber and foam latex mask molds, and layers of makeup were all implemented alongside the subtle use of cutting edge CGI technology to build Dougherty’s nefarious nightmare scenario.

From the look of it, one of the most challenging aspects of the film’s production was the crafting of its chief antagonist, Krampus. The fabrication team had to tailor Krampus’ suit to fit actor Luke Hawker, while making sure it moved and conformed to him properly. There was also a matter of cooling the suit from within - particularly for when Hawker was expected to remain in the suit for long periods of time. Krampus’ robe - made mostly from 30 meters of hand-dyed velvets fabrics - required constant maintenance between takes. Adorning the robe were a number of pouches, straps, belts and satchels made from liver hides, chains, bells, padlocks, and different styles of rope. Beneath Krampus’ stylishly dirty hood was the demon’s terrifying face. Sculpted out of silicate by the technicians of the WETA Workshop, each and every hair and weathered whisker was meticulously punched in by hand. Furthermore, the actors who assumed the roles of Krampus’ minions were no strangers to extenuating circumstances while dressed in 20 layers of fur, pelts, leather and fabric.

Although KRAMPUS did not set the holiday box office ablaze, Dougherty’s contribution to cinema’s Christmas movie pantheon did return to the darkest corners of the North Pole with a total of $61.5 million in receipts. While it’s not a tremendous amount of money, that number is certainly a step up from the director’s Halloween cult classic TRICK ‘R TREAT - which exited theaters after having earned $13.5 million. Having seen all of the work that went into the making of KRAMPUS, it still blows my mind that the film was created using a budget of just $15 million. Now, for you and I that sounds like a lot of money. However, you’d be amazed by how quickly those resources can get gobbled up when financing the building of sets, animatronics, and costume fabrication. Plus, you’ve still got to pay and feed your cast and crew. Trust me, it all adds up quite quickly.

Just like Dougherty’s TRICK ‘R TREAT has become a staple of my “Shocktober” movie schedule, KRAMPUS has secured its place in my Christmas movie-watching-rituals alongside films like SCROOGED, HOME ALONE, THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. You should see the looks I get when I first attempt to introduce KRAMPUS to those who have no idea what they’re in for. The movie starts off innocently enough, but quickly ramps up as the over-the-top premise begins to take shape. For real, once that demonic satyr and his minions switch to assault mode there’s really nothing you can do but smile and revel in the absurdity of it all.

For me, KRAMPUS is filled with imaginative moments and clever creatures. The ensemble cast give their all to the outlandish premise and their individual performances only serve to bring the madness to new heights as each character is presented with their own unique set of shocking circumstances. In short, if you haven’t seen KRAMPUS yet, what the hell are you waiting for? I know you’ve already spent a lot of money of gifts for other people, but as a gift to yourself, seek this movie out. I can guarantee that if you have a place in your heart for zany horror and awe-inspiring creature effects, this is a Christmas movie for the ages.

Be safe out there, folks. Once again, I wish you all the best this holiday season. Be merry, drink responsibly, and I’ll see you all soon for another round of film interpretation and investigation!

Extra Tidbit: The legend of Krampus came about as early as the 1600s. Krampus festivals throughout Alpine communities kick off the holiday season with townspeople dressing in Krampus costumes, running rampant through the streets and putting a scare in the youngsters. After the children have been given a proper fright to ensure they stay on the straight and narrow, the rowdy Krampus are rewarded with holiday spirits, traditionally beer and schnapps. - krampusfest.com
Source: joblo.comwww.ew.com

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