Our first look at the Christmas horror comedy Krampus has arrived, and it looks like delightful fun for the whole family—assuming your family’s into evil, terrifying versions of Santa Claus, that is. Co-written and directed by Michael Dougherty, the same writer/director behind the excellent Halloween anthology film Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus is based on centuries-old folklore about the titular character, who according to tradition is a figure who punishes children during the Christmas season who have misbehaved.
The film stars Emjay Anthony as a young boy who, after seeing how his dysfunctional family (featuring Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, and Fargo’s Alison Tolman) behaves during a Christmas get-together, decides he’s had enough of the Christmas spirit. Subsequently, a blizzard descends upon his small town and Krampus comes to pay the family a visit.
Speaking with USA Today, Dougherty says his version of Krampus was inspired by the legend of St. Nicholas, describing him as “judge, jury and executioner” but also the “shadow” of Santa. But Dougherty was also eager to lean on Krampus’ mischievious side rather than going straight horror:
“He’s not Freddy (A Nightmare on Elm Street) or Jason (Friday the 13th) or Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), this unstoppable monster that kicks down your door and rampages and grabs you. If you study the myth, there’s something darkly playful about him. He’s having a good time doing what he does and he enjoys the cat-and-mouse aspect of it.”
I saw some footage from the film at Comic-Con (Scott and Collette were incredibly enthusiastic about the picture during the panel) and got a really strong Gremlins vibe from the whole thing, which is a compliment. Performers like Scott and Collette bring the comedy, and while the horror is played straight, various practical creatures are involved that make the whole thing more playful than your average home invasion picture. As a big fan of Trick ‘r Treat, this is one I’m really looking forward to.
Check out more of the first images below, via USA Today, click here for Dave’s full recap of the film’s Comic-Con panel, and look for a trailer debut soon. Krampus opens in theaters on December 4th.