Krampus serves as a not-so-corny reminder to live every day with the Christmas spirit

Courtesy of iTunes

It’s a film that sends a simple message without ever devolving into the onerous, schlocky, schmaltzy fare so many of its would be holiday-season feel-good peers see fit to inhabit.

In the wake of a materialistic age, in which we buy things to patch up holes in our lives that might be better filled with genuine relationships with, y’know, people, it was reassuring to remember that sometimes, you have to get back to the basics. Caring for others.

That giving is the best gift. These are hard-wired impulses, such as self-sacrifice, so before we go on short-circuiting these biological impulses, give a thought to what it might mean.

I watched Krampus, a film by Michael Dougherty that was released in late 2015, for the first time last night. It was riveting, and yet by the time it was over I’d noticed that while I’d never really been out-of-my-seat scared while watching it, I’d simultaneously found myself filled with a certain sense of existential dread great art induces. As if it were waxing away extraneous thoughts, fumbling around to keep up with the latest social media ping on my phone, instead helping me hone in on an important message. Undiluted.

While I remember being aware of Krampus back when it was released in theaters, I think I cast it aside, as I used do with horror movies. Not really my bag, baby. And yet, a recent run-through of RedLetterMedia’s backlog brought me back to it, and I was intrigued to try this film based upon the RLM crew’s praise of it, in particular its use of sound design.

RLM’s appreciation and nuanced understanding of such technical matters in film, coupled with their ability to set you into rib-aching paroxysms of laughter, is why I watch their videos. I have little to no sense of the technical components in film; in fact, it’s one of the reasons why I enjoy the medium so much.

I’m a writer; I make sense of the world by putting words down on paper; so, it fascinates me when someone can tell a story in a totally different way: ie., a moving succession of images. There’s a good reason why film has been called the ultimate art, combining the powers of words, image, and sound.

There was one technical aspect that intrigued me, and it had to do with the way Dougherty decided to render Krampus, who comes across as a sort of yang to Santa’s yin, a darker shade of the jolly guy’s gregarious glow. Dougherty asks an important question, most notably in the open-ended final scene: can something be considered evil if it brings a family closer together?

In that sense, Krampus seems an awful lot like nature itself: capable of wreaking terrible havoc, but hardly evil in and of itself. Every so often, we as humans are reminded that for all our technological accomplishments, for all our leaps in logic and reasoning, there are forces that remain outside our control. Into that chasm, we hearken back to the base. Familial ties, giving of ourselves for the betterment of others.

If I have a complaint with that Steven Pinker book I reviewed in my last post, Enlightenment Now, it’s his positing that humanity will be better off when it removes itself completely from the sensual realm and fully adopts principles of the Enlightenment. But that’s hardly a good remedy. One should always seek balance, and what one learns about life is that there will always be dark to offset the light. The unexplainable, offsetting logic and reason.

And darkness need not always be evil. What seemed sinister in the shadows might take on a different shape, and sound, in the light. In fact, it might serve its purpose entirely to push us back toward the light.

Game of life, with a twist—and shout. Twitter: @alleywhoops

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