Applying Chaos Theory: Krampus looks like Christmas movie we deserve

The only Christmas-themed movie on the slate this year is Krampus, a horror about the anti-Santa monster of German legend. The trailer dropped a couple of days ago, and this movie looks like everything.

The trailer establishes Krampus as a biting, whimsical satire. There looks to be a strong jump-scare element, but most of the trailer focused on mean-spirited mockery of both the commercialism surrounding Christmas time and the family values we all pretend the season is really about.

Despite it being clear that horror elements will drive the bus here, the trailer maintains a detached, silly tone with its songs, breakneck editing, funny-not-dark family dysfunction and an unusual willingness to let viewers see some of its monsters. Many horror movies won’t give up the ghost until you’re in the theater, but Krampus lets you see the scary clowns and see that they’re not that scary. They’re kind of funny, actually. Look like animatronics out of the ’70s or early ’80s.

What really gives the trailer teeth are its visuals, particularly in the opening 10 seconds. In this space, the trailer establishes not only the setting, but what it thinks of the setting, before zeroing in on the main characters and their house, the actual physical setting. And what does the trailer think of the setting? Not much. In just this montage, we get a little girl bawling with her arms outstretched greedily on the lap of an annoyed mall Santa; a slow motion shot of a credit card sliding, with a red bow on the side of the credit card reader implying that it is the real gift; crumpled up 20 dollar bills; and a savage Black Friday crowd overwhelming a greeter. Later, we’ll see a ginger bread man impaled by a kitchen knife and a burning Christmas tree.

The plot will obviously see the family, in particular the child lead character, re-find its Christmas spirit so the movie can wink at the audience about how it’s all really important and affirming core American values about love and peace and all that other shit, morals so wrote that a plot twist toward them isn’t really a twist at all, but the real wink is these images. “No,” the trailer says, “This isn’t actually OK.”

Krampus hits theaters Dec. 4.

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