Step aside, St. Nick. There’s a new player on the holiday horizon and he goes by the name of Krampus. Co-written and directed by the talented Michael Dougherty (creator of the cult fave, Trick ‘r Treat), Krampus tells the story of a family that makes the critical error of turning their back on the spirit of Christmas, only to unleash an ancient demonic force intent on punishing them all. With an emphasis on old school practical effects over CGI, Krampus – starring Adam Scott, Toni Collette, and newcomer Emjay Anthony – marks both a throwback to 80s creature-fantasy and a welcome departure from the contemporary horror landscape. To celebrate the release of Krampus, available on digital download now and coming to Blu-ray™ and DVD on 25th April 2016, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, we spoke with director, Michael Dougherty, about the making of the film in Los Angeles.
Q: Where did the idea for Krampus come from?
A: I first was introduced to the Krampus myth back in 2004, 2005 – about ten years ago. It was the early days of the internet. Images of the classic Krampus greeting cards were getting passed around, and it just became this fascinating figure for me from a forgotten folklore. Or at least a folklore which had never made it to the United States. I’d always wanted to do a scary Christmas movie and Krampus seemed like the ideal character to center that around.
Q: How did you approach the design of the character?
A: A lot of it was inspired by the old Krampus postcards. The really fun part about them is that they’re very diverse. Everyone has their own interpretation as to what Krampus looks like. But there are certain consistencies. The horns, hooves, chains, and that tongue are the key traits. The rest of it – the cloaks, his face – those were more unique. So we really tried to come up with something that embodied all the classic Krampus designs we’d seen, but was also uniquely ours at the same time.
Q: Why the decision to go for practical effects over CGI?
A: I just love puppets. I really love them. I was one of those kids that were raised on Jim Henson and stop-motion animation. There’s a charm and a texture with in-camera effects and creatures that you just don’t get with CG. That said, there is some CG in it, obviously. So my main aim was to get as much as I could in camera and then enhance it with CG and digital trickery. When you’re using puppets with rods and puppeteers, you can just go in and paint out those rods and puppeteers really easily. And that allows you a flexibility with puppets that you didn’t necessarily have back in the 80s.
Q: Tell us about working with Adam Scott and Toni Collette. Why did you pick them and what do they bring to the table?
A: They’re amazing actors, first of all. I mean, people that I was genuinely a fan of for a really long time and just never thought I’d be able to work with. But to our surprise, everybody we approached said yes. That was sort of a miracle unto itself.
Q: What was the most important lesson that you learned from Trick r’ Treat (2007) that you applied to this film?
A: That’s a good question. I think I learned that there is an appreciation for horror-comedy. And I learned some fun ways to use humor to make the horror more effective. Trick r’ Treat (2007) was my first film. It was a shot in the dark and horror-comedy was really unappreciated at the time. It was almost forgotten. This time around, I also had more experience balancing the tones. And also the technical stuff – working with creatures and visual effects, and actors, obviously.
Q: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
A: Time. Time was definitely a precious commodity because we’re not a huge movie. It’s a very small, reasonable budget. So we didn’t have a very long shooting schedule. The clock was always ticking, but I was being really ambitious with the story that we were telling. So it was a bit of a madhouse.
Q: What was it like watching Krampus with an audience for the first time?
A: Amazing. It was better than I could have imagined. With each passing minute, that fear and anxiety that you have as a director started to go away. And it got better and better every time people started laughing and engaging with the movie. That’s always the end goal. The worst reaction at all would be an audience just not reacting at all, just sitting in silence. So hearing people applaud and laugh is the best gift of all.
Krampus is available on digital download now, and is coming to Blu-ray™ and DVD on 25th April 2016, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.