Welcome to Commentary Commentary, our long-running series of articles exploring the things we can learn from the most interesting filmmaker commentaries available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Yesterday was international Krampus Day or some such thing — the running of the Krampus maybe? — which means it’s as good a time as any to bust out the second-best Krampus-related holiday horror movie. It’s an enjoyable romp even on a re-watch, and after doing just that I decided to give its commentary track a listen as well.
Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for…
Commentators: Michael Dougherty (director/co-writer), Todd Casey & Zach Shields (co-writers)
1. They wanted to use Universal’s opening logo from 1982 “because this was done in the style and spirit of 80s horror movies, but we were denied.”
2. The opening credits sequence — a slow-motion look at Black Friday mayhem — was the only scene shot on location. It was filmed in a New Zealand department store.
3. The glimpse of A Christmas Carol playing on the television is meant as foreshadowing to this film’s end.
4. The kid who plays Max, Emjay Anthony, apparently flirted with every female who visited the set. “He’s a little player.”
5. Ninety-five percent of the film was shot on sound stages.
6. The film’s storyboard artist was drawing David Koechner into the drawings before the actor had even been considered or cast. “He happened to be watching Anchorman in the background.”
7. They made a point of having the film’s first act be strictly a “Christmas movie” before having it turn towards horror and dark fantasy.
8. Original outlines for the film felt “too much like a horror film” and relied on Krampus picking people off throughout town. They eventually brought it forward into being a Christmas movie involving a child’s wish leading his family into darkness.
9. The visible breath in the cold exteriors was done digitally, but a major component of it involved filming real people in freezers reading dialogue for the scenes. Their breath was then isolated and added optically into the shots.
10. The fake snow came from different sources, but the snow on the ground is made mostly from diapers.
11. It was a “tight” forty day shoot.
12. Universal bleeps the word “fuck” on commentary tracks (at least for a PG-13 movie).
13. Howie Jr. drinking out of the cup at 39:50 was “flagged as a moment of concern” for showing a child character drinking a sip of spiked hot chocolate, and they worried it could land them an R rating. “It’s okay to show a kid getting swallowed by a clown monster…”
14. Dougherty is okay with this film’s PG-13 rating, but he says Trick ‘r Treat 2 will return to being a “hard R.”
15. The Omi (Krista Sadler) character was originally written to be deaf as opposed to German, but they switched it in part for the cultural connection to Krampus.
16. Max’s Advent calendar is seen in Omi’s animated flashback. The real one was scanned and recreated for the segment.
17. The goal here was to tell a modern-day morality tale using the Krampus tradition, and it was in part a response to today’s de-fanged re-tellings of classic tales by the likes of Disney and others.
18. One of the few notes they received (more than once) from the studio was to “cut back on the baby crying.”
19. Two of the gingerbread men are voiced by Seth Green and Justin Roiland.
20. Dougherty got a phone call from Los Angeles just after filming the demise of Rosie the bulldog saying that his own bulldog back home was dying. His beloved Java died within the hour.
21. The film’s Krampus is intentionally designed (in its shadowed and cowled face) to resemble death.
22. Yes, Krampus is wearing a mask — not the performer, but Krampus himself. Dougherty won’t say who’s face he’s wearing
23. They won’t confirm what the ending actually implies. They definitely survived the encounter, but are they now safe while Krampus simply keeps an eye on them? Or are they now stuck in Krampus’ hellish collection? Dougherty says the latter is a cynical (albeit still possible) interpretation, but I’d argue it’s the only one that works as otherwise we’re stuck with a lame “it was all a dream” type of ending.
24. Hidden among the various snow globes at the end are the Psycho house and Dougherty’s own.
25. The early shots of the other houses in the neighborhood are all digital, and they took that opportunity to design some of them after famous houses from 80s movies. They neglect to identify any. Similarly, the film apparently features some subliminal imagery, but they choose not to point them out either. Also, they added “secret occult imagery” into the movie… but again decide not to share any of it with listeners.
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“The other big challenge of the scene was finding minorities.”
“I love Polish-sounding names.”
“Please tell me this ends in diarrhea.”
“I don’t want to shit on Christmas.”
“Most PG-13 horror movies do suck.”
“I could do a whole spin-off movie just based off the gingerbread men.”
“I love the clown because the clown is being puppeted by two babes.”
“From craft service to stunts to the art department everybody had somebody pass away, which just felt odd.”
“Do we have to make it to the end?”
Buy Krampus on Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon.
Krampus is a fun monster flick, and the filmmakers reveal the enthusiasm and knowledge that led to its creation. They offer some fun anecdotes and details, but the list of things they tease but never explain or detail is a lot longer. Commentaries are pretty much the ideal place to spill the beans on a movie’s secrets, but whatever!