One of the underappreciated Christmas horror classics is 2015’s Krampus starring Twilight Zone’s Adam Scott and Hereditary’s Toni Collette. The narratively simple horror story is a cautionary tale in the spirit of It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. The message is pretty clear, humans suck. The opening montage shows how far we have fallen down the Capitalist rabbit hole. Shoppers fight over the last must-have doll and big-screen television while others push each other down to get in the store first. It would be funny if it weren’t so on the nose. It does set up nicely what is to come, though. Krampus is a darkly comedic movie with a squishy heart of gold.
Anyone who loves The Office remembers Dwight Schrute’s infamous Belsnickle Christmas episode. Belsnickle punishes instead of inspires and is, in general, a nastier, dirtier version of Santa. Krampus is cut from the same cloth. Along with a host of other weird and creepy winter holiday traditions, they make the DNA of the Christmas demon hell-bent on ruining all things mistletoe and sugar plums. He is a taker, not a giver. The foul spirit believes in the stick rather than the carrot. In a consumer-driven world, the true meaning of Christmas is lost, and it leaves a void that can be filled with Krampus’ negative morality.
In Krampus, Max is a sweet kid who writes to Santa asking for things like time with his sister, romance for his mother and father, and his cousins to be loved by their father. But, when a family meal goes very wrong, he declares himself done with the jolly holiday. He makes the same wish his grandmother made years ago and wishes his family dead. That night things get even worse when a nasty snowstorm hits the area cutting the power on this less than happy holiday. But, as they soon discover, the weather is the least of their trouble as Max has unleashed a Christmas demon named Krampus that has set his sights on them.
Max’s Grandmother Omi is a German immigrant who tells everyone the cautionary story after things have gone awry. She warns Max that no matter how bad things seem, they are always worse without family. When she was a young girl, she made a wish to Krampus to take her family away, and that night he complied, leaving her alone and afraid. Unfortunately, the night before was not great for Max, and he made a similar wish that Krampus was now granting. So, one by one, all of Max’s family is attacked and taken by Krampus and his minions of robots, gingerbread cookies, elves, and tiny gremlins. Here’s everything you need to know about the ending of Krampus and why the snowglobe and the bell aren’t as ominous as you think.
The ending of Krampus
Max confronts Krampus, who has kidnapped Max’s entire family in the final act. He tells him he only wanted things to go back to how they had been. He wanted it to return to the time when everyone was happy. Instead of reversing the spell or giving Max his family back, he is tossed into a fire to burn to death. Instead, Max wakes up on Christmas morning in his bed safe and sound. He finds his family waiting happily for him to open gifts. They are all happy and relatively kind to one another.
It is then that Max finds a bell left from Krampus. Slowly memories of the night before seem to come back for each family member. The camera pans back to reveal a snowglobe with Max’s house inside Krampus’s lair. On the bookshelf are countless snowglobes, each with a different scene. Does this mean Krampus won and Max and his family are forever locked in his prison?
What does the snowglobe mean?
The snowglobe that seems to show Max and his whole family stuck in Krampus’ house would appear to be a bad omen. After all, Krampus is a demon who kidnapped the entire family and tossed Max into a fiery pit. Unfortunately, Max’s family snowglobe is not the only one on Krampus’ shelf either. Does that mean every person foolhardy enough to wish to Krampus is perpetually locked in this tinselly hellscape? Could it also mean that he watches every family just like Santa waiting for an opportunity?
Omi’s earlier story is about the death of hope. The main difference between Omi’s story and Max’s is Max takes his wish back because he still believes he can make things right. He believes he can reverse the curse and save his family. He begs Krampus to take him instead of his family. His sacrifice initially appears to be scoffed at by Krampus, but the final scene changes all of that. By Omi’s admission, she hid while her family was taken and was left behind. Max fought against the demon and was tossed into the fire for his trouble. This could signify the cleansing by fire of his evil wish. It represents a reboot of sorts where he and his family can start again. The snowy yet festive scene the following day seems to support this.
Everyone makes amends in Krampus. Howard sincerely apologizes to Tom after he saves his life, and despite the dangers outside, the family bonds. Linda and Sarah start working together instead of against each other, and the cousins remember why they once were friends. Additionally, Omi confronts Krampus to save Max and the rest of the family. All of these likely worked in Max’s favor to save the family. Assuming the heavy snow and lack of people outside Max’s window doesn’t mean they are trapped together for eternity(hell of a different kind, no doubt), then they will continue but be watched.
Although many read the snowglobe as meaning that Max and his family are doomed, I refuse to let Krampus taint my Christmas cheer. Yes, the fact that the snowglobe looks like it is holding Max’s family is terrible. It is also alarming there are thousands of other snowglobes on his shelf, like trophies he has collected over the years. All of that can be explained by tilting the angle of your perspective. Instead of trophies, Krampus keeps his failures as a reminder that Christmas isn’t always taken for granted. It could also be as simple as a surveillance device. It is a window into the real world. In this way, as long as no one in Max’s world makes another wish to him, they will continue contently forever with Krampus watching and waiting for someone to make another deal.
What the bell means
Max finds a bell from Krampus in the final moments of the film. It is just like the one his Grandmother Omi received from Krampus years ago as a child. Omi blames herself for what happened to her parents and later Max and his family. Likely, she isn’t entirely wrong. Assuming the snowglobe is a portal into our world, Krampus has probably been watching her and her family all these years. He has been waiting for someone to summon him again. The bell reminds Max to hold onto his Christmas spirit or face the consequences. We know from folklore that Krampus punishes. He is not unfairly punitive, though. If you don’t do anything wrong, you won’t be punished. When Max throws Omi’s bell into the snow when he confronts Krampus, he makes the fiery pit he is later tossed into.
In the final scene, that bell comes back to remind him and the family what happened the night before. It is a warning that to give is always better than to receive, and he has been given a gift. The gift of a second chance and time with his family is valuable. Life goes by fast, and time with those we love is always more important than a Playstation(although that gift could be good for both).
Krampus is a decent little horror-comedy that cautions against forgetting what really matters at Christmas. Family, friends, love, generosity, and selflessness are things that this family with too much stress and not enough appreciation have forgotten. Don’t be like the Engel’s. Find your Christmas spirit or risk being visited by more than just the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. As we all shop for the last of our gifts this weekend, keep a smile on your face, a song in your heart, and God Bless Us, everyone.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.