Toni Collette and Emjay Anthony in Krampus (Steve Unwin/Universal Pictures)
’Tis the season for endless airings of movies like A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life and Gremlins. If you’re a fan of Gremlins but want to see something new this year, then the horror-comedy Krampus might just be the big-screen present you need to add to your holiday wish list. Writer-director Michael Dougherty grew up on Amblin movies and wanted to make a film that, like Gremlins, families could watch together and share some laughs and scares.
Based on Germanic mythology (or horror story), Krampus arrives in theaters just in time to scare even the naughtiest of us into being nice. When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max (Emjay Anthony) is disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas, unwittingly unleashing the wrath of Krampus. Max and his family, including Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Allison Tolman and David Koechner, have to put their differences aside and band together if they want to survive.
Krampus was used as a way to keep children in line, preying on every child’s fear of the bogeyman. While Collette claims she wasn’t afraid of much as a child, she explains that, at least for her, her fears have been heightened as an adult.
“I think fear creeps in when you get older when you realize how much there is to lose,” she says.
Scott is a little more forthcoming about his childhood fears.
“A lot of my fears came from seeing movies too early,” he begins. “I saw 48 Hours way too early. That’s a pretty gritty movie. James Remar as the bad guy is really scary. When I see him in stuff now, I still get freaked out. At the time, I loved Eddie Murphy and we thought we were seeing this wacky Eddie Murphy comedy. I remember being very freaked out. The mini-series ‘The Atlanta Child Murders’ freaked the shit out of me. My imagination got carried away with that, and I had a real anxiety about someone breaking into our house.”
Though they may or may not have had fears as a child, neither of them had any fear of taking roles in Krampus. Collette describes her feelings at reading the script.
“There were a lot of things I liked about this movie. I had never read anything like it. I hadn’t seen anything like it,” she says. “It’s a family finding their way. They’re completely disconnected, and this is their way of uniting and appreciating each other only when faced with the worst possible situation.”
Scott agrees and was excited about making a Gremlins-type movie.
“When I first sat down with Michael, he said he wanted to make a movie like an Amblin movie in the ‘80s. I grew up on Amblin movies in the ‘80s – Gremlins, Goonies, Poltergeist, E.T. This sort of domestic suburban bliss that we were all supposed to be living was a little unsettling. It was an interesting little subgenre,” he tells. “I think Michael really pulled it off. I think he made one of those movies.”
Collette further elaborates on her excitement of making Krampus.
“That’s the great thing about it, and that’s the great thing about life. It really surprised me. It’s so original, and it’s like nothing I’ve ever done before. I got to do things that I’ll probably never get to do again like wrestling with a demonic angel bitch with a very active tongue. It was cool to work with Weta Workshop [Peter Jackson’s New Zealand-based special effects company],” she shares. “It feels like a John Hughes film with this dysfunctional family. They’re really acerbic, witty and dry, and it just fully swings you into something else. I love being shocked that way in any film or anything. The element of surprise is rarely successfully implemented these days.”
Though both actors have starred in horror-type movies before, Scott in Piranha and Collette in Fright Night, neither are horror fans in general.
For Collette, she isn’t a fan because, “I don’t like watching them because I like to sleep at night. Krampus has its tongue firmly wedged in its cheek. It retains a sense of humor. It also has this giddy kid-like quality. I imagine kids are going to love it. It is kind of a family film if you have kids of a certain age.”
Though not a horror fan either, Scott is more open to the genre.
“I wouldn’t call myself a horror movie aficionado or anything. If I hear one’s really good, I’ll seek it out. I loved It Follows this year. I loved The Strangers a few years ago; the first Halloween,” he admits. “I think horror, as far as filmmaking goes, is kind of overlooked. There’s great filmmaking in horror. As with any genre, there are great ones and those that could have been great. I certainly don’t turn my nose up at it. I love a good horror movie.”
Though having never met before playing one of Krampus’ married couples, Collette and Scott left the set with a great respect for each other. Scott explains how he felt about working with Collette.
“Toni’s amazing. I think she’s one of the greatest actresses we have. She’s incredible. I was signed on before she came on. When she agreed to do the movie, I was elated, but also a little freaked out because she’s so good. I didn’t want to be the dullard sitting next to Toni Collette,” he gushes. “In Her Shoes is one of my favorite movies of hers. I asked her a lot of In Her Shoes questions. After a couple months, she got sick of it [laughs].”
Collette is equally effusive – eventually.
Her first thought was,“‘What’s wrong with him?’ [laughs] He’s so dry. He grew on me obviously. I got to know him. You don’t just come in and know each other right off the bat. It takes a while to get to know people. The more I did, man, the funnier he is. He’s very talented obviously, but kind and sweet. It was really fun.”
That fun shows on screen. If you want some laughs mixed in with some scares, join Toni Collette and Adam Scott for their visit from Krampus this season.
Krampus is now in theaters.