The tradition of celebrating the legacy of actual-Catholic saint Saint Nicholas by giving gifts to children is centuries old, but the concept of Santa Claus is not. Santa as we know him evolved over the past 150 or so years, based on the illustrations of Thomas Nast in Harper’s, and popularized in Coca-Cola ads in the 1930s. In other words: Before he was a right jolly old elf with eyes that twinkled and dimples so merry, Santa went through some weird iterations–and one of them involved an opposite number/sidekick with horns, hooves, and a tail named Krampus, who punishes the bad kids while Saint Nick provides presents for the good ones.
Krampus may have largely been forgotten to time, at least outside of certain parts of Central Europe, but Universal Pictures’ forthcoming Krampus threatens to return the creepy walking goat to the Christmas mythos. In the first trailer for the horror-comedy, we meet the family whose Christmas spirit is so lacking that they end up summoning Krampus to their home. The cast is made up of a number of people who know how to do dysfunctional families well–perennially dysfunctional adults Adam Scott, Toni Collette, and David Koechner headline the cast, while newcomer Emjay Anthony plays the boy whose rejection of Christmas kicks things off. What starts as an angsty family Christmas comedy–along the same lines as a Home Alone or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation–takes a twist as director Michael Dougherty’s horror roots go on full blast. Presumably in the end, as per holiday movie tradition, everybody does learn a lesson about the true meaning of Christmas–but the old definition of Christmas’s “true meaning” that Krampus invokes involved a demonic goat creature who whipped bad kids, so it’s anybody’s guess what that actually looks like.