Sunday, March 22, 2020

Krampus Night

Visitors to my YouTube channel have been bugging me for a while about why I don't do any holiday-related videos. I have done a Halloween-themed film, but that didn't exactly set the internet on fire, so I stopped thinking about doing something similar. However, this past Christmas I decided to do something with the Krampus; the so-called Christmas Devil, the evil counterpart to Santa. I was already working on another project, but I paused that to make room for my Krampus video. In other words, this past December was one of the few months where I managed to produce two films featuring a fair amount of animation, and effects editing.

To give you some context, let's have a quick look at Krampus. Traditionally the Krampus character has flourished best in Eastern Europe, the alps and German-language regions like Bavaria and Austria. When Santa comes with candy and gifts, Krampus comes with coal and bundles of sticks for thrashing the bottoms of naughty children. If the kids are really terrible, Krampus puts them in his sack and carries them away.

There's been an odd resurgence of Krampus-related festivities in the last couple of decades. There are Krampus parades in both Europe and the US, and pop culture has placed the fiend in movies of varying quality and budgets. To sum up all of this info I wrote a poem that served as the basis for my video and read it myself.

I wanted my Krampus to be super traditional. Thus I sculpted a character that sort of summed up all the characteristics of the old devil folklore archetype. Medium grade Monster Clay was used, as usual.

I also sculpted what would become the horns in clay, placing the sculpture on a flat surface to make the casting of it easy.

From a plaster mold made over the sculpture, I cast two latex horn skins which were attached to a pair of metal rods padded with yarn and foam dipped in latex. When the latex had dried I twisted the wires with my fingers, making the horns curve in a way you can see on certain goats and antelopes.

The armature was super simple; my usual mix of thermoplastic and aluminum wires. I decided to give my Krampus one human leg and one goat hind leg. He also has a tail.

The tail was covered with a wrapping of yarn soaked in latex, while the body was padded with soft polyurethane foam. As you can see the head wasn't attached at this point.

That's because the aluminum wires inside the head -for brows, ears, and jaw- were stuck directly into the latex cast of the head and torso. Thermoplastic was used to create the skull and the jaw, and also held the two pearls used for eyes in place. Liquid latex applied to both the inside of the latex skin and the foam padding worked as an adhesive.

Patches of latex skin cast in various older skin texture molds were attached in the same way. The teeth are cotton dipped in latex and rolled into pointy shapes. The human foot shape was built up using tinted latex and cotton.

I wanted the Krampus to have a mix of muted colors, ashen grey to be exact, and a color that would make the puppet "pop" a bit on screen. A dark purple seemed to do the trick.

The finished Krampus puppet was adorned with clumps of crepé hair (sheep's wool used for fake beards) to make him look old and mangy. Thin steel wires were used to make bits of body jewelry, and claws were created in the same way as the teeth. Krampus is often portrayed with a long tongue, so that had to be in there in one scene at least. I couldn't fit it into the puppet's mouth, so I made it from latex and a single aluminum wire as a loose prop that could be inserted into the mouth.

Krampus´ sack was made from real burlap and was lined with aluminum wires, so I could animate it bulging and moving around when Krampus was carrying away the kid.

All of the backgrounds in the scenes featuring the Krampus were Photoshopped images layered in After Effects. One of the busiest shots is the one where Krampus minces up the kid. It contains 12 layers: the log cabin wall, the bundle of chains to the right, the big chain to the left, the Krampus turning a mincer handle made from plastic, the table, the cleaver, the bowl, the meat (footage), the mincer, the leg going into the mincer and some smoke. The mincer handle was actually attached to a model mincer I made, but that model kept moving about when I animated the puppet turning the handle, so I simply covered it with a photo of a real mincer.

All the images I used for backgrounds were downloaded from Most of them needed only minute Photoshop manipulation to work on the film.

Now for the actual antagonist of the film. Remember Hannes Karlsson who was the hero in my film "The Two-Headed Monster?" I recruited him again for this project, and he will pop up again in my films later this year.

My long-suffering buddy Andreas Pettersson also appears in the film as a sleeping relative given a whipped cream mustache by Hannes. Andreas' friend Leif also puts in an appearance where he's hit over the head with a pillow.

The rest of the people you see in this film are all stock footage from They had a bunch of Christmas-themed clips which were all so horribly saccharine that I couldn't possibly produce anything myself to match them.

One of the more complicated shots in the film is when Krampus puts Hannes into his sack, simply because it needed to look totally effortless. Technically it's not very complicated. Hannes is placed over Krampus´ hand via tracking, and a mask over Hannes´ legs allow them to pass behind the sack.

Making the shot work all hinged on Hannes selling the illusion, and luckily, that's just what he did. In a single take, he's sitting on the edge of a greenscreen-clad couch supported by the arm of his mom, also clad in green. Balancing on the edge of the couch seat he looks like he's hanging in free air.

The take then continues with Hannes flipping over to a semi-handstand on the floor, wiggling his legs in the air. I sped up this part in editing, so it looks like he's very quickly stuffed into the sack. The Krampus puppet is animated to match Hannes´ movements in this footage accordingly.

So I finally made my Krampus film! It was fun and relatively quick to put together. Coming up, if I can make it, is a film about Walpurgisnight, and the goings-on of witches and fiends on that spooky evening.