Art books can be hit or miss largely because they don’t always completely pull back the curtain on the process. Sometimes they show some aspects, but in a limited fashion to prohibit the curious reader from seeing how far the final product went from the original concepts. For something like Krampus the art book serves as a way to see not only how it was envisioned before a single frame was shot, but also much more of what made the film so great.
The Art of Krampus (Insight Editions)
To begin a warning: Don’t read this book if you have any inclinations of seeing the film! This book spoils many of the surprises later in the movie and explores every scene from beginning to end. That’s a positive in some sense as it serves as a definitive look at every sequence, but much like reading a novel before seeing its movie adaptation read this book after seeing the film or you’ll taint the moviegoing experience!
Why does this book matter?
While Krampus was funny, creepy as hell and filled with surprises it’s the look that made me love it. From the animated flashback to the creepy snowmen, the film managed to bring a unique feel to Christmas that’s at once dark and disturbing. If you want to see more of that, be it storyboards, fully painted character designs or a look at how they radio controlled some of the beasts in this film, this book is a must buy for you.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This book feels about as definitive as can be. You not only get concept art galore, but also a look at the puppets pre completion and the sets as well. Take for instance a chapter exploring the Engel family house which ends up being the setting for the majority of the film. This chapter not only explains why it was designed as a neo-Colonial house, but how the size itself factored into not only the storytelling but the practical use of filming. This book goes out of its way to explain how not only characters’ story arcs but the locations as well.
And boy does it go into character. While the dark elves tended to be barely lit and hard to see in the film they are gloriously displayed here. This book delivers as far as showing their demented masks in full light and the surprising effort that went into making them different from each other. The evil toys get even more attention in this book and you’ll get to see them from concept art to their design as practical puppets. One of my favorite pages includes a size chart showing how all these creatures compare to a human.
One of the biggest surprises for me while reading this book was the gingerbread men. In the movie they were cute and something you’d expect straight out of Shrek. This book reveals that they were much more disturbing and menacing at the concept phase. For whatever reason their horrific look was dialed back – maybe to make their presence more comedic – and it’s cool to see how they were originally designed in this book.
It’s also fun to see how close the movie stuck to storyboards. While there aren’t a lot of scenes explored via storyboard in this book, the ones that are show nearly exactly how the final product turned out. The concept art for the flashback in particular is a sight to see as the original artist’s depiction is very close to the final sequence in the film. This book explains why the visual aesthetic was used and it’s an interesting twist on how the grandmother tells the story. All I’ll say is they should have stuck with the shadow puppet motif!
It can’t be perfect can it?
This is about as good as any documentary could ever delve into a movie although it is lacking if you’re looking for a look at the actors and their experience on set.
Haunting bastard isn’t he?
Is It Good?
If you loved Krampus or just love art books in general do yourself the favor and buy this book. It will not only allow you to go back into the vividly disturbed world that came out of writer-director Michael Dougherty’s head, but see how a freshly original film can still be made with practical effects and great design.