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Revisiting the Krampus movie's ending (and what it means) for Krampusnacht on December 5

Fans of Michael Dougherty's 2015 holiday horror hit are divided by two interpretations of the finale. One is naughty, one is nice

Image credit: Universal Pictures

This article contains major spoilers for Krampus.

Gruss Vom Krampus, festive freaks.

It will soon be December 5, known throughout the world as Krampusnacht, the night we celebrate Santa Clause's dark opposite, the demon of Christmas himself, Krampus. And if you're like me, you'll be spending the evening wrapped up tight, with a spiked hot chocolate in one hand, the doors and windows locked, and Michael Dougherty's Krampus on TV.

And as you reach the end of this tale of tinseled terror, you'll find yourself asking the question perennial Krampus watchers ask every year - just what does that finale mean? The film's ending is famously open, puzzling viewers since it first hit theaters in 2015. And while I can't claim to know the answer myself, what I can do is compile a list of people who might.

Those people, including Krampus's creator, are all part of Popverse's Krampus ending explained.

How does Krampus end?

Image credit: Universal Pictures

Let's begin with a bit of a recap. In the last moments of the movie, we see main character Max confront the Christmas demon (you'll recall that it was Max's wish that brought Krampus around, and that the monster's been picking off his family members since th movie began). Full of regret, Max wishes for his family back, only to be met with cruel laughter from the holiday horror. Krampus lifts the boy and tosses him into what appears to be Hell...only for Max to wake up in his bedroom on Christmas morning.

Max goes downstairs and, to his shock, his family is all there, alive and happy. Assuming that he only experienced a nightmare, Max joins the clan, who are opening presents. All seems well until Max receives an unexpected and unclaimed gift - a large, rune-covered bell, Krampus's calling card. When the family sees the bell, images of the horrors they experienced flood their memories.

And just before the credits roll, the camera pulls out, revealing the house to be inside, or at least viewed through, a magic snowglobe. The camera continues to pan, showing snowglobes just like Max's, lining the lair of a dark and ancient being: the workshop of Krampus.

But just what the hell does that mean? Let's start with the fan theories.

What do fans say the Krampus ending means?

Image credit: Universal Pictures

In general, fans are split between two interpretations of the infamous snowglobe scene, exemplified in a 2021 Reddit post from user gogul1980. The first interpretation is an overall positive one: the snowglobe is just Krampus's lens with which he views the world. And while he's keeping an eye on Max, he granted his wish - the family has been restored, safe and sound and hopefully having learned a lesson.

The second interpretation is less merry and bright.

In the second way of viewing the ending, Max and family are not restored but trapped, forever stuck in a loop of waking up on Christmas morning, surrounded by people they don't actually like. In this take, the snowglobe is not a lens but a mystic prison, a kind of Hell that will forever contain Max's family and others like them.

So which is it? Which side of the Christmas cookie is the right one? Maybe it would help to see what the director's said.

What does Michael Dougherty say the Krampus ending means?

Image credit: YouTube, ScreenSlam

Let's be upfront about this at the start: Krampus director Michael Dougherty, also known for his cult classic horror film Trick 'r Treat and, more recently, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, has never officially revealed what the ending is supposed to mean.

However, in the director's commentary for the film, which you can hear by checking out the special Krampus: The Naughty Cut, Dougherty confirms that he's heard of the fan's dueling theories. For some adherents to the "happy ending theory," this confirmation combined with Dougherty's comments in a Bloody Disgusting interview comparing Krampus and A Christmas Carol is as good as proof for their take.

Plus, as that side is keen to point out, there's always the graphic novel to consider.

What does Krampus: The Shadow of St. Nicholas say about the movie ending?

Image credit: Legendary Comics

Krampus: The Shadow of St. Nicholas is a three-part graphic novel released just before Krampus hit theaters. Also written by Dougherty, the comic is set in the same world as the film and focuses on other victims of this particular nightmare before Christmas. I'm not going to spoil what the stories are about, but to answer the question at hand, I do have to spoil this: by the end of the comics, all of Krampus's victims have their lives fully restored.

So does that mean that the question of Krampus's ending has been answered? Was the frightening finale explained even before the film hit theaters? I won't lie - there's evidence to say yes. In my personal opinion, I think that the "good ending" theory is more supported by the evidence. However, there's something about The Shadow of St. Nicholas that won't let me fully accept the more positive interpratation of the ending.

That is; there are no snowglobes.

Yes, even though the comic book casualties of Krampus's Christmas chaos seemingly have their lives restored, we very importantly do not see them through the lens of the snowglobe that's not only the focal point of the movie's ending, but a major visual theme in Krampus's advertising. Could this be just an aesthetic choice, maybe made to not spoil Krampus's ending before the movie was released? Or does this difference hit at a dark, and very intentional message:

That the characters of the Shadow of St. Nicholas do get their happy holiday... and that Max and his family do not.

Krampus is available to stream on Peacock.


'Tis the season to watch and read holiday stories. Here's our recommendations for timely favorites ranging from Christmas horror, Christmas action, Christmas comedy, and Christmas anime, Christmas sci-fi, and even five weird Christmas specials from comics. And if that's not enough, wait until you learn about Netflix's Christmas movies cinematic universe.

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Grant DeArmitt

Contributing writer

Grant DeArmitt (he/him) likes horror, comics, and the unholy pairing of the two. He has written for Nightmare on Film Street and Newsarama, despite their better judgement. He lives in Brooklyn with his partner, Kelsey, and corgi, Legs.

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