Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-132-0
Matt Manochio’s Twelfth Krampus Night brings together two darker folklore associated with the holiday season: Krampus and Frau Perchta. Both are associated with punishing naughty children. Krampus drowns, eats, or drags the naughty children to Hell, while Frau Perchta slits open their belly, removes all the guts, and stuffs the belly with straw and pebbles. Yes, parents back in those days, they don’t mind sharing tales of graphic violence with their children.
It’s the Twelfth Night when this story begins, and a young girl is murdered – disemboweled and her belly stuffed with straw. Her friend, Beate Klothilda and Beate’s fiancé Heinrich stumble upon poor Gisela’s body while they are delivering some knives and pike heads to the baron’s castle. They end up in the castle with the baron’s two sons, as Beate is needed to step in as a seamstress for the time being. When the castle is besieged by the Krampus and Frau Perchta, however, while Beate faces the threat of having her virtue forcibly taken from her by the lecherous noblemen in the castle, the poor darling looks like she’s trapped between the sea and the devil. Will she and Heinrich survive the night?
As a novella, this one goes straight to business, delivering a tale of irreverent morbid humor and gore. Frau Heinrich is like an old lady ninja, doing acrobatics and waving those knives around, while the Krampus often seems like that master who taught the Ghost Rider those tricks with the chains. Characters exist to either entertain me or die, and I can’t say I have a problem with that. I correctly guess the “twist” to identity of one of the targets of our deadly holiday season assassin duo, but this doesn’t get in the way of,me being thoroughly entertained by the whole thing.
If I do have any issue here, it’s that I’ve wished the author has added more gore, more violence, more inventive murder scenes… but I guess a novella can only go on for so long, sigh. Twelfth Krampus Night is that naughty, twisted, and gory tale that is the perfect antidote to all the saccharine sweet stuff floating around this holiday season.