Christmas is almost here and for most of us that means empty bank accounts, an endless barrage of Holiday music, family parties with people we don’t like, and screenings of flicks we’ve seen ten thousand times yet feel obligated to watch every December. I’m sorry, did that sound cynical? Forgive me, the Holiday spirit is not something I’ve ever been able to fill myself up with. What can I say? I’m a Grinch. Anyway, I’m not here to rant and rave about Christmas; I’m here to provide you with some alternative viewing choices. If you’re tired of watching It’s a Wonderful Life or the umpteenth version of A Christmas Carol, here are some different films for you to sit through as egg nog pours down your chin.
The Christmas Horror Film exists in a strange sort of subgenre. There are a ton of them and most are terrible so I’m not covering all of them. Santa Claws, for example, will be left out. As will Gremlins because who the hell hasn’t seen that? For the purposes of this list, I’ve divided my selections into three categories: The Legitimately Good, The Amazingly Awful, and The Unwatchable. Without further ado, let’s see what horrors await us under the Christmas tree…
The Legitimately Good
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Easily the best movie on this list, Rare Exports is a delightful genre hybrid. It focuses on a group of Finnish reindeer herders who live near the base of the Korvatunturi mountains and discover that scientists have unearthed something very old and very deadly at the top of the mountain. But only young Pietari knows the whole truth: they’ve found the real Santa Claus and he’s not a jolly fat guy who delivers presents. He’s an ancient, powerful being only interested in punishing the naughty. Oh and he has a fondness for gingerbread cookies. This silly premise is treated with the utmost sincerity which makes the film all the funnier. It also manages to sneak in a touching father & son story amongst all the madness. Pietari is a terrific young hero who proves himself more resourceful than all of The Goonies combined. It’s a kick watching him lead the herders in a plan to capture Santa’s elves and the film’s ending provides a hilarious explanation of where all those mall Santas come from. The flick is irreverent, thrilling, funny, and wholly unlike anything else you’ve ever seen.
Black Christmas (1974)
Bob Clark’s classy slasher film is often cited as a precursor to Halloween and that’s pretty much right on the money. It’s not as good as John Carpenter’s classic but shares some of its best attributes, including a nice slow build, a mounting sense of dread, well-written characters, and an incredibly suspenseful climax. Based on the urban legend of ‘The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs’, Black Christmas presents us with a group of sorority sisters who are stalked by a deranged killer over the holiday weekend. The identity of the killer is pretty easy to figure out but the movie makes up for it with many creepy sequences that never feel exploitive. Margot Kidder is also hilarious as the drunk sorority sister.
Last, we have a criminally underrated thriller that takes place on Christmas Eve. Rachel Nichols stars as a young businesswoman who is held hostage in the parking garage of her building by a deranged security guard (Wes Bentley). She quickly discovers that Bentley has been stalking her and is willing to go to any lengths to prove his devotion. What follows is a tense game of cat and mouse as Nichols tries to outwit her deadly captor. The movie makes excellent use of its one location and has a solid number of twists and turns. Nichols makes for a great heroine and Bentley is even creepier here than he was in American Beauty. Well worth a look.
The Amazingly Awful
Silent Night, Deadly Night
And now we come to the ‘so bad they’re good’ movies. These are the ones to watch with a large group of drunken friends. The most infamous of which is Silent Night, Deadly Night, the killer Santa movie that Siskel and Ebert called out on their show for being sick and depraved. They were right but they neglected to mention how hilariously terrible it was. In case you don’t know the plot: little Billy sees his parents murdered by a thug dressed as Santa. Oh and I should mention this occurs after his pyscho granddad tells him that Santa is a monster who punishes naughty children. So there’s that. Billy grows up in an abusive orphanage and eventually gets a job in a department store. He’s fine until Christmas rolls around. The owner forces him to play Santa (cuz nothing can go wrong there) and Billy goes on a killing spree soon after because Duh. Every element of this movie is laughably bad and it does have a real sleazy vibe to it. But it also has pyscho granddad (video below), the worst and most inappropriate musical montage ever, laughable ‘acting’, and a scene where a kid gets his head chopped off mid sleigh ride. Those things are what make this train wreck worth watching. Check out the granddad scene to give yourself a taste of how mind blowingly dumb this flick is.
See what I mean? And that was supposed to be SCARY. Kid shoulda just slapped him and told him to take his meds.
First of all, there are no elves in Elves. Sorry to disappoint. There’s one ‘elf’ and he looks more like a mentally disabled gargoyle than one of Santa’s minions, as you can see above. The elf is brought to life after a dumb teenage girl cuts her hands in the woods (I know it makes no sense, don’t yell at me, I’m just telling you what happens). Turns out, the little fucker was actually part of the Nazi’s master plan to create a superior race. Apparently Hitler didn’t want people as the master race, no no no, he wanted elf/human hybrids because, you know, who wouldn’t? After the titular creature wreaks minimal havoc upon the small town, a bunch of Nazis come to help it in its quest to have sex with the teenage girl because she is the last pureblood Aryan virgin in the world or something like that. Their offspring will bring about Hitler’s master plan, you see. So yeah, this is a movie about a bunch of Nazis trying to get an ‘elf’ to rape a teenager. She eventually kills the ‘elf’ with the use of an ‘elfstone’ cuz everybody knows that’s a thing. It’s like stakes for vampires and four leaf clovers for Leprechauns. Anyway, this flick is about half as fun as it sounds. The main reasons to watch it are for the ‘elf’, which is one of the WORST movie creatures ever (not as bad as one further down on this list though). You never get a full shot of it cuz it was clearly never finished, you never really see it move, and its face has two expressions. Also, IT LOOKS NOTHING LIKE AN ELF. The other reason is for Dan Haggarty (who played Grizzly Adams) as a drunken ex-cop who helps the girl. He looks like he was forced to do the movie at gunpoint and must have been drunk for the entire shooting schedule. You don’t have to look far to find Elves either. The entire movie is on youtube. In fact, fuck it, here it is. Enjoy. Or don’t.
Jack Frost (Comedy)
Ah yes, the movie about the mutant killer snowman. What more is there to say? The snowman suit looks like it belongs to a demented high school mascot, Shannon Elizabeth gets raped by the creature (what the hell is with these flicks and rape?), and everybody uses hairdryers to kill the bastard. It’s stupid, profane, and hilarious. The sequel (yes, there is one) where the killer snowman shows up on a tropical island is pretty fun too.
Santa Claus is actually the Anti-Christ. An angel made him be nice for 1000 years but now that time is up and he gets to go on a killing spree. And he’s played by Bill Goldberg. You get what you pay for with this one. Truth be told, it could be funnier. It drags in the middle and some of the humor falls completely flat. Then again, Santa does kill Fran Drescher by setting her head on fire and drowning her in egg nog so it’s not all bad.
Any Other Movie with ‘Silent Night’ in the title
Silent Night, Deadly Night spawned no less than four sequels and they are ALL total garbage. Part 2 does have the wonderful ‘garbage day’ scene (video below) but other than that it’s mostly footage from part 1. Part 3 is a rehash of part 2. Part 4 has Clint Howard and some nonsense about cults and pagan gods and part 5 has Mickey Rooney as an evil toymaker. Fuck em all. Don’t ever watch any of them.
Black Christmas (2006)
This remake of the classic slasher film is one of the dumbest horror films ever made. How dumb you ask? A character gets killed by a falling icicle. Not one dropped by the killer. She just bumps into a door and an icicle impales here through her eye. Would have happened even if there was no killer. It’s a total freak accident and, like the entire movie, it’s completely inexplicable.
Jack Frost (Horror)
This is the FAMILY MOVIE where Michael Keaton dies and comes back to life as a Snowman. That is the most horrifying thing I’ve ever heard. What fucking deranged God would do that to somebody? ‘You get to see your family again but guess what? You better not plan on going to the beach, HAHAHAHAHA’ A few people I know have told me they tried to rent this for their kids and accidentally got the killer snowman one instead. That’s a good thing though because this flick is ten thousand times scarier. Look at the picture above. That thing is nightmare fuel. Don’t think so? Just watch how it moves.
AHHHHHHH!!! KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE! WHY DO ITS ARMS MOVE SO FAST?! WHY IS IT LAUGHING AS IT TORMENTS CHILDREN?! WHERE IS IT TAKING THAT KID ON THAT SLED?! WHO THE HELL THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA FOR A MOVIE?!
Parents of the world, if your kids want to see a movie about a talking snowman, show em the one about the serial killer. It will do much less damage to their fragile minds.