I’m no humbug killjoy when it comes to the Christmas season, hell, it is by far my favorite holiday. The trappings, the trimmings, the food and drink, the family reunion, I love it all! But there is always one tiny detail of the festivities that makes me want to go all Ebenezer Scrooge and lock myself away in bitter isolation- the tirade of awful, vapid Christmas films flooding our television sets. Wouldn’t it be perfect if there were festive movies that some of us with a more...acquired taste could appreciate? Well you’re in luck my friend, because here are five alternative Christmas films in which your sardonic side can indulge. So sit back, throw that lamentable copy of ‘Home Alone’ from your sitting room window, and enjoy these twisted festive stories.
1. Rare exports: A Christmas Tale
Rare Exports is a strikingly awesome concoction of deadpan comedy, fantasy, and Christmas horror, with a completely unique plot-line and a good splash of action and explosions. Directed by Finnish native Jalmari Helander, this film focuses the outcome of an archaeological dig on the Korvantunturi mountain in northern Finland, in which a group of scientists uncover a ‘sacred grave’, where the real santa Claus is found hanging in chains. And he is in those chains for a very good reason. When increasing numbers of reindeer start turning up butchered and local children start disappearing, a boy called Pietari and his father Rauno, a reindeer hunter, capture the mythological being known as Santa Claus and try to sell it to the leader of the global corporation who commissioned the archeological dig. What they didn’t bank on were the hundreds of ‘worker elves’ that turn up with the intention of freeing Santa at whatever cost. The elves are also actual dirty, skeletal, naked old men. Terrifying.
The acting is brilliant, the jokes are brilliant and perfectly placed, and the horror bits are actually, well, scary. The trailer alone makes me so glad that I don’t believe in Santa anymore...
Now this is one retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that I can get behind. Directed by Richard Donner with music by Danny Elfman, and staring Bill Murray as Frank Cross (a cynical television programming executive version of Scrooge), this 1988 comedy follows one man’s encounter with the three ghosts of Christmas’ past, present, and future, and his transformation from a cold-hearted misanthrope to a man full of the warmth, love, and compassion. Yes, it may be saccharine and corny, but it is also hilarious. The translations of the original Christmas ghosts into modern day apparitions are inspired, including a new york cab driver, a media tycoon, an abusive pixie, and a terrifying entity with a TV screen for a face. At the end of the day, it is a reminder that even those of us with the iciest of exteriors have good hearts underneath, and that Christmas is a time to appreciate everything that we have, and those people that make life worth living.
Now excuse me as I throw up in the Christmas pudding.
3. Nightmare Before Christmas
Frankly, even if you aren’t a huge Tim Burton fan, I’d recommend NBC as one of the best Christmas films of all time. It has a humongous cult following for a reason, and not just among the mall-goths and baby-bats. The animation is mesmeric and beautifully spectral, the songs are moving and memorable, and the characters are delightfully captivating and totally unique. It is hard enough to make a good musical film, let alone a stop-motion musical film with a living skeleton taking the lead role. When the film originally came out in 1993, Disney was scared and a bit embarrassed of it and hence had it released under their ‘Touchstone Pictures’ banner. Oh the irony. It has been making millions since its initial release, and in 2006 was reissued under the Walt Disney Pictures label, with conversion to Disney Digital 3D. This creepy classic follows the exploits of Jack Skellington, The Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, and his determination to take on the role of Santa Claus and bring joy to children all over the world with a Christmas of his own making. Needless to say, things don’t go according to plan. But hey, if you’re bored with all this Christmas nonsense and want some input from other annual holidays, this is certainly the picture for you!
4. Black Christmas
I had to have at least two festive slashers on here. Obviously, Black Christmas is no Citizen Kane, but it certainly is a most enjoyable gem in the surprisingly vast ocean of yuletide horror flicks out there. And yes, I am talking about the 1974 version here, not the dubious 2006 remake. What’s the point of a Christmas horror without the cheesiness and nostalgic charm? We’ve got to get our festive merriment from somewhere! Directed by Bob Clarke and staring Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, Marian Waldman, and John Saxon, Black Christmas is an independent Canadian gore-fest following a bunch of sorority girls who are stalked and murdered one by one over the Christmas holidays by a crazed killer hiding in their sorority house. Sounds like an overdone plot-line, yes? Well Black Christmas was one of the first slashers ever made, and probably where the whole idea came from. There are moments of pure genius in the film, including death by unicorn ornament.
5. Christmas Evil
It received an 80% vote of confidence from Rotten Tomatoes, despite IMDb only giving it a 4.9/10 stars. All I’d say is don’t let the mixed reviews put you off. John Waters recently dubbed this festive horror stunner the ‘best christmas film of all time’, and I don’t know about you, but that was more than enough to convince me that Christmas Evil deserves a place on this list. Released in 1980 and directed by Lewis Jackson, this delectably camp caper stars Brandon Maggart as Harry, a psychologically disturbed egoist who, after experiencing a mental breakdown and one incredibly bizarre sexual betrayal as a child, believes himself to be the real Santa Claus. But not the good kind of Santa Claus. The kind that spies on unknowing children, records their actives as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in a personal journal, and then proceeds to go on a maniacal killing spree. The deaths are hilarious, the blood is waxen looking and plenteous, and the ending will leave you baffled yet thoroughly satisfied. Christmas Evil is certainly not a movie to be missed.