Christmas movies are usually supposed to make you feel good while presenting kind and warm image of families joined by the Christmas spirit. It is the idea that is imprinted in our minds by the media, advertisements, and commercial tradition. We encourage it ourselves, gathering together at this time of the year and trying to fulfill the ideal of “Merry Christmas. ” But what all this sweetness just asks for are exaggeration and satire. When traditional Christmas imagery gets distorted it leaves us puzzled or even uneasy. Here I give you 5 entertaining movies that present a grotesque picture of Christmas.
1. Christmas Evil (1980)
A man obsessed with Santa Claus, toys, and children in his neighborhood, decides that in the world devoid of true Christmas spirit, he will be the perfect Santa Claus that will make good children happy and punish adult non-believers. With a knife and an axe.
Probably the best of horrors featuring Santa Claus killer (there are many more movies with such a character, if you want more, I recommend Bloody Disgusting list: http://bloody-disgusting.com/news/18511/), Christmas Evil is a great B movie which presents a truly disturbed individual who nevertheless earns our sympathy. After all, he tries to help neglected children from the hospital or reward nice kids with beautiful toys he makes. He says: “I only have good intentions” and we want to believe him. At the same time, he remains infantile and wants others to remain such, in order to repair his childhood memories, damaged by sexual trauma.
An unsure man, he gains confidence only when in the red-and-white costume. Brandon Maggart’s acting reaches far beyond usual B movie stuff, believably presenting increasing madness of the protagonist.
2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
I have a love-hate attitude towards Tim Burton’s movies, but I love this one. It has all wonderful qualities that make Burton’s universe original, engaging and fascinatingly creepy. It tells the story of Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, who gets bored with doing the same performance every year for Halloween. But when he discovers Christmas Town, he decides that all monstrous (or even dead) citizens of Halloween Town should try to celebrate a new holiday. With their usual scary approach towards decoration and gifts.
When you want a perfectly animated mix of comedy, horror, and musical, choose this movie. There is also a nod towards Bride of Frankenstein and the result is Sally, a character truly beloved by fans of the movie. Paradoxically, though monsters of Halloween Town get a very incorrect notion of Christmas décor, the movie reaches the spirit of Christmas all right.
3. Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972)
This is a bizarre take on Hansel and Gretel story. Auntie Roo, an American widow, gives an annual lavish Christmas party in her Gothic mansion. Good children from the local orphanage are chosen to go there. But this year, naughty brother and sister, Christopher and Katy, sneak into the party uninvited. They will be the ones that discover the secrets of the old house and its inhabitants. Moreover, Katy reminds Auntie Roo of her dead daughter. And nobody knows what exactly happened to the daughter…
If you like old-fashioned plots where children are the only ones who know the truth, and no adult person believes them (think “The Night of the Hunter” *) , you will love this movie. The setting is creepy and Shelley Winters is marvelously over-the-top as the title character who is mentally unstable but at the same time pitiful. Child actors also do their best, the boy (played by child star Mark Lester) is clever and caring, the girl sweet and adorable. At the same time, the movie is ambiguous in the same way as Hansel and Gretel story is. If you want a horror movie that is appropriate for children, I suggest this flick.
*interestingly, that movie also starred Shelley Winters, but as an innocent victim, not a villain
4. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Rare Exports, 2010)
A harsh climate of the Korvatunturi mountains in Finland hides the old secret of Christmas. American expedition comes to dig it up. They soon find out what they were looking for and, apparently, disappear. Finnish reindeer hunters living nearby face a series of strange events. The only person who knows what’s going on is a small son of one of the hunters who reads some interesting legends about the real, monstrous, Santa Claus. Tagline of the movie: “This Christmas Everyone Will Believe In Santa Claus.” Ho ho ho.
A weird movie if there ever was one. And not for children, even though the main character is a very clever boy, played convincingly by Onni Tommila (who also stars in the upcoming movie “Big Game” with Samuel L. Jackson http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2088003/?ref_=nmmd_ph_tt1). Weird, because it mixes many genres: family movie, adventure film, horror, and comedy. There are also a few really grotesque scenes. This mixture does not always work, nevertheless the movie is really entertaining and worth watching. It will make you reconsider the character of Santa Claus for sure.
5. The Day of the Beast (El día de la bestia, 1995)
The most grotesque of all five movies, it won’t suit everyone. And it certainly does not try to. Its creator, Álex de la Iglesia, is one of my favorite living directors. He makes truly original black comedies mixed with horror and lots of cultural (and pop cultural) references. This is one of his best works. And, after all, it is a Christmas-themed movie. About the forthcoming birth of the Antichrist.
An idealistic and modest priest finds by means of a study of the Apocalypse that the Antichrist is going to be born on Christmas day in Madrid. With the help of a sweaty long-haired heavy-metal fan and a stylish TV showman of a TV esoteric program, he will try to invoke the devil to find out the place of birth and kill the baby. He also decides that he must do all the evil possible to do so.
If you enjoy ridiculous and violent scenes that are accompanied by dramatic music, you will love this movie. It is outrageously funny at times, while some motifs (e.g. the “cleaning” movement) are genuinely terrifying. It also possesses a delightful ambiguity that leaves you questioning everything that happens in the story. For me this film is a “Big Lebowski” of occult horror.
So here you have it, 5 creepy movies to enjoy during your holidays. These movies ultimately prove that the good and the evil lies in the choices we make, not in our appearances. Remember that and enjoy your Christmas, in whatever way you want to spend them.
Happy Holidays! :)