Confession time. I’m not a huge Christmas person. I like it fine; I’m not full-on a Grinch, but I don’t get overly excited about it. That said, there are a few traditions I enjoy, like cookie decorating, a yearly trip to to get my Drink on, and less-christmasy Christmas movies (it’s kinda like how I don’t care about sports but like movies about sports—eh, go fig). By this I mean movies where the holidays are in the background, not the main focus. I’m sure most of you know some of the more popular less-christmasy Christmas movies like Die Hard, Gremlins, and The Ref. In these movies, Christmas is the background character rather than the star.
This year, while we trimmed the tree (and yes, I do insist on a real tree because having a tree inside your home is cool), I suggested we delve a little deeper into the less-christmasy Christmas genre and watch Christmas horror! Am I a little one note? Maybe. But I watched these movies partially for you too, in the spirit of giving! So, get your eggnog or mulled wine, and buckle up those sleigh bells ’cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
Black Christmas (1974)
When I first started watching this movie, I was a little annoyed at how generic it seemed. So many tropes! First person creeper view, women punished for being less “moral,” and a not-so-innocent prank caller. But surprise! This movie came first and is actually one of the earlier slasher movies and hence the progenitor for most of those tropes, including a big one which I won’t reveal here. That said, this movie is certainly of its time. And Christmas really plays no part in the plot except maybe giving a reason the sorority girls are on break. Other than that, this could have easily been themed around St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, or even Arbor Day. P.S. There was a recent remake of this movie, but meh, I’m not sure I need to watch that.
Notable moments: Because this is the 70’s there is a frat dude unironically wearing a fur coat. Also, someone is murdered via crystal unicorn.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 crystal unicorns
The opening credit scene goes straight to the hearts of holiday cynics everywhere with a montage of everything you hate about the holidays. While Bing Crosby’s dulcet tones play in the background (and yes, I know about Bing, so perhaps this was also a very conscious choice), we see some of the reality of the holidays, rather than the Hallmark ideal.
Max is having a crummy Christmas. Between his obnoxious cousins and his own family, who seem more focused on appearances than happiness, he just wishes Christmas could be like it used to be. Then an unnatural storm hits, and we learn that nothing brings family together like the possibility of getting systematically picked off by a wish-granting, man-goat monster (and believe me, I should know—just kidding…mostly.) This movie pitches toward horror comedy—a favorite genre of mine, and I would be up for watching it every year.
Notable moments: An Army of Darkness homage starring gingerbread men. Also, lots of creepy toys that come to life.
Rating: 4 out of 5 cloven hooves
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
Warning: This list is about to get classy with a foreign film! This is a Finnish movie that we watched with subtitles.
There is something in the ice, and it is NOT Captain America. Rural hunters rely on reindeer for both food and business. When the reindeer herd is found dead before the annual run, it’s only young Pietari who knows what is really going on. As Christmas approaches, Pietari’s fears grow, and it seems more and more likely that his dark suspicions might be right on target.
What I liked about this movie is that it calls back to adventure stories where ultimately it’s the nerdy kid who is the hero. And when Pietari takes charge, it’s imposible not to smile.
Notable moments: A complete and utter disregard for child safety, but in an awesome way. Also, lots of male nudity, I guess (it’s not the good kind, you guys).
Rating: 4 out of 5 stolen radiators