You wouldn’t know it from watching the news for 15 minutes but we approach the season that some call “the most wonderful time of the year” and even though things are falling apart quicker than that end table your aunt bought you from a knockoff Ikea there are still traditions to maintain. Every year most folks attempt to hold on to the spark of holiday spirit by binge watching hundreds of hours of jingle bell laced content but…hey! the world is on fire and the usual “tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago” might not cut it for you this year. I get it but fret not, your friends at Damnationland have dug up a few choice holiday films that have lots of heart (blood, guts and brains) but won’t be too sweet as to make you want to purge after your binge.
Black Christmas (1974)
From the future director of the (much less violent) yuletide classic “A Christmas Story” and co-starring a pre “Superman” Margot Kidder, 1974’s “Black Christmas” is a cult horror film that stands out for its dreadful atmosphere and how it indirectly antagonises the audience. Taking place around a sorority before campus closes for winter break students heading home for the holidays covers the fact that there is somebody slowly picking them off. Despite being an easily exploitable situation for the genre the director never resorts to ‘sleaze’ to fill downtime between murders but instead allows the fact the we, the audience, knows something the the characters don’t to drag us kicking and screaming between beats in the film. Even when the film seems to reach resolution and you watch cars slowly pull away from the crime scene you can’t help but want to scream out “GO BACK IN! GO BACK!!”.
Due to its popularity and pop cultural praise “Gremlins” often gets passed over by ‘real’ horror fans because of its goofy 80’s violence and occasional fuzzy adorableness. What it does lose in gore though it makes up for with its wonderful head scratching black comedy. This film starts when a traveling salesman buys his grown manchild of a son a *literal monster* as a Christmas gift, despite being warned against it, which causes “Return of the Living Dead” levels of mayhem and implied murder. The cherry on top of this sundae of crazy occurs, in my opinion, when Phoebe Cates’ character gives a perfectly reasonable yet utterly uncomfortable explanation as to why she hates Christmas. Like the film as a whole this story she tells is so oddly out of place it’s hard to tell if you should feel horrified for her or laugh like its some sick joke.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Christmas is a very old holiday whose celebration grows throughout the years like a snowball rolling down a hill. Unfortunately after hundreds of cycles of stories and traditions things can become fairly homogeneous (like most Hallmark movies) so this gem from Finland aims to show that there may be a roasted chestnut of truth at the center of all of this. Covering the legend of Joulupukki, or “Christmas goat”, this film takes joy in twisting yuletide convention as the characters, including some traditional Finnish reindeer butchers, overcome hoards of ‘elves’ in a race to stop the thing that eventually inspired our Santa Claus,
Needless to say being around family during the holidays can sometimes be pretty rough. These people who know you better than most are so good at getting under your skin and pushing your buttons because they were there before that ‘skin’ and they’ve helped to install those buttons. At the end of the day though you still probably love them and never want to see them mercilessly assaulted by a terrifying demon goat man for disrespecting the spirit of Christmas. (Right?) This film, from the director of the wonderful horror anthology film “Trick R Treat”, does a great justice to a fairly popular Scandinavian Yuletide figurehead by giving it noble intentions but sinister processes to carry them out. By the end you won’t forget to “be good for goodness’ sake”.
The Thing (1982), 30 Days of Night, Dead Snow
Winter is dangerous. Stay inside where it’s warm.