Around this time of year, we are inundated with a seemingly
endless amount of Christmas films. I
love A Christmas Story just as much as everyone else, but in small doses (not
in 24 hour loops!). So to prevent all of
our brains from turning into mush this holiday season, I have come up with five
Christmas viewing alternatives for your viewing pleasure. While these films may not actually be about
Christmas, the festive time of year is used as a backdrop, which makes it fair
game. And, as always, feel free to add
any additional films that you think should be included on the list.
5. Black Christmas
No, not the dreadful 2006 remake. I’m talking about one of the finest slasher
films ever made.
The true grandfather of the slasher genre, Black Christmas
terrified audiences back in 1974, before Friday the 13th and Halloween. The story is a simple one: a group of
sorority girls are stalked and killed by a madman who, unbeknownst to them, has
taken refuge in their attic.
Perhaps it is because Bob Clark went on to direct the staple
of Christmas viewing in A Christmas Story that Black Christmas haunts me to
the core; the fact that Clark can effortlessly capture what makes the holidays
so enjoyable, yet depressing, makes me miss the man even more. While his entire filmography wasn’t a strong
one, some of his films captured a time, place and mood that were awe inspiring
in their execution and efficiency.
Black Christmas didn’t deserve a remake. I just hope that those who were burned by the
2006 version are smart enough to seek out the original… just so they can really
shit their pants with fright.
4. And All Through
While it isn’t a film, And All Through the House is, my
eyes, essential Christmas viewing for all the demented folks out there.
Previously adapted for the screen in 1972’s anthology film Tales
from the Crypt, Robert Zemeckis brought a much needed morbid take on the
material for the very first episode of the series in 1989 that lasted seven
One of the only episodes to have been supervised by Crypt
creator William M. Gaines prior to his death, And All Through the House tells
the tale of a woman who, on Christmas Eve, murders her husband in order to gain
his inheritance. Things get complicated,
however, when a patient dressed as Santa Claus from a nearby insane asylum
escapes and roams the snow covered streets of the sleepy town.
And All Through the House has all the characteristics of
what made Crypt such a delightful classic; it has a killer sense of humor,
mixed with genuine fright and suspense. Besides,
after watching this, you’d want Larry Drake to play Santa Claus in every
Christmas themed film or television show.
He’s that good… and that terrifying.
This is an off-kilter Christmas classic that should be required viewing
for all families this time of year.
Without question, this is Tim Burton’s masterpiece. A tale about love, understanding, acceptance
and haircuts, Edward Scissorhands is a film that, in my eyes, captures that unique
way in which children perceive the world during the Christmas season; it’s fun,
it’s full of people dressed in bright, sparkling clothing… but it’s also just a
little bit weird and sometimes overwhelming.
The moment in which Edward begins to create beautiful ice
sculptures is when I was completely enraptured by the film. When we’re young, we sometimes question where
snow comes from. Well… Edward Scissorhands
gives us that answer.
A wonderful fairy tale that has yet to be usurped, Edward
Scissorhands embraces the Christmas spirit but doesn’t sicken you with an
overabundance of sleigh bells and mistletoes.
2. Batman Returns
Now we go to the opposite end of the spectrum. After the success of Edward Scissorhands,
Burton returned to Gotham City with the widely misunderstood Batman Returns. In my household, this is required viewing on
Christmas Day. There’s just something
about the Dark Knight’s world set amidst a snow covered Gotham City that
beautifully captures creator Bob Kane’s world.
Admittedly, Returns is much more of a Burton film than a Batman
film, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it should be the hated film it has (unrightfully)
For one reason or another, due to the success of Nolan’s Batman
franchise, many now look down upon Burton’s contributions to the property. While the films are peppered with flaws, they
recreate a feeling that very few films are capable of doing; in the case of Returns,
the morbidity of the holidays and how consumerism can sometimes obstruct our view
of the real world takes center stage.
Batman Returns is a twisted, off-kilter film; one that,
much like its protagonist, has a personality that is both welcoming and menacing.
The epitome of Christmas viewing is this Joe Dante directed,
Steven Spielberg executive produced and Chris Columbus written classic set in the
fictional town of Kingston Falls.
There is no other film that, in my eyes, captures the true
meaning of Christmas. Yes, it’s fun, but
it can also be crazy and almost too much to tolerate. That’s where the gremlins come in.
Two scenes in particular have forever etched themselves into
my psyche. The first is Phoebe Cates’
haunting monologue explaining why she hates the Christmas season. Even Gizmo was disturbed and he’s a Mogwai
for crying out loud! The second being
the infamous “Kitchen sequence” in which Mrs. Peltzer is forced to defend herself
from a quintet of gremlins (and a Christmas tree!) armed only with a blender, a microwave
and a kitchen knife. It’s the film that,
along with Temple of Doom, helped usher in the PG-13 era of filmmaking, while
also making us think twice about dressing up as Santa Claus and sliding down
the chimney for a little holiday cheer.