I am one of those Grinches that doesn’t enjoy this time of year anymore. Too much holiday cheer and people complaining about how to greet one another during the holidays. The cookies are always welcome, though. So because movies like ‘White Christmas’ and ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ make me ill, here are 10 that will make you scream, laugh and forget that you got another sweater from your Great Aunt again this year.
‘Christmas Evil‘ (1980) Like many of the films on the list, Christmas Evil wasn’t a hit when it came out, but gained a cult following due to home video. Also known as ‘You Better Watch Out,’ the movie is about the deeply troubled Harry, who because he witnessed his father groping his mother while dressed as Santa Claus as a kid, develops an odd obsession with St. Nick. As an adult, he suffers a nervous breakdown and begins to believe he’s the real Santa, hacking people to death while trying to deliver toys from the factory he works at. It’s an odd movie, and I can see why it wasn’t successful when it was released, but it’s kind of fun to watch.
‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ (1984) This one caused a lot of controversy when it premiered during the holiday season of 1984. Our friend Roger Ebert condemned the movie along with partner Gene Siskel, and the PTA fought to have it have it removed from theaters. Still, the movie outgrossed ‘A Nightmare On Elm Stree’ which opened on the same day, and spawned four sequels. The only one remotely worth watching is #2, which features the famous “Garbage Day” scene of an adult Ricky, the little brother of SNDN’s antagonist Billy, reeking havoc around his neighborhood. All of this could have been avoided if Grandpa hadn’t told Billy about Santa punishing the “very naughty,” and then poor Billy helplessly watches as his parents are offed by a crazed man dressed as Mr. Claus. A remake starring Malcolm McDowell was released earlier this month simply titled ‘Silent Night.’
‘Black Christmas’ (1974) A true classic, the original Black Christmas was inspired by a number of murders that took place in Canada at the time. A killer, whose identity is never revealed, stalks a couple of sorority sisters, including Margot Kidder and Olivia Hussey, who are getting ready to depart college for Christmas break. Director Bob Clark produced the 2006 remake, which you should skip because it doesn’t keep the haunting ending of the killer coming down the stairs for one last kill as we hear another telephone ringing.
‘Tales From The Crypt’ (1972) The anthology film, based on stories from EC Comics, features five segments, the first of which is “… And All Through The House.” Joan Collins kills her husband on Christmas Eve, but also has to deal with a maniac dressed as Santa Claus. She can’t call the police without revealing the murder, so she tries her best to pin the crime on the escaped serial killer. The story was also adapted for the television show in it’s first season.
‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ (1993) Moving on from slashers in Santa costumes, to a kidnapping of Kris Kringle. Tim Burton‘s stop motion hit sees Jack Skellington wanting to bring all of the magic of Christmas to his native Halloweentown. When his friends don’t get what he’s trying to do, he decides to take over the role of Santa, which means bringing the real one to Halloweentown. His plans don’t go over well, but in the end he realizes the real meaning of Christmas, and his true feelings for his friend Sally. This is still a delightful movie to watch as an adult, whether it be during Halloween or Christmas.
‘Batman Returns’ (1992) Another one from Tim Burton, this sequel to 1989’s ‘Batman’ was considerably darker in tone, which is what I love about it. The villains, and there are many, really make the movie including Michelle Pfeiffer‘s sexy and scary portrayal of Catwoman. One of the movie’s biggest scenes has The Penguin kidnapping the Ice Princess and having her fall to hear death onto Gotham City’s Christmas tree, releasing hundreds of bats. For a depressing movie, it actually has kind of a happy ending and it’s a must for anyone who prefers their superhero movies actually dark and gritty.
‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990) Apparently Burton had a thing about Christmas for a good three years. This was the first of Tim’s collaborations with Johnny Depp, and it’s where Depp met future girlfriend and tattoo inspiration Winona Ryder. Edward is rescued from a decaying mansion by Dianne Weist and thrust into a pastel suburbia where he falls in love with her daughter Kim, played by Ryder. Not everyone is so accepting of Edward, even though he can give a mean haircut, he soon becomes an outcast. He does share a sweet moment with Kim, creating snow for her as he carves an ice angel, before he flees back to his home. The Christmas backdrop presents an obvious allegory, but also gives the movie a fairytale feel.
‘Scrooged’ (1988) A fun modernization of Charles Dickens‘ “A Christmas Carol,” Bill Murray stars as the greedy and self centered tv executive Frank Cross, who is visited by three ghosts showing him his past, present and eventual future if he doesn’t change. The Ghost Of Christmas Present, played by Carol Kane, insists on berating and beating Frank while she shows him what his little brother and friends are doing without him. Of course everything works out for Frank after he realizes the error of his ways, and the cast ends the movie singing “Put A Little Love In Your Heart.”
‘The Ref’ (1994) The Ref is a little gem I remember watching numerous times as kid on HBO. Even though it was too adult for me at the time, I enjoyed the arguing between Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur, Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis. Burgler Gus, played by Denis Leary, reluctantly becomes the referee during their constant fighting after he takes them hostage. When Lloyd’s family arrives for Christmas dinner, he has no choice but to pretend to be their marriage counselor. You can guess how it ends if you haven’t seen it yet, but it’s definitely worth watching.
‘Bad Santa’ (2003) The most recent movie on the list has three different versions, but it all involves Billy Bob Thornton‘s Willie T. Stokes getting ready to pull his annual Christmas heist at the mall. His plans are foiled by Bernie Mac‘s suspicious Gin Slagel, and a woman he has recently become involved with named Sue. He also becomes something of father to an unpopular and overweight boy known as “The Kid.” He struggles to do right by them, and does eventually go straight.
Before this, Billy Bob was an Oscar winning actor known for trading vials of blood with Angelina Jolie and being afraid of furniture. This put him on another level, but he hasn’t done anything as good, or funny, since Bad Santa.