Slay Bells Ringing - Christmas Horrors!!!
‘Tis the season to be jolly. It’s the season of good will. It’s a time of giving.
Unless you’re a character in a horror movie, where jolliness is curiously absent, good will has left the building, and your time is up.
Along with all the other holidays on the calendar, Christmas had its share of less than festive horrors, and goodwill has often given way to wholesale slaughter. With that in mind, if the thought of sitting down to yet another viewing of "It’s a Wonderful Life", "Wizard of Oz" or, God forbid "The Great Escape" fills you with a greater feeling of unease, dread and nausea than any of the movies we’ve covered in the past year, here’s a list of ten suggested Christmas horrors to ensure that your yule is as cool as the chill down your spine and the crimson you’ll be seeing is rhesus positive, not Santa’s suit.
10 - Black Xmas (2006)
Oh boy, another remake that was really needless. This is pretty typical of the current trend of revisiting classic movies, and it seems more prevalent among horror/sci-fi than any other genre. What we have is a pretty effective concept being dumbed down and having its teeth pulled to cater for a teen audience. Seemingly, to suit today’s target audience, a horror film HAS to have the all-important "15" certificate.
A crazed killer is on the loose, having escaped from a psychiatric hospital and wants to be home for the holidays. This, naturally doesn’t bode well for the current occupiers of his home, who are a bunch of sorority sisters. Predictable slaughter ensues, all very formulaic.
Low on subtlety, but still worth a look to get yourself in the holiday spirit.
9 - P2 (2008)
Franck Khalfoun’s directorial debut from a coupl€ of years ago, which I covered in GoreZone. This is guaranteed to give you chills, due to its all too familiar setting and it’s ruthless play on an everyday fear that nags at drivers everywhere. It’s Christmas Eve, Angela Bridges (Rachel Nichols) is parked in a multi storey car park. Her car won’t start and she is trapped in the car park as it closes for the Christmas break. As if THAT wasn’t enough, she’s not alone. Car park employee Thomas (Wes Bentley) is a disturbed loner, brooding alone in his isolated underground office watching the various levels of the car park on CCTV. He doesn’t want to spend the Christmas alone, and he develops an obsession with Rachel. The hunt is on.
8 -Black Christmas (1974)
Ah - the superior original. I’ve always loved the sheer unashamed audacity of its advertising tag line "If this movie doesn’t make your skin crawl...it’s on too tight". I love this movie because it’s so...random. Falsely acclaimed as the movie that "single handedly spawned the shocking stalk and slash genre" it certainly fills the stalk & slash criteria, but it’s NOT the first. I will go to my grave insisting that "Psycho" (1960) was the first.
A sorority house becomes the target of a madman, who starts his spree with a series of obscene phone calls that become more threatening and macabre. The caller starts to pick off the girls one by one, and of course - there’s a twist ending here, which I won’t spoil. Vastly superior to the lacklustre remake on every level.
7 - Edward Scissorhands (1990)
I know, it’s not exactly a Christmas movie as such, but there IS a pivotal scene that happens at Christmas. It IS a seriously skewed Tim Burton film, that I think is best described as his stab at a gothic romance, and it DID feature Vincent Price’s last on screen role. For those who don’t know, Edward Scissorhands is a Frankensteinesque creature played by Johnny Depp who is rescued from his solitary life in a gothic castle, and is taken in by a normal, suburban family.
He falls in love with the daughter Kim (Winona Ryder) - the problem being that Edward’s creator (Price) passed away before finishing him, and so he has scissors in place of hands. As I’ve mentioned, gothic love story, gothic fairy tale - either way it clearly has gothic horror as one of its main ingredients.
6 - Tales From The Crypt (1972)
Well, there are two versions. Both have adapted the story "All Through The House". 1972 saw Hammer Films rivals Amicus obtain the rights to film a series of anthology movies based on the classic E.C. Comics of the fifties.
The E.C. Stood for "Educational Comics" originally, but the company soon became a specialist in lurid horror strips, which brought them to the attention of then eminent psychiatrist Frederic Wertham who denounced the whole comic book industry, largely for his own self gain. The industry would regulate itself stringently for fear the authorities might impose even greater sanctions, and E.C. Comics were forced out of business. (It’s curious to note how comics in the fifties were subject to the same hysterical knee-jerk reaction then, as horror films were in the eighties during the so-called "Video Nasties" era, and games are now.)
On to the brief story - A young Joan Collins murders her husband on Christmas eve, only to find there’s a deranged killer outside. She locks the doors and windows, only to find her daughter has let the killer in...because he’s dressed like Father Christmas. Short, snappy and effective. Pretty much the same goes for the similar segment in the pilot film for TV’s long running "Tales from the Crypt" series.
5 - Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
"You see Santa Claus tonight you better run boy, you better run for ya life!"
This is a low grade, little seen but notorious movie, which richly deserves a place here on my list. I remember the fuss around its release where various parent groups protested the perceived "anti Christmas" message of this film and angry mothers picketed cinemas
Eight year old Billy Chapman sees his parents killed by a burglar dressed in a Santa suit. Now orphaned, he is tormented by an abusive Mother Superior at the orphanage. In later life, his job at a local store requires him to wear... a Santa suit. Let the killing begin , as he works his way back to the orphanage. The acting is definitely sub-par, but the songs have to be seen to be believed. The soundtrack songs, though- are worth sitting through the film for.
"Santa's Watching, Santa's Creeping, Now you're nodding, now you're sleeping. Were you good for mom and dad? Santa knows if you've been bad"
4 - Batman Returns (1992)
Gotham City - Christmas time, and two freaks are on the loose vying for the Dark Knight’s demise. Tim Burton does "Gothic Christmas - with freaks" again, in his second teaming with quirky leading man Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Batman has always has the best and most grotesque rogue’s gallery of villains, and here it is Danny DeVito’s powerhouse performance as the Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot that steals the show - and that’s quite a feat. The other villain is Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman wearing a catsuit that seems to have been painted on, and also seems to rip, tear and get more revealing as the film goes on. The Pengun matches Catwoman’s attractiveness with sheer repugnance.
Although criticised on its release as having very little in the way of script, I’ve never agreed with that sentiment. Cobblepot was abandoned as a child due to his disfigurement and having somehow survived in the sewers, he returns as a grown adult to take the first born child of every family in Gotham. Simultaneously, Selina Kyle assumes the role of Catwoman. Both team up to make Batman’s life a misery in the days before Christmas. Not quite up to the standard and scale of the first Batman film, but close - and by any standard, light years ahead of the two Batman films that immediately followed.
3 - Nightmare Before Xmas (1993)
Lunatic, chaotic, askew, hectic...this is possibly the most anarchic Christmas film ever made, bar none, hands down. Each holiday has its own "world", and fed up with halloween, Jack Skellington decides he’d like to take over Christmas - especially as he has misunderstood the whole concept. For Santa Claus, he’s heard Santy Claws. His idea of gifts are live snakes, and shrunken heads. It’s a musical, but even then, Danny Elfman delivers the goods with some twisted lyrics.
Written and produced by Burton, this has his unmistakable visual stamp and style all over it, despite being directed by Henry Selick and proves beyond a doubt that animation isn’t just for kids.
2 - Silent Night, Zombie Night (2009)
Give it up for Sean Cain’s twisted masterpiece. The Zombie apocalypse has hit downtown L.A. - and it’s Christmas!! Sadly, this isn’t yet available in the UK, so if you’ve seen it, you were with us at last year’s GoreZone festival where SNZN headlined, though I’m informed that there’s a good chance this’ll be hitting shelves in 2011.
This is literally the film that George Romero should’ve made instead of the last three "Dead" movies he’s inflicted on us. The Zombie make-ups on display rival anything we’ve seen previously, especially in the case of a particularly gross, fat Santa zombie. Look for a cameo by cult movie actor Vernon Wells and a kickass performance by Sleepaway Camp’s Felissa Rose. Other highlights - Grieg’s "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" playing as the zombies rise. A piece of music I’d never associated with zombies before, but now as entrenched in my consciousness as "The Gonk" and last but not least - the best zombie killing...EVER.
Forget Dawn of the Dead’s decapitation via helicopter blade, Nadine Stenovich beats one for (further) death with a frying pan in SNZN.
With the success of The Walking Dead - THIS should have a comic strip/graphic novel adaptation!
1 - Gremlins (1984)
And here it is - my all time Christmas recommendation. A better Christmas film has yet to be made than the 1984 Joe Dante directed, Steven Spielberg produced classic. This has become a seasonal perennial and I have to wonder why the fil got away with as much as it did at the time. Consider this - small furry pets given to kids as Christmas presents turn in to predatory killers and virtually destroy a cosy town that evokes Norman Rockwell inspired Americana on Christmas Eve. There’s a tale told of a father’s untimely demise:
"Four or five days went by. Neither one of us could eat or sleep. Everything was falling apart. It was snowing outside. The house was freezing, so I went to try to light up the fire.
That's when I noticed the smell.
The firemen came and broke through the chimney top. And me and Mom were expecting them to pull out a dead cat or a bird. And instead they pulled out my father. He was dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He'd been climbing down the chimney... his arms loaded with presents. He was gonna surprise us. He slipped and broke his neck. He died instantly. And that's how I found out there was no Santa Claus."
I can only assume that those who would’ve protested were already busy picketing theatres that were showing "Silent Night, Deadly Night" which came out in the same year.
So, if someone gives you a furry, cuddly little pet for Christmas, remember to follow the three rules..
1) Do not expose them to light
2) Do not get them wet
3) Above all, not matter how much they cry, no mater how much they beg, never, never feed them after midnight. You might just make it to the January issue of GoreZone.
Enjoy the holidays.
Copyright © 2010 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.