While I don't begrudge others for partaking in holiday festivities, let's just say you won't find me at any of these Christmas movies. No, I'll be at home partaking in my own yearly ritual: revisiting some of my favorite examples of the unfairly maligned "Christmas horror" genre. I rue the day somebody programs an evening of these atypical holiday classics—but for now, you can find my five favorite after the jump.
5. Rare Exports: A Christmas Story (Jalmari Helander, Finland, 2010) Maybe not strictly a horror film, but a demented vision nonetheless. When archaeologists excavate a frozen Santa Claus, buried under heaps of snow and ice, they learn that he's not a benevolent ambassador of goodwill, but rather a malicious monster who punishes children and wields an army of bloodthirsty elves. As Andrea Gronvall notes in her review, this fantasy adventure is good for a few laughs, most of them derived from the film's satirical view of Christmas mythology.
4. Black Christmas (Bob Clark, USA, 1974) This mid-70s slasher flick is fairly run-of-the-mill until you realize it was directed by the same guy who directed A Christmas Story, a holiday film so ubiquitous that there are actual museums dedicated to it. I think I'd enjoy this time of year a hell of a lot more if TBS had a 24-hour marathon of Black Christmas instead.
3. Silent Night, Deadly Night III—Better Watch Out! (Monte Hellman, USA, 1989) I think I've mentioned this Hellman staple in a previous blog post, but it's the kind of film that can't be denied. The two previous Silent Night, Deadly Night films are enjoyable enough in their own right, but they don't have Hellman's idiosyncratic approach to genre, nor his thrust of personality.
2. You Better Watch Out [aka Christmas Evil] (Lewis Jackson, USA, 1980) This personal favorite of John Waters is a cautionary tale that warns against the perils of Christmas spirit. After an emotionally fragile young boy learns the truth about Santa Claus the hard way, he intends to spread holiday cheer by any means necessary—including a yuletide killing spree spurned by cynical Christmas doubters. Jackson weaves in allusions to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, depicting his protagonist as a monster created by the unnecessary amount of cultural importance placed on the holiday season.
1. Gremlins (Joe Dante, USA, 1984) An obvious choice: Dante's sardonic wit is in full force here, as is his penchant for balancing disparate tones in a single film. For this movie, he mixes a Spielbergian sense of adventure with his own brand of dark humor. The "Snow White scene," in which hundreds of the titular creatures partake in a screening of Walt Disney's animated classic, is one of my favorite scenes in any film, period.