There are probably as many Christmas movies as there are horror ones, but unlike the more common mash-ups rom-coms or docudramas, these two rarely combine successfully. Maybe it’s the reverence for the overtly religious holiday, or maybe the incessant good cheer the season exudes is too difficult for most writers of the macabre to overcome. But there are a few gems, in this cinematic road less traveled, and here are five of your creepy Uncle Fritz’s fear filled festive favorites.
There are low budget films and then there are no budget films. JACK FROST is definitely the latter. Make no mistake this movie is awful. I mean this is a movie about a killer snowman and there isn’t even any snow. But that didn’t stop our intrepid filmmakers. Oh no! Rather than rent some snow machines or even postpone shooting until there was a snowfall they decided that covering the ground with cotton fleece would work instead. The script is terrible, the acting is horrendous, and the direction hackneyed. But even with all that, this film is still worth sitting through for one reason and one reason only – to watch Shannon Elizabeth get fucked to death by a snowman.
Although GREMLINS is arguably a monster movie and not horror (and if you don’t know the difference what the hell are you even doing reading this list?) I’ve included it here because it’s a great film where the plot climax happens on the big day. Set in the fictional town of Kingston Falls, where bumbling inventor father Randall Peltzer, (played by veteran TV actor Hoyt Axton) finds a unique Christmas gift for his son while in Chinatown (no, I’ve never heard of a rustic suburban town having a Chinatown either but if you can’t suspend your disbelief for that then you’re really not going to like the raging gang of two foot tall monsters this film is entirely about). The gift is a cute little creature known as a Mogwai which is named Gizmo, after Dad’s chosen vocation. There are three rules in caring for a Mogwai: keep them out of bright light (it can kill them), don’t get them wet (they spontaneously reproduce when wet) and never feed them after midnight (it causes them to metamorphosize from cute little fur balls into ugly ravenous monsters). Needless to say, all three rules get broken and chaos ensues just in time for the holiday! The finale is some good old monster mayhem and a perfect film for Christmas, especially if all the stress has made you want to blow up town. And nothing is scarier than teenage Corey Feldman. NOTHING.
There’s something almost charming about early 70’s horror. I think its the post 60’s peace & love vibe colliding with the polyester freak-out of the next decade that just reeks of impending doom. This little gem focuses on a sorority house being stalked by an obscene phone caller turned murderer on Christmas eve. For a zero budget horror film, this film has quite the combination of has-been and soon-to-be cast members. Including 2001’s Keir Dullea as the drunken tormented virtuoso pianist and former naked Juliet Olivia Hussey and typecast ne’er-do-well cop John Saxon to not yet Lois Lane Margot Kidder (in the most prophetic role of her career) and a young pre-SCTV Andrea Martin sporting the raddest jewfro I’ve ever seen.
This first half of this film is a total gut-buster. Between the continuously drinking Barb (Kidder), who seems to be taking all her queues from house matron Mrs. Mac who has a pint of sherry stashed in every nook in the house (including the toilet tank), and the obscene phone call monologue, that seems like a page from a John Holmes porno script, I was in hysterics for almost an hour. Then when the killer really gets rolling the red harings and false starts make for a how-to guide to 70’s suspense that ends with some of the most inept police work ever committed to celluloid. This is holiday exploitation the likes of which you could only see today if you took a tour of the factory that made your iPhone.
If there’s one thing the 80’s had down (besides parachute pants and hair products) it was over-the-top horror. Especially holiday themed scare flicks, all of which were trying to cash in on the craze started by HALLOWEEN and made celluloid gold by the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise. Every major Hallmark holiday had a crack at getting it’s own slasher flick, from Valentine’s Day to Mother’s Day. Hell even April Fool’s Day got it’s screen time. But when it came to Christmas-slashers this film is the undefeated world champion.
Unlike most slashers of the time SNDN went out of it’s way to establish an almost sympathetic motive for its killer. First, as a young boy Billy is told by his crazy grandfather that Santa punishes naughty children and he better run for his life. Then, on the way home from Grandpa’s holiday nuthouse visit, he witnesses a guy in a Santa outfit murder his father then rape and murder his mother after he abandons his infant brother by fleeing for a cover in a ditch. Then, the kid is raised in a orphanage by a Mother Superior whose brand of child rearing was corporal punishment with a dash of bondage. Finally, when 18 year old Billy gets a job as a stock clerk he’s asked to play the store’s Santa on Christmas eve. Then, after the closing party (where kindly store owner and soon-to-be liver transplant patient, Mr. Sims, provides each employee with an entire fifth of booze) an intoxicated Billy snaps and goes on a rampage.
Now I’m not paraphrasing here as there’s really no reason for Billy’s bloody rampage other than we’ve entered act three and are running out of screen time. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time for 80’s scream queen Linnea Quigley to do what she does best and spend an entire scene topless as well as not one, but two Santas gunned down by local cops. With plenty of blood, boobs and booze this film has something for the whole family!
Unlike the other entries in this list, RARE EXPORTS is a genuinely awesome film. Made and set in Finland this film is about how an excavation on the Korvatunturi mountain disrupts the season for some local reindeer herders and how Pietari Kontio, the son of one of the herders, discovers that the truth behind the disruption is the long forgotten and terrible truth of Santa Claus. I don’t want to give too much about the plot away as I sincerely want you to see it and enjoy it for yourselves. The majority of the film is subtitled and it isn’t as much of a horror film as some of the other entries on this list but in the few years since it’s release RARE EXPORTS has become an annual tradition at Uncle Fritz’s house each Christmas. So in honor of the holiday this film is my gift to all of you.
Merry Christmas ya filthy animals!