See It Instead: Holiday Horror Edition
With this week’s release of Krampus, tis the season for scares. Remarkably, the Christmas season has spawned more psychopaths and slashers than even Halloween, and I’m not just talking about the deranged crowds at Target on Black Friday! Apparently watching an obese man with a red suit and machete warms the cockles of some people’s hearts, so here we have three gruesome holiday flicks to pass the yule time.
There is a legend of a darker Christmas spirit, a demon with cloven hooves and horns who haunts the festive season and punishes those who lack the appropriate goodwill and cheer: Krampus. When a family get-together begins to wear on everyone’s nerves, the ill will generated by a botched Christmas gathering summons the holiday hobgoblin, who embarks upon a gory horror spree. Can this family find the Christmas spirit in time, or at least a double-barreled shotgun placed under the tree?
If you’re not quite ready to pay full ticket price for murder at the manger, here are three films available on VOD to provide you chills and thrills for the holidays.
The Serious Pick: Rare Exports, A Christmas Tale (2010)
This Finnish film is actually the third piece in a Rare Exports trilogy of sorts. Jalmari Helander created an original short film on You Tube by the same name, and later was able to follow it with a sequel, Rare Exports the Official Safety Instructions. Given the cult success of these endeavors, he was approached to create a full-length feature. While not a huge financial success, the feature went on to garner the same level of cult-classic as the shorts.
The story focuses on an isolated village where the primary economic activity is raising and selling reindeer. A team of scientists investigate a burial site in the nearby mountains (against the protests of the residents, naturally) and discovers the resting place of the spirit who would later become legendary as Saint Nicholas. Unfortunately for them, this spirit is more of a murderous demon than a jolly fat man, who uses an army of elves to kidnap children from the surrounding country side. The hunters of the village are forced to combat the elves (who wear Santa’s distinctive garb) and venture into Santa’s domain in order to free their captured children.
The Lighthearted Pick: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
In Halloween Town, the pumpkin king Jack Skellington is bored by eternally celebrating the macabre holiday. On one of his wanderings, Jack comes across Christmas Town and is dazzled by the sights and sounds of a new holiday, and returns to his own kingdom to try and implement what he has seen. With Jack’s naturally sinister sensibilities and the nature of the ghouls and ghosts who inhabit Halloween Town, things naturally do no go as planned. Things take a turn for the worse when one of the more powerful citizens, Oogie Boogie, decides to kidnap Santa himself, putting Christmas Town at risk of missing this year’s celebration.
Tim Burton seems to have a love-hate relationship with Christmas, as he tackled the sentimental season with great effect in Edward Scissorhands. The stop-motion used to create this whimsical and demented tale is gorgeous (and harkens back to the less sensational stop-motion used in the Rankin/Bass series of Christmas Specials) and the musical numbers are a delight, tweaking the typical feel of a Disney film. I’ve since soured on Burton and company, but there’s no denying the ghoulish magic of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
The Unconventional Pick: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
This film is more noteworthy for its controversy than for its content, though it is a reasonably gory slasher flick of the ilk the 1980’s produced by the bucketful. This film actually out sold Wes Craven‘s Nightmare on Elm Street it’s opening weekend…before being subsequently yanked from theaters after parents and social busy-bodies threw a hissy fit about the Christmas theme to the horror (despite many many films sharing the theme.) Despite being yanked and pilloried by critics, this film went on to spawn four sequels and a reboot. Good job, fussy parents of America, you sure managed to stop this threat to decency!
Billy Chapman is a troubled boy with a strong hatred of Christmas. When he was young, a burglar dressed as Santa Claus murdered his parents brutally in front of Billy. Forced into an orphanage, he is further traumatized by an evil Mother Superior who regularly beats the children under her care and deprives them of any joy during the holidays. As a teenager, Billy finds a job as a stock boy at a local department store and even falls in love with a co-worker, but happiness is not in Billy’s stocking. Sensing his dislike of the season, his bullying co-workers force him to wear a promotional Santa Claus outfit during their holiday party. This snaps Billy’s psyche, and he goes on a bloody Christmas themed rampage through the community.
The Best Christmas Pun Title: Santa’s Slay (2005)
This film is goofy and gruesome and stars former pro wrestler Goldberg as the demonic Santa Claus. In this version of Christmas, Santa is Satan’s offspring who was cursed by God to deliver joy and presents to children…for a set amount of time. Now that his curse has expired, Santa is free to indulge his devilish side, and does so by tormenting Hell Township and it’s residents with quirky yule-tide themed murder.
The film is silly and over-the-top, and is pretty fun because it cares exactly not a bit about being a decent movie. The only challenge is how many Christmas themed fatalities it can wrack up during its run time, and it succeeds wonderfully at that. The final show down involves a zamboni and a bazooka, so you know that they decided to max out the crazy factor for this cornball slasher flick!