Holiday Movies For Horror Fans
Guest Blogger Post by Brandon Engel
Did you know that Santa Claus has not always called the North Pole home? That’s right – according to legend, he once lived in modern-day Turkey and was Bishop of Myra. While dining at a local inn, St. Nicholas sensed that the meat he was about to chew was, in fact, the pickled bodies of three boys murdered and brined by the butcher. “Timothy, Mark, and John, put your fleshly garments on!” he commanded, and the burgers – er, boys – transmogrified to life.
So you see, horror and Christmas have always been neighbors. Thankfully, Hollywood has recognized this as well. In honor of this odd couple, here are five of the best holiday movies for horror fans:
Originally released as the tongue-in-cheek You Better Watch Out, the slasher film follows the delusions of Harry (Brandon Maggart), a 9-5 wage slave convinced that he is the next Santa Claus. Traumatized by a PG-13 childhood experience of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, the adult Harry records the names of any children he deems nice or naughty. The plot climaxes as the increasingly deranged Harry exacts revenge and his brother, Phil, tries to stop him. Director John Waters once commented that it was “the greatest Christmas film ever made,” no doubt due to Maggart’s riveting performance.
Milton Subotsky, British producer, rescued old E.C. Comics by purchasing the movie rights from their publisher. The first film cobbled together from that material was Tales From the Crypt, released in 1972 by Amicus Productions and directed by Freddie Francis. The film is an anthology, narrated by the Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson), who meets five lost tourists in ancient catacombs and tells each one, in detail, the manner of his death. Later, each dies in the prescribed manner, slaughtered by the hand of their victims or their surrogates, such as a homicidal Santa Claus on the lam.
Hidden in the frozen bowels of the Korvatunturi mountains in a remote part of Finland is the original Santa Claus, brought to terra firm by scientists who fail to immediately realize that the first-edition Kris Kringle is an immortal being who has one job: kill bad children. A delightful and award-winning black humor parody, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale mixes deadpan satire with Scandinavian snow and won the Critic’s Pick accolade from The New York Times. The film is also widely available to watch online and on TV through providers like Amazon and DirecTV.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, cinema audiences went bonkers for horror films starring America’s neighbor to the north, Canada. Dozens of “Canuxploitation” films ensued, the king of which was Black Christmas, directed by B-film mastermind Bob Clarke. Based on “the man upstairs” urban legend, the film begins with an obscene phone call to a sorority and the threat “I’ll kill you.” The caller, Billy, proceeds to do just that. One of the first slasher films, Black Christmas relies heavily on point-of-view (POV) camera shots, accomplished by cameraman Albert Dunk crawling up stairs and clambering up trellises. It was never shown on television because broadcasters judged it “too scary.”
Randall Peltzer has an adorable new pet, a mogwai, with three simple rules of conduct. He breaks those rules, and thus transforms his cute mogwai, voiced by Howie Mandel, into a malicious gremlin bent on plunder and destruction. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Zach Galligan, “Gremlins” generated controversy for its conflicting bloody sequences and family-friendly advertising. Moviegoers did not expect to see a gremlin zapped and popped in a microwave. The Motion Picture Association of America changed its rating system two months afterwards.