December 15, 2017
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Of course, I’m sure the popular Christmas song isn’t referring to the finals this week. It’s referring to Christmas, of course— the holiday where it’s socially acceptable to wear ugly knitted sweaters and randomly decorate some poor miniature pine tree to celebrate a fat man dressed in red who slides down your chimney (awkward).
What isn’t awkward is that it’s a perfect excuse to watch holiday classics like Elf, The Grinch and Christmas with the Kranks. What? Isn’t that on your list of modern cinematic classics? Let’s just all agree that some of these films are a little stale at points, especially because they’ve been practically looping 24/7 on Freeform lately.
So we’ve come up with a short top ten list of alternative Christmas movies of various genres to watch until the twenty-fifth. I can see you all shiver with anticipation. Here we go:
10. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Interestingly enough, Silent Night, Deadly Night is one of those movies where the sequel is more renown than the original movie that started it all. Not that it’s a good thing, considering how the how the only reason the second movie garnered more attention is because of a meme it spawned. However, I’m not here to talk about Eric Freeman’s performance that rivals even Nicholas Cage’s in The Wicker Man remake. I’m here to discuss a bit about its predecessor. Silent Night, Deadly Night basically tells the story of a troubled young man, who was orphaned at a young age with his brother after his parents were brutally murdered on Christmas Eve night, embarking on a killing spree in a Santa costume. Honestly, it’s nothing amazing, but it’s still an enjoyable slasher flick, all things considered. If you feel like watching Friday The 13th but want to appear relatively normal among friends, just watch this instead.
9. Bad Santa (2003)
In this dark comedy, a conman named Willie and his partner reunite for their annual holiday heist. Posing as a mall Santa and his elf, they steal from shopping outlets on Christmas Eve. This year, however, Willie is falling into a downwards spiral. He’s become a depressed alcoholic, and his erratic behavior draws the attention of mall security. He soon befriends a small, odd boy who manages to bring out the kindness inside him. Willie now begins to wonder if there is still some hope for a crook like him. It’s quite a new take on the cliche plot of a spiteful person finding their Christmas spirit once again. Who doesn’t enjoy dark humor once in awhile?
8. Jack Frost (1997)
Notorious serial killer Jack Frost is accidentally killed in a freak accident involving genetic material and snow. Resurrected as a mutant snowman, Jack’s new goal is to kill the town’s sheriff, the man who was involved in his death. The sheriff believes Jack has somehow survived while everyone else in the town believe he’s insane— typical horror movie script-writing. Soon after, bodies begin to pile up, all killed in some pretty bizarre ways. As a horror comedy, this wintry movie has the whole cringy package: hair driers as weapons, bad puppeteering, and literally a killer snowman. Jack Frost looks hilariously cumbersome and non-threatening, not to mention the fact that he merely slips and slides around to move, all with little to no articulation. The movie also showcases some really cheesy one-liners and even an infamously “unsavory” death that is too “risqué” to discuss. If you watch the movie, you’ll know what I mean.
7. Black Christmas (1974)
A group of sorority girls are receiving obscene phone calls from an insane man named “Billy.” They blow it off as a sick joke but don’t realize that the calls are coming from within the house they’re living in. The man hides himself in the house’s attic. As they prepare to leave for Christmas vacation, the girls are killed one by one by the deranged man. This movie is one of the earliest serial killer films and provides influence for such films like Halloween. The atmosphere appears innocent, which raises the eeriness and the soundtrack is quite foreboding yet simple with jagged pianos. This movie is in no way as comedic as the others listed; it’s quite a serious and a well-executed horror. Good luck using a phone after watching.
6. Krampus (2015)
Strangely, an old German fairy-tale has been wildly popular in America these past few years. In a strategic move, a movie was developed to satisfy Krampus-crazed fans. Made by the same person behind the Halloween cult classic, Trick r Treat, Krampus tells the tale of a boy who has a terrible Christmas and accidentally summons the ancient demon. One by one, each family member is taken away until the boy learns his lesson of gratitude. This movie was surprisingly enjoyable considering how recently it was made. It has the right amount of horror mixed in with comedy. This movie very much reminds me an adult version of The Nightmare Before Christmas because of the monstrous toys that attack the family, skeletal reindeers, and the premise of a Santa that brings terror instead of joy. There are some elements of modern horror that I don’t like such as the clean, suburban home setting and an overuse of CGI. In addition, the face of Krampus looks more like a creepy Father Time than a demon of the Underworld. But with all that said, Krampus is still a fun movie to watch.
5. Batman Returns (1992)
Batman Returns is considered to be one of the weirdest and darkest movies of the Batman universe— after all, it was directed by Tim Burton. Abandoned in the sewers as a baby for his deformed hands, the Penguin grows up to be a people-hating monster that terrorizes the city with his gang of circus freaks. He joins forces with the seductive Catwoman to try stopping Batman from saving Christmas. The film certainly has the holiday cliches of snow, Christmas trees, and lights, but it balances out with a gothic twist of dark shadows, a moody soundtrack, emotional turmoil, and -oh yeah, explosions. It also has probably two of the most memorable villains in the DC universe— at least next to the Joker. Not only was the Penguin and Catwoman fleshed out by Danny Devito and Michelle Pfeiffer, who are memorable in their own right, but they also are a perfect showcase of Burton’s artistic vision for the weird and strange. Plus, flying explosive penguins: Wow.
4. Trading Places (1983)
What would happen if you combined satire with upper and lower class stereotypes over the holidays? You’d get something like Trading Places, a hilarious movie directed by the one and only John Landis, starring Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, and many others. It tells the tale of two greedy old corporate leaders making a bet with each other: nature vs. nurture. Obviously, the movie is titled Trading Places for a reason: the two men agree to set a convoluted plan to replace one of their highest performing workers with a random bum off the streets. Comedy ensues. Not only does it have some of Eddie Murphy’s best acts, as well as Aykroyd, but it also has some of the funniest lines put to film. But don’t let me spoil it for y’all, just watch it on Netflix.
3. Edward Scissorhands (1983)
Another Tim Burton film— he must really love the holidays. Edward Scissorhands tells the story of an inventor who created a man named Edward but died before he could finish his hands. The creation uses scissor blades as a substitute for hands and spends his life alone in the abandoned castle. Eventually a gracious mother named Peg discovers Edward and takes him home to live with her family. His peculiar talent for cutting hair and trimming bushes makes him a local celebrity, yet he still remains an outcast for his deformity and freakish appearance. Winning the love of the Peg’s beautiful daughter will allow him to finally feel whole. The setting takes place during Christmas time in the boring suburbs devoid of snow, but Edward soon discovers a solution for this with the help of his “special gift.” This movie is considered one of Tim Burton’s best works and has his signature quirky, gothic aesthetic. It has a star-studded cast that includes Winona Ryder, Johnny Depp, Dianne Wiest, and even the late Vincent Price.
2. Die Hard (1988)
One cop against twelve terrorists, all cooped up in a massive skyscraper— what could possibly go wrong? In all seriousness, Die Hard is probably the most definitive action movie ever made. It’s violent, thrilling, suspenseful, and it has a cohesive plot, perfect pacing, and some very memorable dialog. Let’s be real here: a lot of John McClane’s (Bruce Willis) lines are simply great, and I laugh every time he opens up his mouth to say something snarky or profane. In fact, by the end of the movie, you’ll probably consider the act of cursing to be a form of art, and Bruce Willis is Bob Ross in that respect. If you have never seen this movie, watch it as soon as possible, as it really is Bruce Willis at his absolute finest, as well as the late Alan Rickman, who also played his role convincingly as the main antagonist, Hans Gruber. And if you can’t get enough of McClane, there are literally four other sequels. Sure, the latter ones are a bit stupid, but they’re kind of like James Bond films, meaning that even the bad ones are still enjoyable to watch. Yippee Ki Yay.
1. Gremlins (1984)
Taking the spot at number one, Gremlins is something quite special. Gremlins is basically a B-movie with a high production value; it has a lot of heart and originality. Funny enough, people tend to forget that this movie takes place on Christmas Eve. A father buys a strange creature named Gizmo, a fluffy ball of cuteness, from an old Chinese shop as a present for his son. However, despite his adorable appearance, Gizmo comes with three set rules: don’t expose him in light, don’t give him water, and never ever feed him after midnight. Perfectly innocent, what could go wrong? By accident, the son breaks the rules and unleashes multiple spawns of Gizmo that are in no way cute or cuddly. Although it may not have the smartest writing at times, it’s certainly still enjoyable to watch. It’s one of those movies where it’s hard to resist laughing repeatedly just at the sheer ridiculousness of each scene. In fact, one of the most memorable scenes from the movie was when a crabby old lady was launched out of a window on a stair-lift. If you have never seen Gremlins, what are you doing with your life? It’s a movie that has been assimilated into pop culture with movies like Star Wars and Alien.
No matter which movie you choose to celebrate the holidays with, you’ll be in for one heck of a surprise!