Nazis, Commies, Demons, Peepshows and Martians: A Cough Syrup Christmas
brought to you by
Christmas has come and you’re gathered around the family. You’ve probably finished watching Rudolph and Frosty and It’s a Wonderful Life, like you do every year. You are up to your ass in canonical holiday cheer and can use a breath of fresh air. Well, lucky for you, there’s a whole lot of ways to bring some weirdness, impropriety and cognitive dissonance to your Christmas without adding some NyQuil to the eggnog. Here are five cult Christmas films sure to bring something akin to holiday cheer to the perverts and creeps among us.
1.SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS
This is the essential cult Christmas movie. It’s gone mainstream because of the many brilliant times the MST3k crew in various iterations have tackled it. As such, you would think that it would be too obvious a choice to slap on a cult Christmas film list. Well, this movie is such a trip that the list can’t happen without it. Sorry if you’ve already seen this a thousand times with bots and without but dammit, it’s worth your time.
This film centers around clueless, stoic Martians discovering that their children’s lack of satisfaction comes from the envy that arises from seeing Santa Claus on TV. The Martians live in a world of food pills, sleep sprays and machines indoctrinating children in their sleep. They know nothing of the simple pleasures of Earth Christmas. So, Kimar, the leader of the Martians decides to rectify this by kidnapping Santa Claus. Another Martian, the curmudgeonly but (in my opinion) sensible Voldar thinks this a terrible idea, which it is. The Martians end up kidnapping two insipid and whiny Earth children to lead them to Santa, which they do and Santa teaches them about holiday cheer.
A weirdly ingenuous monologue about children growing up too fast, an eerie and frightening toy fight, the worst polar bear and cardboard box robot costumes you’ve ever fucking seen and the laziest man on Mars take this from what would be a bottom of the barrel curiosity to a true psychedelic classic.
With bots, without bots, whatever you dig, check this out.
2.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS
Did you know Santa Claus was raised in the enchanted forest of Burzee (thankfully not the forest of Burzum) and spent his infancy drinking lion’s milk? Did you know that he was under the protection of magic elves led by a staghelmed badass who wields a magic ax against the forces of evil? Yes, Santa Claus is much more Metal than previous Rankin Bass entries tried to tell us. It might have taken them until 1985 to be honest with us but finally Rankin Bass gave us THE REAL story about Santa’s upbringing. With help from L Frank Baum, author of the Oz books.
Those of us who know the work of L Frank Baum know that Baum took some cues from the likes of Dunsany and Nesbit and the myriad voices in his head. At any rate, this is a weird, made for TV classic, that puts Santa Claus pretty much into the Warhammer universe. It’s full of demons, gargoyles, lions, a dragon and uncomfortably sexy claymation faeries and whimsical songs. This is a weird combination of things to say the least but nonetheless, totally fucking metal.
Rankin Bass could always bring it animation-wise and this was no exception. These are the guys not only who brought you Rudolph but also the animated Hobbit and Return of the King and this brings together both those influences into something weird, unique and powerful.
(The link below is not a trailer but it is a damn good representation of what this is all about)
3.THE GREAT RUPERT IN A CHRISTMAS WISH
Nothing says Christmas like Jimmy Durante, the big nosed, gravel voiced crooner who sang his way into our grandparents’ hearts and then into ours as the narrator of Frosty the Snowman. You can’t do Christmas without Durante. Don’t try it and nobody gets hurt, okay? You know what else you can’t do Christmas without? Terrible stop motion animation. You might think you got your share of stop motion and claymation antics from Rudolph and possibly The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus but you didn’t. Luckily, George Pal, who you remember from the Rocky Horror Picture Show theme song and probably nowhere else has got your ass covered.
Jimmy Durante saves Christmas yet again! And you know what else you can’t do Christmas without? Impoverished vaudevillians! You didn’t even know that, did you? Well, it’s true. In The Great Rupert in A Christmas Wish (an early entry in what I’m assuming is a large Great Rupert franchise), Jimmy Durante is the patriarch of a family of down and out vaudevillians who suddenly find that cash is raining down from a hole in their wall. It’s a miracle!
Nope. It’s a runaway trained squirrel living in their vents and stealing cash that their landlord has been squirreling away in the wall. They sit, they pray and the magic hole rains down money because the squirrel does not want money in his wall. If the hole or the squirrel were magic, this movie would actually be less weird than it is. As is, the story is simply the story of a family of vaudevillians benefitting from a dancing squirrel’s dislike of stupid human currency in his home. It does end up being a strangely heartwarming socialist parable.
4.DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS
Man, Thatcher era England looks sad and off-putting. I guess there’s a reason V for Vendetta happened. Don’t Open Til Christmas is a Christmas horror film set in Thatcher’s England. It’s ugly as the ugliest sweater, it’s sad as a stocking full of coal and it’s full of a grim social realism that makes it stand out. Don’t Open Til Christmas gives us visuals we probably didn’t really know we wanted to see, sometimes this is because we didn’t.
Did you ever think you wanted to see Santa Claus murdered as he starts to jerk off at a peepshow? I’d imagine not. If you just said yes, either you’re John Waters or you’re full of shit. This movie is full of urban decay, sad peepshow girls, a dour British police detective and most importantly, dead Santas. While Silent Night, Deadly Night and Black Christmas are the go to Christmas slasher films, this is a more obscure, gritty and dour entry.
Don’t Open Til Christmas makes the list not because it’s as out there as the others but because it’s just so ugly and sad that you have no idea what the director was thinking. The other entries are long because I really don’t have much to say about this one other than repeating that a Santa Claus is brutally murdered as he’s about to jerk off at a peepshow booth. It’s like a New York Ripper Christmas special. If you like good kills, depressing mysteries and abject filth, you need to look no further.
Sometimes when you see a film as a little kid, you see something really weird and you don’t quite process how completely unsavory it is. On the recommendation of a friend last year, I watched Elves. Watching Elves, I realized that I had in fact seen this movie before and blanked it out. I had found a copy of the VHS among the thousands of bootleg videos my grandfather kept under our stairs. It is very much the sort of movie that you would think you’d find underneath your stairs. It seems to be an artifact from another universe even worse than our own.
Elves starts with a teenage girl’s mother taking her tips and her brother spying on her in the shower. Said fucked up mother also drowns her beloved cat in the toilet. Video Nasty Christmas is every bit as cruel and off as grindhouse Christmas and as unrelenting in showing you a world that is just plain wrong. This is not only a sad nightmare world that contradicts the warmth and wholesomeness of every Christmas film you’ve ever seen but one that is a hellscape from the bottom up, a high-concept brutally shoved into place. When the elves show up to start killing people, it’s almost a relief. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to her disgusting family life and a workplace that doesn’t give a shit about her.
See, this girl’s life is hell because of a legacy of incest, Nazism and occult manipulation. She is meant to give birth to an antichrist that will lead an army of Nazi elves to conquer the world. Of course…that’s why the child abuse and the rape and the neglect and her friends getting murdered. It was all because of a Nazi elf conspiracy. Shit. Merry fuckin’ Christmas.
May this weirdness bring you the happiest of holidays or at least melt your brain so you don’t have to process them.
Garrett Cook is the Wonderland Award winning author of Time Pimp, Archelon Ranch, Murderland and A God of Hungry Walls. He is the editor in of the New Bizarro Author Series from Eraserhead Press. He both loves and hates you all in a Jesus kinda way.