SHANE DOUGLAS KEENE
I’ve never been able to decide whether I hate Christmas, or it hates me. The whole holiday season is representative of everything I despise about life and humanity from Black Friday onward as we begin to see headlines about riots at Walmart, road rage runs rampant, and it seems like everywhere I go, people are complete and utter shitstains to one another. It’s a time when people suddenly deem it worth their while to fight a bitch over the last shitty discount TV at Best Buy, or to engage in verbal, and sometimes physical, warfare over the design on a fucking paper coffee cup from The World’s Worst Coffee Vendor. Normal, usually reasonable human beings mutate into slavering monsters, willing to maim, mutilate, and kill over material possessions and imagined insults or offenses that, in the long run, have no value whatsoever in the overall scheme of living and loving. And it’s all done in service to a great big fat fucking lie. If Christmas was a movie the title would have to include the subtext, “based on the true events …,” as it’s nothing more than a twisted, mangled rip-off of the Pagan celebration of Yule, a season in which, as I understand it as told by my Wiccan spouse, they celebrated the birth of the Sun, not the Son.
But honestly, in spite of all that negativity I just vomited on you, I didn’t come here to share that kind of darkness with you. Because if there’s one thing amongst all the bullshit that I find immensely pleasing about the holiday, it’s the wonderfully imaginative, humorous, and horrific films that have been born of the season over the years. So, here, with hopefully a minimum of the longwinded drivel I’m prone to, are ten of my favorite selections for a celebratory yuletide playlist.
10 – Jack Frost: A serial killer involved in a car crash on the way to his execution is mutated into the terrifying vengeful spirit known as Jack Frost and mayhem ensues as he rampages his way into our holiday hearts, tearing through the town and leaving mayhem and destruction in his wake. It’s a film that has little to offer in the ways of intelligence or storytelling prowess, but a lot to offer if you’re just out to have a fast-paced, mostly hilarious good time.
9 –Rare Exports: This odd little Norwegian film is an unusual one in that I don’t see many recommendations for it and, if I’m being perfectly honest, isn’t super scary. The only reason I include it as one of my favorite Christmas horror flicks is that it’s ridiculously watchable and it’s in that category of stupid that translates itself well to outright hilarity. A Krampus type story that makes a monster out of Santa and naked murderous psychopaths out of his elves.
8 – All Through the House: Women get stabbed in the eye sockets with garden sheers and men get their dicks chopped off. And that’s just the first ten minutes. A killer dressed as Santa rages through a town raining blood and chaos on the unwitting citizens as they prepare for the most wonderful time of the year. Most of the acting is so poor that you’re happy to see the characters die in the delightfully gruesome gorefest, but it’s a fun, watchable film for the sheer OMG shock value of it.
7 – Christmas Evil: A little boy is traumatized when he catches Santa with his face between mommy’s thighs. As an adult working in a toy factory, he snaps after being harassed by his coworkers, losing his shit and going on an epic killing spree. It’s a celebration of violence and insanity that would fall on its face but for Brandon Maggart’s portrayal of a man who lives on the brink of madness until finally being pushed well beyond the bleeding edge of sanity and humanity.
6 – A Christmas Horror Story: A an anthology quartet of holiday madness that actually comes off quite well in spite of a not unexpected tepid and wooden performance on the part of William Shatner. There’s a Krampus story in there that doesn’t quite work because it feels more like a synopsis of the full-length movie, Krampus, but the rest of the interwoven tales in the film more than make up for it with highlights being Santa Claus in heated and bloody battle with zombie elves and chilling depiction of three teens breaking into a haunted to school to work on a film project.
5 – Sint: St. Nicholas, a bishop, is brutally murdered at the beginning of this horrific little holiday revenant story. Every thirty-two years he comes back to Amsterdam on December 5th to exact brutal, bloody revenge on the unsuspecting town. Billed as a horror comedy, there isn’t enough of the comedic about it to earn the billing but it more than makes up for it with oodles of gleeful, in your face slasher horror that spares no opportunity to splatter your vision with blood and viscera.
4 – Krampus: Director Michael Dougherty gives Christmas a much need makeover, ratcheting it into full on Trick r Treat mode and cranking the cacophonous hilarity up to full volume. What this film lacks in elements of the horrific is more than made up for by the nonstop raucous mayhem that is becoming Dougherty’s trademark and, to a great degree, his stock in trade. It’s also a great demonstration of his tendency to take what appears to be a happy ending and twist it into something altogether spine-tingling and hard to forget.
3 – Gremlins: You knew this had to be here somewhere, right? Right? I mean, what list of Christmas movies would be complete without these cute, cuddly little demons that wormed their way into our hearts back in the eighties and continue to entertain and enthrall some of us to this day? What could be more fun on Christmas Eve than to have a bunch of raging, demonic teddy-rodents tearing up the town, all in the name of having fun?
2 – The Nightmare Before Christmas: Most of you will probably pshaw the idea that this movie is horror and while I don’t necessarily disagree, I think that anything born of the beautiful madness in Tim Burton’s imagination is more than worthy of your time and attention. Were it not for my leanings in the direction of a greater darkness, I would probably bill this as the number one most watchable Christmas film ever made, but I’m incapable of being untrue to my own joyful depravity so it will have to hover hear just slightly below the number one slot. I blame Satan.
1 – Black Christmas: This film is one I’ve gone back to again and again, marveling at all the tricks, tropes, and themes that were basically born of it. It’s the film that birthed an entire subgenre of horror film with slasher flicks such as Halloween and Friday the 13th taking obvious direction and strong queues from it and reshaping the horror movie experience for an entire generation to come. If you haven’t seen this one, you’ve robbed yourself of all the basic joyful, terrifying treasures that Christmas has to offer.
That’s it from me except to say, happy Yule to all and to all a yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!
Shane Douglas Keene is a reviewer, columnist, and poet living in Portland, Oregon. He spends his spare time drinking scotch and/or beer, playing guitar, and thinking of ways to scare small children and puppies. He pays meticulous attention to beard maintenance, mostly because it freaks people out, and he writes about dark fiction and poetry in various places, including his blog at Shotgun Logic.