Those that have read the blog when I started it way back last year might remember a little post I did on Christmas films. To be more precise, Anti-Christmas films because, and lets be frank about this, every year it seems to be forced on to the general public earlier and earlier. Now I am not a scrooge, but it really is not Christmas until early December. It is hard enough to find ones-self enthralled at the thought of hearing several Christmas ditties while round the supermarket in early November.
Ok maybe I am being overly scrooge like but to be honest, anything Christmassy or to that effect in November is pushing the hype a tad too far in my opinion. My point is that as Christmas does approach it becomes a tad too sickly sweet. So I decided in my infinite wisdom (or lack there of) to compile an alternate list of Christmas films with a twist. So this year (and taking my cue from adverts and marketing etc) I have come early and tweaked my original list. Sit back, relax, slurp a mass produced eggnog latte from a chain coffee shop (if you so wish) and indulge on some cinematic goodness before the festive season commences. I present a prelude to the ‘12 days of Anti-Christmas Films’, something to get you in the anti-festive mood (so to speak) with a brief overview of a selection of films that contain merry and joyful clout.
I’ll start with a comical cure (which may be hard to swallow for some) to the cheery sentimentality of yuletide. Bad Santa is in all honesty the perfect Christmas remedy all year round. Billy Bob Thornton’s portrayal of a foul mouthed alcoholic, shopping mall Santa, is the perfect blend of painful comedy. Directed with the same satirical edge that Terry (Ghost World) Zwigoff is known for, this is still in my top 10 comedy films. Because at its heart it still has (to my knowledge) three different demographics being hit in the twig and berries. Un-pc and painfully funny this is a great start to rid yourself of any unwanted Christmas soppiness.
It seems that one definitive pairing that goes with Christmas is action films and anti-Christmas heroes. Case in point being from my first Anti-Christmas list, from the pen of Shane Black we have Lethal Weapon. The first is still by far the best of the series (more so when you watch the Directors Cut) as it contains a standout performance from Mel Gibson, fresh and witty dialogue between the protagonists, with the added inclusion of some of the old ultra-violence thrown in for good measure.
Now everyone knows it, but not only is it a great action film it is also one of the great antidotes to Christmas. Of course I am talking about the second (or first depending on your own preference) best Anti-Christmas action film, Die Hard. Now I have already covered Die Hard a few times on this blog, but in all honesty it really is one of the best both in terms of action and a heart warming ending that a man will not laugh at.
On top of which you have the truly evil performance of Alan Rickman’s “Hans Gruber”, which in my opinion is the sort of filmic Christmas present that keeps on giving if you will.
Next up are a few films that really warm the cockles of my darkly comic heart, first up there is Gremlins, Joe Dantes B-Movie black comedy romp. How can this not be one of the best Anti-Christmas films ever? It has a fantastically mischievous score by the late great Jerry Goldsmith, that great sequence where a horde of Gremlins sit and watch Snow White. A bar is being overrun with the little blighters much to Phoebe Coates dismay as well as the brilliant sequence involving a showdown in a disused department store with Billy and Gizmo going after the Gremlin ring leader. Oh yes Gizmo, a now iconic film character, honestly what is not to love about this Mogwai. This is certainly an Anti-Christmas classic from the 80’s high concept heyday.
One film that I go out of my way to watch every year leading to Christmas is of course, Terry Gilliam’s Orwellian masterpiece Brazil. This dystopian classic with its roots firmly embedded in English literature is yet another example of unsentimental yuletide fare. Both uplifting and downbeat in equal measures, this is a Christmas film filled with very British sensibilities. Which when added with a mad performance from the legendary Michael Palin and an absolutely bonkers cameo from Robert De Niro (as a rogue heating repairman)all help to produce Gilliam’s 9th symphony and a near perfect, darkly comic Christmas fable. Also worthy of a mention is Gilliam’s ‘La Jatee’ remake ‘Twelve Monkeys’ , a crazed time travel fantasy based around the festive season.
Now horror films that use festive settings tend to be, well quite frankly a tad trite and seasonally mundane (depending on what time of year you happen to watch). But one horror film that I have recently discovered (and have subsequently added to my Anti-Christmas film list) is that of previously banned video nasty ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’. The ghoulish Christmas tale of a young boy who after witnessing the murder of his parents by a homicidal killer in a Santa outfit, is sent to an orphanage where he has his hatred of all things seasonal systematically beaten out of him. All of which leads to him having a mental break down and destroying anything Christmas related in his sleepy little town. This B-Movie horror trash is perfect anti-Christmas fare, partly because of its laughably bad acting, but mostly because of its (excuse the pun) satirical stab at the overtly commercial nature of Christmas. Least I forget the crazy grandfather who seems to be added solely cause terror, but rather turns out a performance beyond the realms of horror camp. Certainly the Anti-Christmas film to watch with a few beers.
All of this can then be closely followed up by a plethora of Shane Black (he of Lethal Weapon scripting fame) Anti-Christmas tales, if you find yourself in the action film mindset. First off there is the witty and painfully funny ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’. A Christmas film noir with standout performances from Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer, who manages to steal every scene he is in as a gay private eye. Essential Anti-Christmas fare and criminally Shane Black’s only directorial feature so far. Then there is the overlooked and uber-violent ‘Long Kiss Goodnight’, which although not up to the standards of Black’s original Lethal Weapon, is still peppered with sardonic one-liners and outrageous action set pieces. Now even though it seems Black is properly exorcising personal Christmas demons, he still knows how to make some of the best films centred within the festive season.
One film which is often overlooked (and which very few seem to realise is set during Christmas) is ‘First Blood’. Stallone’s first foray into John Rambo troubled persona, this is brooding without being overly violent (only one person dies, and it is accidently, Rambo never actually kills anyone). Containing some gritty action sequences neatly package with a great story about the miss use of power and corruption. While Rambo’s end monologue leaves you with a sense of heartbreak for a man lost to the horror of war.
But before you think all of my Anti-Christmas selections are filled with dark and depressing undertones, there are the minor few which do carry the Anti-Christmas feel without being overly downbeat. For instance there is Henry Selicks (now classic) Anti-Christmas tale ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ conceived from the twisted mind of Tim Burton. This film still manages to be upbeat without erring too far into slushy sentimentality, while it also contains some of the best stop-motion animation this side of Ray Harryhausen. Truthfully this is still a Christmas movie which has heart as well as a darkly satirical humour.
So there you have it, my unofficial prelude of the Anti-Christmas films I shall cover leading up to the holly jolly holiday. Stay tuned for the ‘12 days of Anti-Christmas’ in the coming week.