It may not be the most revolutionary thing to say that you’re not excited for the holiday season, but I feel as though it still needs to be remembered that not everyone is on board for the yearly high-strung antics at the end of the year. I feel like this fits in well with those who happen to swing more towards introversion, but I’m sure there is a large portion of extroverts who some years find it more than a bit hard to swallow everything that goes on with the holiday season. With that in mind, I started to wonder – what movies would I recommend to people who would love to really make it a point to think outside of the box of traditional holiday movie fare this season? Maybe a little anti-holiday, while we’re at it?
Even if you don’t have a problem with the festivities, it’s nice to have a palate cleanser from It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story (both of which I honestly do love). If you happen to feel the same way, check out the list below for some ideas of what to watch to commemorate our cultural obsession with materialism and nostalgic family values.
The Ice Harvest – A cynical noir that literally murders and cheats the whole ideal of peace on Earth or goodwill to mankind. The dream of getting out of a dead-end town during Christmas Eve for two men is turned into a scheme to steal a fortune that they’ve embezzled. In short order, everything that could go wrong on Christmas Eve does. It’s a criminally underrated gem of black comedy from the late great Harold Ramis, a definite must-have especially for fans of the equally as cynical In Bruges.
Bad Santa – Believe it or not, this movie is a less of a cynical razing of Christmas values and traditions and more of what feels like a cathartic destruction of all of the materialist fakeness that has become synonymous with the holiday. It has a good heart. You know, beneath the layers of dark, dark and downright disgusting humor. This movie is equal parts heist, shock value drunken antics, and a strangely humanistic message. And boy do I love it.
Gremlins – Recently, I’ve come to see this movie as one that is about a symbolic destruction of traditional upper-middle class small town Americana during the most Americana of all holidays. And it’s still an absolute blast, decades (!) later. A small town apocalypse not from a Blob or zombies, but from reptilian Furby-like monsters whose existence is due to the mishandling of a pet treated like an early Christmas present. And don’t let anyone tell you that the sequel, while a different beast all its own, isn’t fun either!
Die Hard – A retired police detective finds that the reunion he planned with his estranged wife has been turned into a terrorist hostage situation, during which he is left to try to save the day with his wits and steely, working-class manly-manliness. There’s a lot of gun fire and a whole lot of glass embedded in shoeless feet, as well as an Alan Rickman performance with a kinda-sorta Russian(?) accent at work that I just love. What’s not to love with this rightful classic? Oh, it all happens to also take place in a giant office building during Christmas. Ho ho ho.
Krampus – This movie feels like it was ripped from the eighties, when hardcore nightmare material was given to kids freely, complete with a PG rating slapped on it (see the above Gremlins recommendation). The sound design and the practical effects are on point, and Krampus – the shadow of Santa Claus – appears in this dark twist on the holiday's mascot. If you’re wanting something on the same level of quality as what Trick r Treat or Creepshow would do with a Christmas monster mash, then this is the movie for you. Merciless and nihilistic as it casts a dark and demented shadow over twinkling Christmas lights, Krampus might be the hardcore horror fan’s answer for what to watch during the holidays.
Tokyo Godfathers – If I had to pick a Christmas movie that’s not about crime, blood, or monsters – one that is genuinely a mostly uplifting tale about the tenacity of the human spirit – this is the one. Yes, an anime captures the spirit of Christmas in a way that barely nothing else ever has for me. The master of Japanese animation, Satoshi Kon, created a spin on the idea of the three wise men with this movie. Only, our “three wise men” take the form of an alcoholic homeless man, a transgender woman, and a teenaged runaway. They find themselves fighting to find a safe place for a baby found in garbage while struggling with their own personal demons. It’s gorgeous, emotional, and manages to not be offensively patronizing while still giving a message of hope and determination to not give up.
Kayla loves all things weird, wonderful, and macabre. Her soul’s in writing, and her hobbies include gaming, watching movies and television shows, and reading anything and everything. Her black cat’s TOTALLY, 100%, not evil.