Sick of Santa Clause: The Movie? Bored with Miracle on 34th Street? Hate White Christmas? Check out Screenjabber’s list of 10 alternative Christmas films that might put a bit of festive spirit back in your stockings.
Is this the best horror movie set at Christmas? That’s a debate for another day. But Christmas Evil is the type of movie that will have the bah humbug people frothing at the mouth in excitement. A psycho Santa decides who has been naughty or nice by means of a killing spree. However, don’t expect this to be a balls-to-the-wall horror straight off the bat; instead it’s a very interesting psychological case study of one man’s descent into losing his mind because of his parents. Christmas Evil builds a whole lot of storyline tense for an hour before finally releasing a kill. It’s a ballsy movie of a low budget horror to wait that long, but it works for the better as the remaining thirty something minutes fly by as the bloodletting doesn’t stop. Halloween is always heralded as the quintessential slasher flick. Well move forward a couple of calendar months and this equally entertaining horror is well worth watching if you are of that sadistic Christmas disposition. Cult Christmas Cracker.
Comfort And Joy
Bill Forsyth’s black comedy about warring ice cream van men isn’t a natural addition to the Christmas movies list. In fact upon first viewing it seems a little dull and possibly baffling. However, sticking with it and giving it another (and another and another) chance soon brings on the understanding that Comfort And Joy has matured with age in rather spectacular fashion. The humour now resembles the type of fare we are used to with such TV shows as The Thick Of It – cruel, twisted and deeply sarcastic. Bill Paterson manages to play the lead role somewhere between Alan Partridge and Basil Fawlty. If you are pessimistic about Christmas then this is the film for you. Crucially it was inspired by an actual ice cream turf war in Glasgow, and people think The Sopranos in real life!
Ahhhhhh, isn’t Santa such a jolly fat man. He is never nasty to anyone. Well, think again as Rare Exports introduces us to the “real” Santa Claus. A troll like creature who is more intent on bite and chewing on human flesh. Captured by a rag tag bunch of men (and a young boy) and imprisoned in a barn, only for Santa’s elves to turn and start a battle. Plenty of dark comedy ensures it’s not all blood & guts. Playing out like many of the Scandinavian crime films/TV shows we have loved over the past couple of years. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a movie based on a fable that might well be more realistic than the Santa Claus we know and love today.
The Last Boy Scout
It’s only fair we put one Shane Black film on here. Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang are too obvious. So how about a cynical detective teaming up with an ex-American Football star to solve a murder that drags in an entire football team and a politician. Black’s usual running and gunning style is still in use here, but this is also much more dialogue heavy, at times feeling more like a drama than action. Giving directing duties to Tony Scott was always going to ensure the action scenes went off with an almighty bang. Also don’t forget, it is another Christmas outing for Bruce Willis – surely the only man who got caught up in gun violence nearly every Christmas in the late 80s and early 90s.
Dreams Of A Life
Those work colleagues you went out for pre-Christmas drinks, are they really your friends? Would they honestly care if you didn’t turn up to work in the New Year? Would they come looking for you? Or not bat an eye lid? Carol Morley’s documentary sets out to find why nobody discovered the body of Joyce Vincent for three years, THREE YEARS!!!!!. According to reports and interviews in this doc she was well liked and very easy to get on with. No shortage of friends it seemed. She died in her bedsit in North London while wrapping Christmas presents. A sobering thought at Christmas.
Eyes Wide Shut
Stanley Kubrick’s final film got a bit of a kicking upon release; however it seems to have matured rather well. But what the heck is it doing on here though? Well... there are loads of pretty twinkling lights in it and the majority of the film appears to have a Christmas tree in it. Ahhh fun times. Yet its playful surface soon gives way to typical Kubrick complexities. The symbolisms reverb throughout the entire film. The two alternate worlds are separated by the use of rainbow lights, mainly seen on Christmas trees. It’s that kind of intelligent film making that set Stanley apart from his peers. Oh and also there is plenty of sex. So if you can’t get it up once a year at Christmas you will be walking round with a rather large sack.
Abel Ferrara, known video nasty director, has done a Christmas movie???? Not only that, but it stars Ice-T and Drea De Matteo??? Yes, it is a crime drama about kidnapping and ransom money. But ‘R Xmas takes this use of destruction & greed and sets it against a Christmas backdrop, arguing that the holiday season brings out the same dismantling of values that any drug racket might do. Filmed in a sort of warm, fuzzy style akin to TV soap operas, Ferrara gives it that sense of Christmas movie nostalgia at odds to the brutal storyline. OK, it’s not Abel’s best work and it does lack the street knowledge of other, more classic, work. Also Brancato Jr. can’t handle the leading man status. Yet ‘R Xmas manages to blend crime, drugs, double lives and Christmas into a film that humanizes the type of despicable people Ferrara so loves to make movies of.
All That Heaven Allows
Good old fashioned US melodrama. Mixed with the Christmas period. Box of tissues will be required here. Society class rears its head as a posh widow falls for a man who owns a garden nursery (a real grafter some might say), yet the stuck snobs at the Country Club disapprove of this uncouth male in their establishment. Also her grown-up kids don’t take well to this new bloke. Rock Hudson seems weak in the role, its left to Jayne Wyman to give an absolute stellar performance as the troubled lead. A real humbling of a film that depicts the breakdown in family and friends to just one person. It is utterly scathing in its commentary on social class. Yes, it is a little too soap opera hammy to be taken much to heart, but damn if it doesn’t hit you hard when you see what being on the outside of the club looks like after years of being in it. We must be true to ourselves is the message.
Survive Style 5+
OK, I’ll be honest here – I haven’t got a clue what was going on half the time with Survive Style 5+. Even the name baffles me. The film is broken down into five loosely linked storylines that run simultaneously, and then they intertwine in a trippy way. The storylines range from boring to intrigue to WTF. There is a sense of just sitting there and letting the movie hit you in the face without being able to do anything about it. So much happens in each frame that multiple viewings are the only way of seeing it all (that’s if you dare do a rewatch). It is billed as a comedy, and yes there are funny moments, but this isn’t the comedy you instantly talk about. Probably because it is so outlandish. There is a wonderful, almost fairytale-like, scene that is strung low to high with Christmas decorations and a classic Christmas song playing. But at the swing of a stocking the moment changes to art house bizarreness. If you thought Gasper Noe’s Enter The Void was a psychedelic avant-garde movie, well Survive Style 5+ will take you beyond the brink. But in a festive manner.
A jewel thief takes hostage a husband and wife but ends up on the wrong end of their in-family fighting. Crime doesn’t take the holidays off you know, especially not in Ted Demme’s Christmas movie. But it’s not about the setting, more about the individual characters. Dennis Leary’s stilted, shouty stand-up routines have never really come across well in his films. That is until you have seen The Ref and realise that it is the perfect expression for his pent-up thief role. This is the role Leary was meant to have the breakthrough with; sadly it never got recognised for what an outstanding job he does in The Ref. The interaction between Kevin Spacey and Judy Davies, as the husband and wife, is electric. They squabble and verbally fight with such menace that you will laugh excessively, but also gasp at some of the acid tongue lines. The dinner scene goes so crazy that you do wonder how each line will be topped by the next one. There is a temptation to say this would have worked nicely as a sequel to War Of The Roses, yet The Ref actually leans more towards screwball humour than black comedy.