I’ve touched briefly here and there with the opinion that if nonreligious freethinkers want to celebrate the holidays, even absconding with the title of “Christmas,” that they should just damn well do it. Christians stole from Pagans, atheists can steal from both Pagans and Atheists if they want to make the holiday mythology their own. However, I realize there are freethinkers out there who say we should avoid Christmas altogether in order to not recognize an oppressive religion. A noble suggestion, but not realistic in my opinion. Protesting modern Christmas is like protesting Disneyland. You’re not making a statement against the Christ child, you’re making a statement against fun, whether you want to or not.
I still want to give support though to the idea of “Anti-Christmas” as it could be made to be just as much fun as Christmas itself. Imagine if you could find a way to celebrate the holidays by turning everything on it’s head. Instead of acknowledging the Virgin birth, you hand out gift-wrapped condoms to educate potential teenage mothers who don’t have the luxury of making up stories about being impregnated by God. Instead of traditional carols, you rewrite the lyrics with an apologetical backlash. Instead of Santa, you set up a neighborhood alert to watch for fat home intruders.
Maybe that’s too ambitious. If you’re like me, I enjoy settling down in my warm recliner to watch Christmas horror movies. Oddly enough, they put me in a festive mood. Here are three favorites to put on your naughty list:
Black Christmas (1974) – I can only recommend the classic original. I’ve been putting off watching the remake from 2006 because this is not a film that should have been remade. There’s something about Black Christmas that for me has become a movie-watching tradition. I watch it every year in December and every year I listen closer to the obscene phone calls to try and understand more about the killer on the other end. The holiday horror picture was made by Bob Clark who made another famous holiday film, A Christmas Story (1983).
The story is simple: An unknown man climbs into the attic of a sorority house and lives there, all the while dragging up occasional victims. The sorority girls themselves are not cliche bimbos waiting to be victims like we’ve seen in other low budget movies of the same type. They come off as very realistic, full of personal problems and conflicts, especially the main character of Jess Bradford played by Olivia Hussey who finds out she is pregnant and decides to get an abortion, much to the dismay of her boyfriend who becomes a suspect. Another actress you might recognize is an early Margot Kidder who plays Barb, a drinking, swearing woman who likes to shock friends and strangers. There’s also a wonderfully amusing house mother who is an alcholic and all around “up yours” kind of gal. Fact is, it appears that most of the men in this movie are kind of uptight, except for the Lt. Kenneth Fuller played by John Saxon (remember him from Nightmare on Elm St.?) who is part of a laughing scene that is a precursor to the hysterical scene in Porkys (also by Bob Clark).
SPOILER ALERT: What bothers viewers about Black Christmas is the ambiguous ending. We think the killer is caught but discover that he’s still in the attic while Jess Bradford sleeps below him, trying to rest from her trauma with a supposed killer. This is admittedly what I love about the picture and you do have to realize this was 1974. There have been countless slasher films after it. Black Christmas has been referred to as one of the first of its kind and therefore should not be critiqued according to what came after it.
If you listen to the obscene phone calls you do get a story within a story of a killer who did something bad with Agnes or did something bad to Agnes. The suggestion seems to be incest, but it is not quite clear. I know the remake makes it obvious, but I like the imagination that original stirs up. I will watch the remake as I have put in my Que, but still…I’m not sure I want to know all the answers.
Christmas Evil (1980) – is an unusual Christmas horror film that is a favorite of director John Waters. You might call it a parody but it never ventures too far from reality, which is where a lot of the black humor is derived.
Again, sex is involved in the trauma of a boy named Harry as he sees Santa molest his mother. Of course, he’s seeing his dad dressed up in the red suit, but at the time he doesn’t understand it. Jumping to Harry’s adulthood, we find him working at a grimy toy factory and obsessed with Santa–actually being Santa. He humorously spies on the neighbor kids noting down their activities as naughty and nice.
Poor Harry, because of his personality deficiencies, is taken advantage of by his fellow co-workers and after several depressing incidents that continue to shatter his ethical framework, he loses it and takes on the Santa persona fulltime. He steals a bagful of toys and drives away in his van looking to do Santa deeds. Unfortunately, the deeds lead to murder because he can’t tolerate other people crossing the line when it comes to his beliefs. Even as blood ensues, he does bring joy to hospitalized children by delivering presents.
It’s a very dark film and destroys the illusions we put up during Christmas that everything is magical and God and Santa are with us. The most hilarious moment is when Harry tries to go down a chimney and realizes it is not physically possible. You feel bad for him and yet you laugh at his misery. If only he could take a step back from his worldview and see how ridiculous he is behaving. It’s not that everyone else is right in their behavior, but you can’t fix the world by acting like Santa Claus. He’s a myth for a reason, much like Jesus.
Santa’s Slay (2005) – This holiday horror film was added to my list of seasonal favorites just this week. Unlike the other two films, which I consider to be natural horror, this is a supernatural parody. If you can’t stand Santa you may laugh your ass off at the idea that Santa is actually an anagram for Satan. He’s Satan’s son and the only reason he’s been giving out gifts to good girls and boys for the last 1000 years or so is that he lost a bet to an angel when they, of all things, did a curling match.
Evil Santa is played by Bill Goldberg, the wrestler, and he is perfectly awesome as a terror to all on the festive season. The film begins by him coming down a chimney to rip the holy hell out of a Christmas dinner. You’ll recognize some famous faces in the scene and the violence is so over the top that it’s meant to be funny. This is a horror humor.
The film continues like an eighties kids’ film of small town adventure–boy meets girl, boy finds out ancient secret, boy must end the reign of terror and save the day. That boy is Nicholas Yuleson played by Douglas Smith who also stars in the Mormon soap opera Big Love. Robert Culp plays his grandfather who knows that Santa is no good and has been planning for his return to evil. As Santa tears apart the town riding on his “Hell-deer” which is some sort of bull, the ultimate showdown occurs with another curling match.
Santa’s Slay features numerous Christmas jokes and the horrific violence is on par with Three Stooges slapstick. It is moronic and breezy fare but some of the scenes really caused me to gasp such as spearing a man dressed as Santa on a flagpole with the American flag–pretty blasphemous. Goldberg, who plays evil Santa, is Jewish, of course, as well as many other actors in the film. Maybe this is their revenge for having to put up with Christianity for so long.
So there you have it! Three Anti-Christmas movies to enjoy while you sip some eggnog. Like I’ve been saying, make the holiday season your own. Feel free to post comments about your own favorite Xmas movies that are not so pro-Xmas.