Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cinematic Holiday Buffet

Christmastime seems to inspire the Hollywood magic machine to go into overdrive, and there are no shortage of holiday inspired films with which to fill your Netflix queue or your On Demand list. The way I see it, the Christmas offerings from Hollywood when put all together look a bit like the office potluck where no one assigned food groups or put up a sign-up sheet. Turns out, everyone made a dessert. Which would be fine if one wanted to graze and sample, but the potluck was supposed to be lunch and dammit, you're starving.

First there are the tried and true classics (It's A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Charlie Brown Christmas Special) like the much anticipated fudge your co-worker's wife makes every year. But like indulging in that fudge with all it's rich, chocolaty goodness, a few too many viewings of these old chestnuts and you are likely to have a bellyache. Then there are the slew of Christmas themed "dramedies" (The Family Stone, Home for the Holidays, This Christmas, The Bishop's (Preacher's) Wife) that pop up, like that holiday staple, eggnog. One glass is yummy enough, but two or three or more and you feel like you've swallowed a block of cement. All the family-geared Christmas films (The Santa Clause, Fred Claus) are like the giant platter of Christmas cookies from Wal-Mart that some lazy co-worker brings; they are stale and flavorless but kids love 'em.

In a seemingly constant stream on the idiot box are the ubiquitous rom-com holiday telepics (check your local listings) which generally feature a plucky kid, a Scrooge -to-Santa transformation, and a successful matchmaking attempt by the aforementioned kid; these little happy nuggets of sappy programming are the candy bowl sitting on your co-worker's desk. Every time you pass by, your hand sweeps down for a palmful of M&M's, and by the end of the day, the bowl's empty and your on a sugar high.

Finally, like overly potent rumballs, Christmas black comedies (Bad Santa, The Ref) provide an anesthetic relief from the sweetness, and some folks can subsist on nothing but
those rich, liquored-up treats (You crazy alkies!) without the headaches the rest of us endure after more than one mouth full.

Now, Christmas horror movies are your antidote to overindulging in all these sweet, rich treats. It's the random pepperoni pizza somebody lays out on the Christmas buffet. A little odd amongst the traditional fare, but all that salt and grease are exactly what you need pull you back from plummeting into a diabetic coma.

Here are my five favorites. Pick one, curl up by the fire and get spooked by twinkling of the Christmas tree lights. You'll thank me for it.

1. Black Christmas

My mom introduced me to this gem, a terribly creepy teens-in-peril flick that predates Friday the 13th and Halloween by a couple of years. The wacked out crank calls the killer phones in will put ice in your veins.

2. Silent Night, Deadly Night

Normally, I don't go in for the standard crazy killer movies because they tend to overdue the gore and get a little predictable after the first few kills. Silent Night, Deadly Night , while it spawned a plethora of doody sequels, actual rises about the mediocre 80's slasher genre. Sort of. Hey, killer Santa offs someone with antlers! Whatever. It's better than fruitcake.

3. Gremlins

This movie was actually marketing as a kid's flick; I even had a little stuffed Gizmo doll. It explains a lot about why us thirtysomethings are so effed up. "So You Hear What I Hear" is a lovely song, but damned if I don't think of the damn Christmas tree attacking the mom every time I hear it.

4. Child's Play

Another great original that spawned a legion of craptastic sequels. Dolls are scary. Remember those My Buddy dolls that were sold about the same time this movie came out? Wonder what Child's Play did to their sales?

5. "All Through the House" from Tales From the Crypt (1972)

Tales From the Crypt is vintage gem. This particular segment features a pre-Dynasty Joan Collins, some wacky early seventies interior decorations, and once again, a crazy man dressed as Father Christmas.

Christmas is some some spooky stuff, folks. That's what it is all about in the mix.

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