The winter holiday season is a time when many Americans relax with family, sip on eggnog, open presents, and watch the stereotypical Christmas movies that make them feel nostalgic, warm, and fuzzy. However, there are some of us with more eclectic cinematic tastes and tend to gravitate toward the bizarre and dark Christmas-themed films. What are some of your favorites? Tonight on Ground Zero, Clyde Lewis talks with the host of Cinema Insomnia, Mr. Lobo, about HAIL SANTA – SEASON’S SCREENINGS FOR DYSLEXIC DEVIL WORSHIPPERS.
I briefly said something about Christmas movies the other night. I was saying that maybe I should catch up on some of them to put me in the Christmas spirit – but I have various tastes that maybe would surprise you and maybe you wouldn’t be so surprised that I love.
Christmas movies like Elf or Bad Santa are whipped out sometimes and Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the Christmas Vacation movie.
But tonight, I have a laundry list of movies that I recommend – and some of them are pretty eclectic – but you can thank me later because if you are anything like me you not only love the sweetness and cheer of the Holiday – but maybe you would like to watch something a little weird or funny this holiday?
Yes, Virginia – there are some scary Christmas movies too.
For those who find themselves with excess time this holiday season which they would prefer not to squander with idleness or Netflix binges– there are plenty of Christmas movies that are part of the moral backbone of the season.
Sometimes Christmas is a time for Schmaltz– especially when you have the tradition of watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street.”
Frank Capra who directed “It’s A Wonderful Life” had been a target of the House on Un-American Activities due to his friendship with many blacklisted filmmakers, and watched as Hollywood was purged of those key individuals who acted as its conscience when Hollywood’s role as a tool of patriotism or fascism was still undetermined.
Just as the political world was being re-shaped to a new post-moral world order, so too was Hollywood.
The hidden message in the film according to Conspiracy history is that Capra made the film not only as a moral story to win the hearts of the people — but it also exposed the crushing schemes of Wall Street financiers who sought to ruin local productive businesses and commercial banks.
Capra had the balanced feel-good movie that is one of the all-time greats at Christmas time — somewhat schmaltzy — but nothing like the fake derivative nonsense that graces the Hallmark Channel.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make at Christmas time is asking your TV to search for Christmas movies and Christmas specials.
As soon as December starts, so does the array of Hallmark Christmas movies, bringing Christmas joy and comfort to all who may watch. Or do they?
Of course, nothing says awful more than fruitcake and being goaded into watching a Hallmark Christmas special.
Hallmark movies are some of the worst Christmas movies created. Hallmark movies are downright terrible because there is little diversity in the plots, they’re predictable and cheesy, and actors act like they are reading off of cue cards.
They are like McRibs; utterly predictable, all the same, and laced with some addictive flavor that some people crave.
Believe it or not, some people are loyal to these movies and this is the only reason they are made.
They should have every Hallmark Christmas movie feature Kristin Chenoweth — oh wait they do.
Hallmark Christmas movies must be stopped — and I am not kidding.
It is such and insult to your intelligence to plop yourself in front of a TV excited about watching the Hallmark Channel or the 24-hour “A Christmas Story” marathon.
I guess I am alone when I say “A Christmas Story” is overrated, and I really have never gotten into it. I even inherited one of those leg lamps in the studio — and it really does nothing for me.
I seriously pray for those who spend six weeks bingeing nothing but terrible Christmas movies. But I know that many people cannot resist the constant marathon of cozy monotony. The soothing comfort blanket of insanity and bad writing.
But what gets you in the end is the suffocating pillow of bleakness that snuffs out all the joy out of being alive.
Like Christmas music on Halloween– and how people make excuses for it.
I can’t get over the pure ferocity of the cold and covetous chokehold these movies have on people during this time of year.
I mean who gets excited over movies like “Single All the Way,” and “The Princess Switch 3.” If you’re unfamiliar with the Princess Switch saga, all you really need to know is that Vanessa Hudgens plays several characters who are royal either by birth or marriage and live in a fictional Christmas-obsessed kingdom.
Vanessas switch places all the time, much to the annoyance and confusion of their respective good-looking husbands. Even though they are identical (you know, since they’re played by the same actor), they’re not sisters, because that would make too much sense, but distant cousins.
Literally, the only reason to watch the whole film is the unspoken promise of seeing four different Vanessa Hudgens on screen at once, preferably all in different wigs and doing different accents.
Emma Stone did one of these Characters in Cruella and she was good — a Christmas movie with so many freaky Friday Christmas plots can make you ill.
Now, this is where I tell you –yes I have seen bad Christmas movies and one of the reasons I have been lured into the trap is because I was raised on classic B-movies and I was also exposed to a movie that featured a Mexican Santa in the 1950’s. A Santa whose biggest nemesis was the devil.
Yes, the movie was actually called Santa Claus V.S. The Devil. It was featured as a PTA-approved film — that we were encouraged to go see as family entertainment.
In the film, Santa Claus works in outer space and battles with a demon named Pitch, sent to Earth by Lucifer to ruin Christmas by killing Santa and “making all the children of the Earth do evil”.
The film should have been called Hail Santa — more like a film for dyslexic devil worshippers.
It was actually dubbed in English so it was like watching a Godzilla movie without Godzilla.
The film was considered to be a financial success over several holiday-season theatrical releases in the 1960s and 1970s. Broadcast of the film also became a holiday tradition at several U.S. television stations. The film garnered at least one award, winning the Golden Gate Award for Best International Family Film at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1959.
It was a cult film until after it showed up on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
But I remember it when.
It is now a Public Domain film.
A film that had a similar feel was Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
According to what I have read it was the first time Mrs. Claus was actually depicted in a movie. It also features a young Pia Zadora as Girmar, one of the Martian children.
In order to enjoy the film you have to see it through a different Lens.
It is like watching Killer Klowns from Outer Space — you know what you are getting — an intentionally bad film and that is its charm.
But there are the dark grindhouse films that have shown Santa as a mad killer.
In the movie Tales from the Crypt, a British film from 1972 has a young Joan Collins being attacked by a Killer Santa Claus. the segment is called “And all Through the House.”
Joanne Clayton played by Joan Collins kills her husband Richard on Christmas Eve. She prepares to hide his body but is interrupted by a radio announcement of a homicidal maniac lurking in the night. She sees the killer who is dressed in a Santa Claus costume outside her home, but cannot call the police without exposing her own crime.
The end is very satisfying and quite funny. But then so is the idea of a maniac Santa.
But someone was paying attention as movies like Christmas Evil and Silent Night Deadly Night became classic Santa Horror films.
Christmas Evil follows a deranged man obsessed with Santa Claus who eventually goes on a murderous rampage dressed in a Santa Claus suit. Since its release, it has gained a cult following, including praise and repeated viewings by director John Waters.
Silent Night, Deadly Night is a 1984 American slasher film directed by Charles E. Sellier. I worked with Chuck who is the director known for some of the In Search of movies when we were kids. Movies like “In Search of Noah’s Ark” “In Search of Bigfoot” and the creator of “Grizzly Adams.”
It was on November 9th that both Silent Night, Deadly Night, and A Nightmare on Elm Street were released. Silent Night Deadly Night was pulled from theaters because of parental complaints but still managed to make more money than Elm Street.
The movie was based on another script called He Sees You When You’re Sleeping, and it was Silent Night, Deadly Night producer Scott Schneid who saw potential in the concept of a Santa Claus slasher film, taking that kernel of an idea and getting to work on the screenplay for Silent Night, Deadly Night. At the time, the project was given the working title Slayride.
Don Shanks who played Nakoma in Grizzly Adams was a stuntman at the time and actually was in the Santa suit doing a lot of the work– he eventually landed the role of Mike Meyers in Halloween 5.
Don had been a frequent guest on Ground Zero in the 90’s.
One of my favorite Christmas terror films is Black Christmas.
Black Christmas was originally titled Silent Night, Evil Night in the United States and retitled Stranger in the House on television screenings.
It was inspired by the urban legend “The Babysitter and The Man Upstairs.”
Black Christmas received mixed reviews, but it has since received critical re-appraisal, with film historians noting it as being one of the earliest slasher films. It is also praised for its influence on John Carpenter’s Halloween.
It was a traumatic film. but not as traumatic as the Star Wars Holiday special that was released in 1978.
This was not a slasher film or a scary take on Christmas like the movie Gremlins.
I remember it being one of the worst TV Christmas shows ever made.
The Star Wars Christmas special, which now has been made into a documentary called “A Disturbance in the Force” is available for streaming — and it certainly is a fond look back at a variety of specials like Sonny and Cher, Tony Orlando and Donny Marie were the shows that inspired the Star Wars Christmas mess.
If you think Kathleen Kennedy has killed Star Wars — you may not remember the year of 1978 –when kids like us craved more Star Wars — and what we got was a Fleeting Donny and Marie appearance of R2D2, Darth Vader, C3po Chewbacca and Stormtroopers.
Oh instead of Red Five standing by — Red Foxx is standing by as Okie Fenokie.
Pretty Corny — but it was something that was Star Wars.
Then came the Star Wars Holiday special.
The Star Wars Holiday Special is something creator George Lucas wished didn’t exist — he once said he’d destroy every copy if he could.
While the whole Star Wars cast makes appearances, the special also features Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman, Art Carney, Jefferson Starship, and a 10-minute sequence with Chewbacca’s family that is entirely in Wookie with no subtitles.
There is also a strange orgasm sequence with Dianne Carol as Chewbacca’s dad watches some virtual reality sex tape– at least now that is what it looks like.
The Christmas special did have a redeeming part and that was a special animated segment that featured the bounty hunter Boba Fett. This was arguably the snippet that got people interested in him — and Lucas subsequently added him to the bad guy list in Star Wars.
This also triggered a number of other bad Christmas specials — but it was the 1970’s and I guess TV couldn’t help itself.
You need to understand — we had three networks and PBS back then — there was no Cable and so TV networks thought people loved the Tv variety specials like Carol Burnett.
But that really did not work for Star Wars.
Meanwhile getting back to the horror genre –and Black Christmas — Bob Clark was the director.
He later became well-known again for directing “A Christmas Story.” This was more of a traditional movie and not with any blood or terror.
The film is about a boy named Ralphie Parker who wishes for an official Red Ryder Carbine-action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle for Christmas. He tries to get this BB gun while getting through childhood problems like two menacing bullies, a protective mother, a grumpy father, a whiny younger brother, and a mean Santa Claus.
Many people consider this film as one of the best Christmas Movies since It’s a Wonderful Life by Frank Capra.
Later, Bob Clark went on to direct the Porky’s Franchise.
Santa has also been in films as an action hero.
David Harbour starred in Violent Night which critics actually embraced as a fun Holiday Movie. Santa Claus actually takes on a group of mercenaries that raid a house.
It is said to be a violent comedy. There is also a film called Fatman where Mel Gibson plays a Santa Claus that falls on hard times and so he makes a deal with the military to make parts for the war effort at the toy factory. Around the same time, there is a rich angry 12-year-old that hires and assassin to kill Santa.
Conceptually the film is interesting. depicting Santa as a working farmer who raises reindeer and makes toys.
Not since Nightmare Before Christmas has there been a Christmas movie that shares a Halloween-type of feel.
The Animated Scrooge film called “About A Christmas Carol has some intense moments of terror with the four ghosts that visit Scrooge — but the best film for a Christmas freak out is Krampus.
it is like a Twilight Zone episode combined with National Lampoon’s Christmas vacation.
You’d think a film about Krampus wouldn’t be so good but it is –and is one of my favorites of the Christmas films.
If I have overlooked some other weird Christmas movies — I could say that Gremlins would also be on the list —
Like Die Hard, Gremlins is a Christmas movie in disguise. It starts with a guy trying to find a cool Christmas present for his son Billy. and thinks he’s found a solution when he stumbles upon an antique shop that sells him an adorable creature called a mogwai, but his son soon learns that his new pet is much more than meets the eye. If nothing else, the movie is a good reminder to always read the instruction manual before playing with your new toys.
Gremlins also includes the worst Christmas story ever told: a girl tells Billy the story of a horrible Christmas, how her father wanted to surprise the family by climbing down the chimney but slipped, fell, broke his neck, and had his corpse stuck in the chimney, only to be found when the family tried to light a fire.
Pretty damn dark if you ask me.
We even see how silly things can get when we get the frosty and deadly Snowman as an evil killer.
There is the film Snowman – who is a killer and then there is the silly Jack Frost film that is more of a comedy horror classic. That is if you like a little goofy with your horror moves,
I think maybe the next step would be a killer Christmas tree — like maybe a Tannen bomb where a Christmas tree lot owner goes berzerk and puts bombs in Christmas trees — set to go off when Maria Carey reaches those annoying high notes in “All I Want For Christmas is You!”
And to all, a Good Night.
MR. LOBO’s CINEMA INSOMNIA–a late-night cult TV sensation since 2001, is now on 43 stations including PHILLYCAM (Comcast 66/966)! Founder of ROKU channel OSI 74! Film Festival Host of BLOBFEST at the Colonial Theatre for 9 Years, CREATURE FEATURES tributes, live Spook Shows & TRUNK-N-TREAT at SHANKWEILER’S DRIVE-IN. He appears in horror documentaries, MST3K Bonus features, CINEMASSACRE, ANGRY VIDEO GAME NERD, HACK THE MOVIES, and MOVIE DUMPSTER. He plays The Amazing Criswell in PLAN 9 (2016), & has worked on THE RANGER, FANGORIA CHAINSAW AWARDS, & THE BARN, PART II for the SHUDDER network. He was even spoofed on SCOOBY DOO MYSTERY INC., & was famously attacked by wrestler Chris Jericho on TMZ! His motto is “They’re Not Bad Movies–Just Misunderstood”. Mr. Lobo’s website is cinemainsomnia.com