Holy *$!&: Film 91

Silent Night, 2012 (Dir: Steven C. Miller)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2347497/1

In 1984, the slasher classic Silent Night, Deadly Night stunned audiences, was banned across America and remains the most notorious Christmas movie in history. Does it though?

I’ve noticed that, no matter how many horror films I’ve seen, I go into them all with a sense of anticipation; a sense of expectation that it will be good. I do this every time, for every film and Silent Night was no different.

So, apparently, this movie follows (I think sequel may be too grand a title to use) on from the 1984 ‘classic’ with the same slasher path of random kills, and the first victim is electrocuted with Christmas lights, which is a timely warning as I was going to  put up my tree today 🙂

We get some character backstory – ‘It’s my first Christmas without John’ – and a lot of men in the movie look like Santa (it’s a thing the town does on Christmas Eve), and that’s tricky because if one of the Santas happen to show up at your door, you don’t know what kind you’re going to get: naughty or nice.

The movie generally feels like a smash-up between Saw and Generic 1980s Horror Film; Santa is all about retribution for perceived ills whilst ironically missing the whole murder-jag he is on, and the rest of the movie covers the religious, family loss, creepy colleagues and loving families themes along the way.

All of which would be fine, but it’s just a bit obvious; the script really doesn’t attempt to be different and the characters are content to be the same as in every other movie. The saving grace of this movie is that it looks different – there a rich quality to the camera work and the lighting gives it promise. And, every so often, there’s a flash of suspense, even if it’s not outright terror.

But, at least it’s not all set at night – this movie has daylight for a significant part of the action (including the unnecessarily half-naked woman running through the town – the glamour shoot was simply a ploy to get some tits on screen).  ‘I’ll catch this maniac and he’ll pay for what he did’ This is a legacy movie in that daughter does what dad did before; it has good actors working with ham and cheese material, and sometimes it almost makes it work.

There are so many things wrong with it but a certain something glimmers through, like the last piece of tinsel that glints in the carpet until Easter. If I only had to watch one Christmas horror film, it would be this one. Not because it’s particularly good, but because it’s not half-bad 🙂

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Was alive as he could be: Film 90

Jack Frost, 1997 (Dir: Michael Cooney, also writer)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116671/

He’s got ice in his veins and he’s cold blooded, his name is Jack Frost. After five years of terror and 38 bodies in five states, serial killer Jack is on his way to execution. But a freak accident with a truckload of genetic material in the middle of a snowstorm mutates Jack into a killer snowman. This is pretty much the entire film in the blurb, how annoying.

I’d heard a couple of spoilers on this movie (courtesy of Deanne) but spoilers don’t really bother me – they’re contextual and can’t ruin a good movie. What she didn’t ‘warn’ me about were the horrible (and boring) opening credits that give Jack’s back story.

Jack’s a murderer and he’s in the van on the way to his own death – oh, it’s an American film, BTW 🙂 Travelling the other way to Snowmonton (the town) is a van carrying genetic research materials, and in the least plausible, non-scientific based explanation of human mutation, Jack Frost  becomes at one with the snow…‘This is gonna hurt’…and is reborn as a killer snowman.

A lot of the early scenes are road- or vehicle-based, and I suspect that was because it’s cheaper to film using your own car and the side of the road than setting up in a studio somewhere. And it looks cheap, on set and ideas.

The rest of the movie takes place in a lovely, little town that likes to come together at Christmas, with people proclaiming they want to be the angel on top of the tree and snowman sculptures everywhere. Sam is the Sheriff of this small town who managed to catch killer Jack the first time round, and now as murders begin to pop up in his happy town, he needs to be sure Jack isn’t back. ‘It’s over’/’It’s starting’.

There are nonsense deaths, always involving a snowman, and some funny lines but the majority of the script is absolutely woeful – to the point of irritating. Everything is obvious and that makes it so difficult to get involved as it is awkwardly two-dimensional. It feels likes somebody had an idea and didn’t care how bad it looked, in fact, it’s possibly a case of the badder, the better.

‘That’s funny.’ And that’s probably the most generous way to describe this movie’s approach to horror, which is a bit of a theme with most of the films I’ve watched for the Christmas Horror genre. Perhaps it’s just too lovely a season to bring real horror to it… or perhaps I’ve only watched bad films.

I suspect the latter 🙂

God rest ye merry gentlemen: Film 89

Santa’s Slay, 2005 (Dir: David Steinman, also writer)

‘Twas the night before Christmas: hate to be the bearer of bad news – especially at Christmas but you’ve all been lied to.’ Seems like a good place to start the blog.

This movie likes cameos – not that I recognised all of them, but I did spot James Caan and Fran Drescher as part of a horribly dysfunctional family who all get killed by Santa Claus, which sets the tone for the movie.

The opening credits show more of Santa’s background and largely how he was forced into being nice, until we get to Christmas Eve and we have a cranky old woman arguing with a young shop assistant about the cut and price of her roast beef sandwich. Her sandwich, as it turns out, is the least of her problems: ‘Move Bitch!’ roars our lovely Santa from his sleigh that is, basically, tailgating her car until he runs her off the road.

Anyway, back to the young shop assistant, who reveals his non-plussedness for Christmas festivities, which is largely down to disappointments with gifts (spoilt wretch). He gets home and hears noises. “Grandpa? Grandpa, is that you?” It is, indeed, Grandpa, and he is a pleasant old man who like inventing stuff that doesn’t seem to work that well (sounds like Gremlins, doesn’t it?).

I’d rather be crazy“. Grandpa is gearing up for some sort of apocalypse or second coming his secret bunker and his own feelings towards Christmas and Santa. It’s not a long story but to cut it even shorter – Grandpa reads to his grandson about the birth of Santa, as Satan’s version of the Virgin Birth (OK).

This super-short movie plays the killing and horror for laughs, mostly, and uses the fact that a WWE wrestler is playing Santa as an excuse for ridiculous moves and cartoon deaths; not to mention more Claymation story-telling.

It enjoys attempting to shock by having old people who swear, mission failed. However, where the movie wants to be silly, violent and gross all at once – congratulations – it’s all of those things. None of which make it a good movie, in face it reminds me of Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever – these two movies should be viewed as a double-bill.

It’s pointless and, as a result, ineffective nonsense; fluffy like snow, but it does have a blooper reel.

He knows when you’re awake…: Film 88

Krampus, 2015 (Dir: Michael Dougherty)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3850590/

When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max is disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas. So far, so Home Alone 🙂

All things Christmas – over-crowded shops; angry consumers; crying children and financial woes – are captured in the opening credits (before blending into my favourite version of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge, with Alastair Sim).

The family of this film are just as typical as the shoppers; desperate to make Christmas the wonderful time of year the song insists that it is, and stressing out with traditions of family visits. ‘So what did you ask Santa for this year?’ As the family descends, it’s a barrage of obvious characters and plot lines set out (Max – played by Emjay Anthony – is going to get some ribbing for his letter to Santa, I’ll wager) . All in all, it’s like watching a slightly rougher version of Home Alone: ‘Honey, we said no gun talk at the dinner table.’

Oh yes, here it comes. One of the mean cousins has Max’s letter and she reads it aloud, including all his wishes for his family. The family implodes and Max decides he hates Christmas. ‘Why do we have to put with their crap just because we share DNA?‘ He rips up his letter and throws it out the window, sending it skyward.

The next morning, the family awake to a snowstorm and power outage, but the delivery services are still managing to get through – well, for a while anyway 🙂 Beth, Max’s sister, heads off to see her boyfriend but it soon turns very dark and difficult for her, as a large, cloaked and horned beast leaps across the buildings, growling and hunting her down. Absolutely brilliant. ‘It’s getting late. Beth should be home by now.’

Of all the people stuck at the house, only Omi (Max’s granny) really has a sense of what’s a(cloven)foot, but nobody takes her warnings seriously: ‘Keep the fire hot.’ Like all horror movies, the group split up to find help/their children/solutions*, but when it gets too hairy, they regroup and bunker down against whatever is outside.

‘Hey dad, are we gonna die?‘ The earlier jovial tone of the film melts into a more eerie waiting game as, with diminishing batteries and fading candles, Krampus stalks the family, along with his gingerbread helpers (he also uses monstrous toys and gruesome elves, it’s just fantastic). ‘I still believed in Santa, magic and miracles.’ Only now does Omi explain about the power of not wishing for a Merry Christmas, told with exquisite CGI animation as a beautiful juxtaposition to the live action of the film. ‘It’s not what you do, it’s what you believe.’

This movie is a cautionary story wrapped up in a gruesome fairy tale, and what should we take from it? To always remember and embrace the spirit of the season. And this excellent movie certainly helps; it’s fun with amazing theatrical visuals that make it wonderful to watch.

A Christmas Feast.

Krampus gif.gif

*delete as appropriate per scene

 

I’m dreaming of a…: Film 87

Black Christmas, 2006 (Dir: Glen Morgan; also writer and producer)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0454082/

Terror is coming home for the holidays. Crazed killer Billy Lenz has escaped from a psychiatric hospital and is determined to be home for Christmas. Except home isn’t quite what it used to be.

The DVD cover has used the Xmas spelling for Christmas, which I really don’t like; not that I’m particularly religious or anything, I just think it’s lazy, so I was happy to see the title in the opening credits and IMDb recognise the full spelling. Anyway, moving on…the opening for the movie is a young woman (naturally) sitting in her bedroom in a sorority house, writing out Christmas cards and gift labels. Then, a bag gets put over her head and she is stabbed in the eye.

Audience thinks well, that must be that Billy chap the blurb was talking about, but no, because then we go to a psychiatric hospital and meet with a Santa figure chatting to some guards. They tell ‘Santa’ that Billy is in a particular cell; ‘Santa’ remembers Billy as the young man who killed his family at Christmas, before he then heads off for the children’s ward leaving the guard to push food plates through doors.

But wait, what’s that? ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’ reads a little note from Billy, so the guard investigates and gets stabbed in the neck with a candy cane – those things can be lethal, they rip your tongue apart 🙂 Back at the sorority house, five (I think – it’s hard to key track as they look quite similar) young women are still there, due to the snowstorm, and about to open some presents, but not before another one of them gets bumped off, weird style.

‘I mean, buying presents for a serial killer.’ Apparently, the sorority knows that Billy used to live there, and they know what he did, so – rather than relocate – they commemorate/appease him with a Christmas gift under the tree each year.  At this point, the House Mother, Ms Mac – who is my favourite thing about this movie and is played by Andrea Martin – I love her in the Netflix show Great News (and she was in the original 1974 version of this movie )- fills us all in about Billy’s life; sure, it doesn’t look like it was great – rare liver disease, warring parents and disappointing Christmases. The movie has all the requirements of a standard regular Slash and Grab: pretty young things to bump off, dodgy weather, and lots of sharp, pointy objects lying around that could lead to icky deaths.

andrea martin

When the young women realise their sisters are getting killed, they call the police, who tell them that due to the weather, assistance would be unlikely to reach them for another two hours. Two hours? A known killer has escaped from the local psych hospital; people call from his old house and report a murder, and the police are like yeah, sure, keep the body on ice and we’ll get there when we can. I think not. Although the rather handsome Oliver Hudson shows up as a cheating boyfriend of one of the woman, but he meets his end before too long.

This is just a slasher movie set at Christmas time; it follows most of the rules and so do the characters as they get dodgy calls  and wait to be hunted down. I found it odd that it also couldn’t seem to settle on whether it wanted to be funny or disturbing, and in it’s identity struggle, it managed to be neither. What it does manage to be though, is quite cathartic. Maybe it was just the mood I was in when I watched it, but the sorority girls are annoying and watching them being scared witless was rather satisfying.

The film isn’t exactly filled with Christmas cheers – nor, I suspect, will many of the films in this specific genre be – and it didn’t push any boundaries or challenge any stereotypes. It’s a pass, I guess…and I don’t need to mention the woman-as-victim thing, do I? No, didn’t think so 🙂

 

 

Rules are made to be broken: Film 86

Gremlins, 1984 (Dir: Joe Dante)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087363/

Don’t ever get it wet. Keep it away from bright light. And no matter how much it cries, no matter how much it begs…never, ever feed it after midnight. With these instructions, young Billy Peltzer takes possession of his cuddly new pet. Billy will get a whole lot more than he bargained for. Now, that’s a blurb 🙂

‘You got yourself a bad dose of dragon breath.’ An inventor walks into an unusual store and tries to talk the old, silent Chinese owner into stocking his new product – the Bathroom Buddy. Owner doesn’t bite, but the inventor finds a mogwai – an odd, but cute looking creature (that reminds me of my guinea pigs, right down to the singing) and he takes it home for Billy, his son, as a Christmas gift.

This movie tries its absolute darnedest to be set in a good old American town; it’s punting for an It’s A Wonderful Life vibe, and it doesn’t even attempt to hide it – it even throws in a clip of the movie just to drive the message home 🙂 All the usual characters are baked right in, including resourceful dogs and pretty girls next door (Kate).

There are running gags in the movie with swords that keep falling off the wall in the Peltzer household and inventions that don’t work quite the way they should, but the Peltzers are a happy bunch, and when Billy receives the mogwai, it is cuteness and love at first sight. Mum doesn’t seem perturbed with yet another pet to clean up after and dad doesn’t seem to mind yet another of his inventions being ignored. For Billy and his mogwai, it’s love. ‘I call him Gizmo, he seems to like it.’ But from the off, they break the rules with a camera flash, although nothing major happens – not then anyway.

Billy bonds with Gizmo, and maybe Barney, his dog, is a little jealous, but the real problem is the ever-eager young neighbour Pete (a too, too cute Cory Feldman). ‘Blink your eyes.Guess what? Yup, another rule gets broken when Pete spills water all over Gizmo and little furry balls start popping off the mogwai’s back, making lots of new mogwai – if only pandas could breed as easily 🙂 ‘That one’s got a cute little stripe on its head.’ But straight off, the new mogwai are different; Gizmo is contented, the new ones are boisterous and demanding, and the one with the stripe, he’s their leader.

It doesn’t take long for their nonsense to show up, but at first Billy doesn’t think the problems are the new pets, he thinks it’s the grumpy old woman in town being mean. Meanwhile, Kate – the friend that Billy would like to be something more – has her own issues. She’s not a fan of Christmas, but Billy pushes past her lack of festive cheer to pursue her.

Back to the new mogwai: they trick Billy into feeding them after midnight and chaos ensues, with pods forming and Gremlins emerging. ‘Billy, it just hatched.’ This new strain of mogwai are nasty, mean, and very, very cruel. If they can ruin it, they will. And poor Billy and Gizmo is stuck in the middle of it all; together with Kate, they battle it out to defeat the Gremlins and try to restore order to the town at Christmas – although I’m not sure this will have convinced Kate that Christmas is a nice time of year.

The whole movie is a beautiful and sensitive homage to the creature features of the 1950s and ’60s, all wrapped up in a Christmas bow; the ugliness of the creatures being offset by the festivities. Maybe the movie is a little overlong and perhaps the section in the bar doesn’t totally make sense (seriously, why does Kate serve them?) but still 🙂

Yup, this is going in the permanent Christmas movie watching collection (which gets bigger every year). It constantly plays with parallels of the older Christmas movies in the way the whole town changes as a result of one Christmas Eve mistake, but it also demonstrates, albeit briefly, the soothing power of movies when the Gremlins watch Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.

Clever, funny and worth an annual viewing.

gremlins gif.gif

And remember, mogwai are for life, not just for Christmas.

 

Holidays make people crazy: Film 85

Holidays, 2016 (Dir: various)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4419364/

Eight gleefully grim short tales set on Halloween, Mother’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and other holidays comprise this chilling horror anthology. Sounds like a good place to start for the Christmas horror.

My local CEX was woefully short of Christmas horror movies, although I did pick up Gremlins (which will be next up on the blog) so I turned to Netflix to help me out in my time of need. The only movie I could find in my first search was this – Holidays.

There are lots of ways to get from the rest of the year to the most wonderful time of it, and I find movies are usually a good place to start, so I stuck this on and settled down.  Holidays is an anthology of shorts all looking at different, well, holidays, starting with Valentine’s Day and working through the year.

Valentine’s Day – is a high school bully revenge story with a sweet ending. It’s a warning not to mess with people because you really don’t know what they are capable of, especially when they love someone.

St Patrick’s Day – is a beautiful, dream-like tale of frustration, wishes and magic. Of the eight shorts, this was most definitely my favourite with just enough weirdness to make me wonder, could that happen?

Easter – uses the blended meanings of the spring festivals to present new ideas about resurrection and the Easter Bunny. It also has a pretty horrific looking Christ/Bunny figure, but in a good way.

Mother’s Day – draws on the idea of a sisterhood supporting a woman through pregnancy, which leads to a crazy strong birth. Seriously, it’s a little unnerving.

Father’s Day – runs as a ghostly treasure hunt via cassette tape. Quaint, if a little confusing and, because it’s a short, there’s not really time to enjoy the ending.

Hallowe’en – turns the table on an immensely horrible guy, but…is it worth it? I mean, I get the idea, but why not just leave?

Christmas – is a fun, if slightly inconsistent, tale of desire and guilt. However, it was made excellent by the presence of Seth Green, which I will consider an early Christmas present 🙂

seth green.jpg

New Year – is the final segment and gives a little idea about sticking with tradition. Should we always repeat the same patterns? Because if you always do with you did, you only ever get what you’ve got.

Of the eight, I guess St Patrick’s Day was my favourite – story-wise; and Christmas worked for me, because it’s Christmas (I love Christmas). But, and there is always a but, of the eight, six were female driven *sigh* which should be a good thing for movies, but for me – when it’s horror – it’s just lazy. It actually made the Christmas and New Year shorts stand out more because they had male and female leads. And that would have been better for all of them, to show a united front.

So, I’m torn – the use of women as the driver of mystery, horror and violence, versus the fact that women are leading films, versus the often good storylines. Okay, I think this time, the stories win.

On the plus side, my Amazon order arrived today – five delightful little Christmas parcels await:)