The perfect holiday movie should be sweet. But not too sweet, it has to be taken seriously. Yet it can’t be boring either. It needs some action. But not too much action, that would be macabre…does such a film exist?
In normal times these last few weeks of the year would have been spent discussing whatever mega blockbuster movie was supposed to be hitting theaters to take advantage of the holidays. If we weren’t eagerly awaiting a midnight screening of the latest Star Wars movie, we might have been buying too much candy for our family as we take them to see a festive animated feature, or racking our brains over which Oscar-hopeful we should see first. But this year is different. No major releases in theaters does make things less hectic, but at the same time it feels like we’re missing out on some fun traditions.
But don’t fear! While movies may not be screening regularly in theaters, we live in a time when you can screen them on your television at home. Not only can you watch almost any movie, you’re not forced to watch the same Holiday movies over and over again on cable television. I mean, how many times do you need to see A Christmas Story with commercial interruptions? You’ve seen it so many times you can practically quote that entire movie by memory now.
More importantly, with the availability to stream or download nearly any movie you want, you are in control of what to watch. If you don’t want to watch a holiday movie, you don’t have to. Instead of something sweet and wholesome, you could force your family to watch something disturbing and suspenseful. After all, harrowing films make you more appreciative of what you have. Isn’t that what the holidays are supposed to be about?
Okay, so I realize you can’t watch something like The Fly on Christmas day with the family. It’s not appropriate for children, and you don’t want anyone to get sick over that meticulously-prepared meal. All I’m saying is that you can afford to think outside of the box a bit. Less Miracle on 34th Street, more Wolf of Wall Street. Actually, if you are feeling a bit disillusioned about how capitalism takes advantage of the holidays and diluting its original message, maybe Scorsese’s biographical exploration of greed isn’t such a good idea. It also features heavy drug use and I believe it holds the record for the character who says the most F-bombs in a feature film. That’s not family-friendly. Scratch that.
The point is, you don’t have to adhere to strict traditions if you don’t want to. Movies should be entertaining and exciting. Watching the same movie year after year can get boring. You’re not learning anything you don’t already know, and the film will lose its luster (and its impact) over time. Plus, you’re missing out on what else is out there. Watching something different isn’t cheating on your holiday traditions. It’s expanding them.
If you want to watch a traditional holiday movie, that’s fine. There are plenty of options out there. Even if you’ve seen a lot of them, it feels like we get at least two or three new ones every year. So in that realm there is always something new to watch which carries on the spirit of your favorite holiday films. You’ve got 2018’s Disneyfication of a traditional ballet, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, or the forgotten 1994 comedy Mixed Nuts, and don’t forget about the more obscure A Very Nutty Christmas. So maybe you’re allergic to nuts, that’s fine. What about Santa Claus? You’ve got a lot to choose from. Klaus, Bad Santa, Bad Santa 2, Santa & Co., Get Santa, Becoming Santa, Santa Girl, Santa Hunters, The Santa Clause, The Santa Claus 2, and The Santa Clause 3: Escape Claus.
But maybe you’re not in the mood to see Tim Allen in a fat suit. In fact, maybe you want something that isn’t so blatant in its attempts to exploit the holidays. Maybe consider something non-traditional? What if you want to branch out? What if you appreciate this time of the year but the shopping, endless Christmas songs echoing through your skull, and stressful food preparations are taking their toll? What if you want something that plays homage to the season, but isn’t basking in it?
That’s where the non-traditional holiday movie comes in. They are movies you may not associate first with the season. They’re not playing on repeat on TV, they may not have any snow, and Santa Clause is not a major character. Instead, they might take place during the holidays, reference them in some way, or have some sort of thematic connection. I get it, your traditional holiday movie reminds you of happier times. It allows you to reflect upon your childhood or loved ones who may no longer be with us. But maybe during this terrible 2020, we need a little spice in our lives. We’re already sick of staring at the walls of our homes, we should want a little excitement.
Movies like Die Hard or Gremlins are popular lately for being controversial holiday picks. But I’m sorry to say they aren’t all that controversial. Those films have also been around for thirty+ years. You’ve probably seen them countless times by now. If you’re trying to get more out of your holiday film-watching experience, how is watching Die Hard for the 20th time any different than watching your favorite holiday movie another time?
If you want an unconventional holiday film, consider the burgeoning sub-genre of holiday horror films. Yes, instead of basking in the joy and wonder of the season, these films make it frightening and disturbing. So while they check the box as being an “official” holiday movie, holiday horror films are contrary in nature to them. Consider Krampus, Krampus: The Christmas Devil, Krampus: The Devil Returns, Black Christmas, Black Xmas, Red Christmas, Christmas Blood, Once Upon a Time at Christmas, A Christmas Horror Story, Deadly Xmas, Christmas Slay, Slay Belles, and who can forget Bikini Bloodbath Christmas? There’s a lot to choose from, so have at it.
I agree that violence doesn’t solve problems, and so maybe horror isn’t the right direction for your Holiday viewing needs. What we need is something that is amusing, but in the right way. It has to be related to the holidays, but isn’t looking to outright exploit them. You wouldn’t want it to feel forced or insincere. It has to find a way to be appealing on multiple levels, not just your typical holiday jokes. And it can’t be the same type of story we’ve seen a million times before. Also, it would be helpful if it was at least a little bit family friendly. That way kids can be in the room and there aren’t swear words or body parts flying around on screen.
What you’re looking for is the perfect holiday film, and I may just have found it. It has a little bit of everything. Winter setting in a small cozy town? Check. Takes place close to Christmas with the characters needing the holiday spirit to cheer them up? Elements of slapstick comedy and horror? Check. A stellar cast who have all done much better work elsewhere but somehow agreed to show up together in a strange obscure film (Ron Pearlman, Michael Shannon, Christina Hendricks, Ian McShane, Thomas Lennon, Judy Greer, ? Check. Furries? Check. A perfect 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes so you know that not only is it somewhat controversial, but it is clearly misunderstood, underseen, and best enjoyed while drinking with others? Check.
If all that sounds good to you, you may have stumbled on the best kept secret of terrible holiday movies: Pottersville.