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The holidays carry a lot of meaningful associations for people. It is a time for family, travel, gift exchanges – and unbridled mass consumerism. If two solid months of radio Christmas jingles is enough to make you want to embrace your inner Ebenezer, here’s a list of movies to tide you over until the New Year.
Credited as the first true slasher film (predating 1978’s Halloween by four years), Black Christmas was helmed by Bob Clark, ironically famous for 1983’s A Christmas Story. The story centers around a sorority house being stalked by a mysterious caller who keeps leaving increasingly disturbed messages. Meanwhile, a killer of women is on the loose and the sorority sisters start going missing one by one as the titular holiday approaches. Predictable hijinks ensue, but the movie is genuinely scarier than it should be. This mostly boils down to the fact that we never see the killer, only hear his voice, his breath, his creeping vantage point as he stalks the sisters through their sprawling home. And also, a minimal but highly memorable set of murder scenes, including death by glass unicorn figurine. It’s worth a watch.
Riley Keough stars as Grace, a young woman who ends up stuck babysitting her boyfriend’s children during a snowstorm around the holiday. Sounds like a basic enough premise, save for a few interesting twists. Grace is the sole survivor of a mass suicide cult. Her boyfriend Richard is her former therapist, who fell in love with her while researching the cult. His ex-wife recently killed herself, distraught over the dissolution of their marriage. And naturally, his children hate her. Richard has the zany idea of having Grace take the kids to the family’s secluded cabin to spend Christmas together as a bonding exercise. He plans to meet them there, but is delayed due to weather. Tensions rise, and while I can’t reveal too much else without giving the story away, The Lodge is a creeping slow-build thriller, sometimes scary and often cruel. A perfect watch for someone trying to escape 24 hours of Scrooged with commercials.
The last completed film of celebrated auteur Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut follows the journey of Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise), a New York City doctor who realizes he’s not as close to the top of the social ladder as he thought when he finds himself unable to get into an ultra-exclusive party. Through conniving and disguising he manages to get inside, where he is exposed to a world of elite debauchery and hedonism and is quickly exposed as an interloper in turn. He soon finds his family’s life put in jeopardy due to what he saw, but he can’t quite look away.
Eyes Wide Shut is interesting in the way it taps into the eternal zeitgeist surrounding conspiracy theories, particularly concerning the lifestyles of the rich and famous. From fringe internet conspiracies like QAnon to the public fascination in the Jeffrey Epstein saga, the public has an unwavering and often prurient interest in the presumed decadence and moral rot at the heart of the world’s wealthiest. In this way Dr. Harford works as an audience avatar, and Kubrick makes sure the film is a visual feast that is impossible to look away from. Oh, and yeah, it takes place during Christmas.
Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, a sort-of almost prequel to his 1979 sci-fi horror classic Alien, was released in 2012 to polarized reviews. And while it may not seem to be a Christmas tale by any stretch of the imagination, in many ways it is. The film takes place during the last week of December 2093. It involves a group of scientists searching for the advanced alien beings that may have spawned life on earth, their ostensible Gods in the sky. And their onboard robot servant David, a hyper-realistic AI created in man’s image. And a divine pregnancy via extraterrestrial infection, culminating in a self-administered live cesarean section on Christmas Eve. The movie tries to be a lot of things, and it’s not always subtle, but that’s part of the fun.
Released in 1999, Go has become something of a cult classic in certain film circles. Sarah Polley stars as Ronna, a beleaguered cashier working a double on Christmas Eve when she’s approached by two guys looking to buy ecstasy from her absent co-worker and local dealer Simon. Seeing that she could make some quick cash as an impromptu middleman, she bypasses Simon, going straight to his supplier for the drugs and leaving her friend Claire as collateral. Little does she know, the two guys are undercover feds and she’s in way over her head. Featuring twists & turns, plenty of kitschy 90s charm, a Vegas subplot, and a Christmas-themed rave, Go is a blast from beginning to end.
Have you seen The Lodge or any of these other Anti Christmas films? Let us know in the comment section!