Planet Slop welcomes back Snips’ Dave Wain for an almost nearly festive Christmas movie guide.
It seems to begin earlier every year. The Christmas films invade our airwaves increasing in predictability and repetition until we’re all sat around the living room gawking at Home Alone for the 24th time. A broadcast schedule of films you could practically set your advent calendar to. Same shit, different year.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re no posse of Grinch’s and so permit you a favourite or two. You’d certainly never catch us muttering a bad word about The Muppet’s Christmas Carol or Gremlins, even Nightmare Before Christmas has its jaunty place on Christmas Eve, but if we have to sit though The Great Escape, The Dam Busters or Zulu one more goddamn time we’re going to have a Christmas massacre on our hands.
So if you think the now annual and yawn inducing argument about Die Hard being a Christmas film is in any way tenuous, get ready to see the festive criteria stretched to new lengths as we team up with Snips‘ Dave Wain to bring you our alternative guide to almost, barely, kind of, Christmas-ish movies.
Dead End (2003)
For 20 years Frank Harrington (Ray Wise) has been travelling to his in-laws for Christmas, but this time he’s going to take that shortcut he’s always wondered about. Accompanied by his wife Laura (Lin Shaye), two kids and their daughter’s boyfriend, this treacle dark horror-comedy is the road trip to hell. Chuck out your Chevy Chase, and get this on your Christmas Eve viewing schedule.
“A small film like Dead End sneaks in and manages to floor pretty much everyone that’s seen it.” Rotten Tomatoes
Richard Stanley is one of the most enigmatic directors you’ll ever encounter. Etched into the annals of film history for being fired from the set of The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), and creeping back on set disguised as a creature, his early career is notable for one of the greatest British sci-fi movies ever made.
Moses Baxter (Dylan McDermott) buys a severed cyborg head as a Christmas present for his artist-girlfriend Jill (Stacey Travis), who decides to use it for one of her sculptures. However, when this robotic cranium is reactivated, all hell breaks loose when it begins to rebuild itself… Ho Ho Ho!
“One of those lovingly crafted movies where ingenuity and enthusiasm overcome the budgetary limitations.” SFX Mag
The Last Winter (2006)
There’s nothing quite like being curled-up on a December night with a snow-bound adventure up on the screen. While John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) might be the first to spring to mind, there’s a really cool alternative in the form of Larry Fessenden’s The Last Winter.
A rare beast that manages to sit quite comfortably under the banner of Eco-Horror, it concerns a group of independent environmentalists embedded in the Arctic Circle, who suffer strange side effects while observing the procedures of a multinational oil company. Feeling festive yet?
“It’s the imaginative background, and Fessenden’s talent at insinuating it into the action, that counts — and unnerves — in this most chilling of global-warming movies.” Villiage Voice
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Voyeurism, orgies and a masked ball. Not exactly the universally accepted manner for which to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, but different strokes for different folks, especially when you’re Stanley Kubrick.
Rolling Stone wrote a few years back that “It’s becoming increasingly clear that Eyes Wide Shut isn’t a perennial Christmas movie because it’s a masterpiece. It’s a masterpiece because it’s a Christmas movie.” This holiday season, why not savour a timely re-evaluation of a spectacular piece of cinema.
“A delicious, deadpan farce about the fragile masculine ego.” Metro
The Ice Harvest (2005)
Larceny, lust and lethal behaviour boasts the tagline for this Wichita–set tale of embezzlement, that stars the perfect Hollywood pairing of John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton.
Nobody went to see it upon its original release, but as the years have passed, this Harold Ramis directed crime-caper of a shady lawyer attempting to swindle the mob out of a small fortune on Christmas Eve is finally beginning to gather the cult following that it deserves.
“This often macabre comedy … allows us to doff such civilized traits as taste and decency.” The Washington Post
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
“You don’t get it do you? This isn’t ‘good cop, bad cop’. This is fag and New Yorker. You’re in a LOT of trouble.” Shane Black’s dialogue bristles off the page in this wild neo-noir which brings together Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) – a camp private eye, Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr) – a thief masquerading as an actor, and Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan) – a struggling actress.
A Planet Slop favourite that includes some of our most admired dialogue of all time. “Snappy, fun and outrageously irreverent, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is the work of someone with nothing to lose, which is only to the audience’s gain,” said L.A Weekly about this expertly crafted movie, but is it festive? It’s a Shane Black film! Of course it is.
“A sarky, sniping film noir homage that assassinates the character of every LA archetype you could imagine.” The Times
Celebrating diversity should be the true meaning of Christmas, and there’s no other film that does it in such a joyous and affecting way as Tangerine, as it paints a portrait of transgender sex workers and their clients.
Central to the film is Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), who along with her friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor) tear through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve to find Sin-Dee’s boyfriend who’s rumoured to have cheated on her with a cisgender character. Shot on an iPhone 5, it oozes with a vibrancy and realism that’s so often missing from contemporary cinema, and it demands a seat at your exuberantly decorated Christmas table.
“Tangerine takes you by the scruff of your neck into a parallel world where tattered reality is shot through with neon flashes of colour, clarity and pure emotional honesty.” Sight & Sound
So there you are, go forth and be entertained!
Enjoy more of Dave‘s work over at The Schlock Pit or pick up a copy of It Came From the Video Aisle! which includes three chapters from Dave. And of course, for all your DVD rental needs and for a a lesson in horror, visit Snips. Keep updated by following Dave on twitter.