Friday, December 20, 2013

Chilling at Christmas: A Six Pack of Christmas Chillers

Despite a recent sustained procrastination binge on the part of yours truly, I can still assure you, constant reader, that I haven't forgotten about gialli and promise you (and you can hold me to this one) that I'll be heading back to Italy early in the New Year...

In the meantime, seeing as it's the season, I figured I'd spend the remainder of 2013's blogging time looking at some creepy Christmas movies, and other assorted goodies. 

To kick off the Yuletide shenanigans, here's some quick capsule reviews of some festive flicks I've checked out recently, the majority of them for the first time... 

Silent Night, Bloody Night (Theodore Gershuny, 1973)

The first of four movies I saw for the first time recently, this was also undoubtedly the best of them. It's got unsung classic written all over it, and I'm kicking myself for not checking it out sooner... thanks are definitely due, as always, to Brad of Yellow Razor for giving me the heads up. I don't want to get too deep into it right now, as I'm currently waiting until I've had chance to check out the recently released 40th anniversary restored DVD of the film, but I'd say it felt almost as though Lucio Fulci somehow snuck into the early 70s American indie movie scene and then proceeded to make a proto-slasher/giallo, with a vibe not dissimilar in parts to both Let's Scare Jessica to Death and Messiah of Evil (it also shares somewhat similar uses of voiceover and flashback framing to both). It's frankly crazy to think this film pre-dates both Halloween and Black Christmas and yet is somehow so seemingly obscure... though I suppose the fact that it's less neatly and simply plotted than either of those better known films may have something to do with it. I'll be returning to this one in the none too distant, when said DVD arrives (which was today as it happens, full review coming soon)... all I'll say for now is this is an absolute must for fans of slashers and gialli.

Silent Night (Steven C. Miller, 2012) 

An extremely loose "remake" of Silent Night, Deadly Night (more on that one very soon...), Silent Night  is at least similar to its progenitor in so far as both have a tone that varies from tongue in cheek to cynical to sombre... something which admittedly makes for an occasionally odd viewing experience, and frankly, it may put off some entirely. Also, I'll admit I'm still a little unclear on some of the finer details of the plot, even after seeing it twice now... but honestly, this is not the sort of movie one should be reading into deeply anyway... just a bit of silly, trashy fun really, but delivers pretty much everything you'd expect from a Yuletide slasher circa 2012 co-starring Malcolm McDowell sort-of channelling Dr. Loomis Mark-II (as in Rob Zombie's Halloween II) and generally giving all that tasty looking multi-coloured scenery a good chewing... and I mean that in the best way possible. 

Silent Night, Deadly Night (Charles E. Sellier, Jr. 1984)

Undoubtedly the most controversial movie on this list, Silent Night, Deadly Night pissed off parents and politicians aplenty when it first appeared. Now, while this movie is far from PC to be fair, and pretty trashy at times (not a criticism of course) if we're honest, one wonders how the hell anyone could ever take this seriously. After watching it a few times now I'd say this is probably a must for fans of slashers and generally off-beat horror flicks, but personally, it's not one I've found to stand up to repeat viewings so well. I can't particularly find many specific faults with it as it's all fairly serviceable really, but as I suggested with the "remake", and even more so here, it's hard to get a proper handle on what kind of tone the makers were going for... that is, sometimes it's transparent when their tongue is in their collective cheek, and other times it's harder to call... though as I also said about the new Silent Night, it'd probably be somewhat foolish to think too long and hard about this one anyway.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Jalmari Helander, 2010)

A feature-length remake of some shorts (which apparently attracted a bit of attention online when they appeared) made by a Finnish advertising firm, Rare Exports is another one that's hard to sum up, as yet again the tone veers sufficiently at times to keep one on their toes, so to speak. If I had to attempt a comparison for the uninitiated, I guess I'd say it's sort of like if you took John Carpenter's The Thing and Home Alone (and probably some other elements too), smashed the scripts together and then shot the results in Finland... as always, I realise that's an absurdly reductive (and somewhat inaccurate) comparison, but it'll suffice for now. At any rate, it's certainly unique and worth checking out at least once... and with its lean running time it never overstays its welcome.

Don't Open Till Christmas (Edmund Purdom, 1984)

This was another new one to me this year... as in I'd never heard of it until last month some time... and holy shit, where has this movie been all my life? Most of the titles we've looked at so far have concerned killer or deadly Santas... but this time around, anyone dressed as the jolly red fat man better watch out themselves! Something of a giallo/slasher hybrid, it's hard to believe this was made both in Britain and by a respected Thespian (though I figure he was a long way from the days of Royal Shakespeare stuff by then, having also appeared in the similarly and wonderfully lurid Pieces a couple of years before). This is by no means a "good" movie, but I give it my highest recommendation nonetheless, especially to slasher fans. I don't really wanna say anymore than that for now though, lest I ruin any of the delightful surprises contained within.

Santa's Slay (David Steiman, 2005)

Ever wondered about the curious fact than Santa is an anagram of Satan? Then this is the movie for you! Though to be fair we could probably say that about a few films on this list... At any rate, this is another, like Don't Open Till Christmas, that's ripe for watching over the festive period with a few friends and a few beers. And more so than any movie I've discussed so far, I'd say you could probably show this to non-horror fans and they'd still get a kick out of it. Furthermore, it'd be a good gateway one for those in their early teens looking to get into some of these "alternative" holiday flicks... i.e. this isn't Gremlins or anything and while it's got its share of gore and carnage, it's never particularly graphic or gruelling. To keep things brief, all I'll say for now is that though I only just watched this for the first time last night, I frankly can't wait to watch it again... like many of these movies it provided a much needed antidote to all the saccharine and sanctimony that's going around this time of year.