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‘You can never do too much to make a child’s Christmas magical’ – sometimes, the adults need their festive fun at the movies, too.
Christmas movies, for the most part, are designed for the families; fun, rambunctious adventures full of cheer, love and holiday messages, whether it’s Home Alone, The Grinch, The Polar Express – albeit, that’s bloody terrifying – or Elf. They’re queued up and re-watched every year, resurrected from the pits of streaming platforms and DVD boxes.
Not every seasonal offering is necessarily designed for kids; Love Actually, The Holiday, Gremlins and It’s a Wonderful Life are films I and many hold dear, but they’re less concerned with Santa and other lighter matters. Of course, those aren’t the movies we’re here to discuss – I’m talking about movies with a loud, proud 15/18 certificate; some crude, others scary, some violent.
Pop the kids to bed, pour yourself a wine and pick one just for you.
Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy, perhaps on their greatest form to date, in a Christmas comedy directed by John Landis – need I say more? The pair, ahem, trade places as a result of a cruel bet at the hands of higher powers, in a bid to prove that money really is everything. Spoiler, it isn’t – kindness always wins.
No, not the 2006 one. No, absolutely not the 2019 one. Black Christmas, released in 1974, is the original Christmas horror movie and one of the earliest slashers to precede the boom. It may look dated by today’s standards, but it’s also the ground zero of tired tropes while still managing to ring viewers’ necks with suspense even between the kills.
Eyes Wide Shut
When Kubrick enters the room, you pay attention. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman play a married couple; ostensibly happy, but erotically estranged. Upon hearing his wife had earlier contemplated having an affair, Cruise descends on a harrowing journey through the night, lit by the twinkling of lights and bristling of tinsel. Just another Fairytale of New York.
Better Watch Out
You know how everyone talks about how Kevin would have killed the burglars in Home Alone not just once, but multiple times over with his brutal traps? Better Watch Out essentially leans into that, pitting a babysitter and a tween against unwelcome intruders in a typically wealthy home. It’s nasty and gleefully entertaining.
Anna and the Apocalypse
‘Shaun of the Dead meets La La Land‘ in Anna and the Apocalypse, following a small Scottish town hit by a zombie outbreak over the holidays and a scrappy group of teens who fight back and try to reach their loved ones. It’s a musical to (un)die for.
The core plot of the film isn’t Christmassy; a mismatched Murtaugh and Riggs work together to stop a heroin-trafficking ring, battling a hail of bullets, abductions and electric shock torture along the way. Then, Murtaugh’s story evokes It’s a Wonderful Life; a troubled individual who finds salvation in the arms of a family. Also, it’s Shane Black – I don’t make the rules.
For the well-behaved grown-ups out there, Krampus is a half-goat, half-demon monster from European folklore who scares bad children at Christmas. The legend has been increasingly adapted for festive horror movies over the past 10 years, with 2015’s Krampus, from Trick ‘r Treat‘s Michael Dougherty, packing with a macabre bite.
Is this the ultimate anti-Christmas movie? You have Billy Bob Thornton as a lean, horrid, booze and sex-addicted department store Santa at the centre, alongside his trusty accomplice (Tony Cox). It’s constantly rude, crude and takes great joy in trying to offend – the perfect cocktail to soothe humbugs disgruntled with cheer.
The Night Before
Easily one of the most underrated Christmas comedies, The Night Before takes Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie on a drug-fuelled, hilarious odyssey through Christmas in New York in search of the Nutcracka Ball. Worth it for the Runaway piano scene alone.
It’s a simple tale: a New York cop visiting his wife and kids for Christmas gets pulled into a one-man war against a highly organised, elite group of thieves. Consider it a fight against the Grinch who wants to steal lots of money, on Christmas Eve no less, that still ties into the holiday spirit. It’s one of the greatest action movies ever made.
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