The ho-ho-horror : why your favourite Christmas movies are creepy

From Macaulay Culkin’s violent traps in Home Alone to Tim Allen’s harrowing body horror in The Santa Clause, festive classics are often surprisingly unsettling

The most recent episode of Honest Trailers dealt with the beloved Christmas movie Elf. And, while it struggled to land any decent hits on what has now become an immovable piece of beloved festive furniture, it did make a good point about the film’s central romantic relationship. Because, after all, Elf is the film where Zooey Deschanel falls in love with what is basically a toddler trapped inside an adult body. Viewed from that perspective, Elf is creepy as heck.

But then again, aren’t all Christmas movies fundamentally creepy? Here, with the barest minimum effort, I will expose some of your favourite Christmas movies for the monstrous nightmares they actually are.

Love, Actually

undefined

Where to begin? There’s the bit where Liam Neeson tries to get over his dead wife by vicariously encouraging his son to violate several important post-9/11 airport security laws purely in the vain hope that a stranger will kiss him. There’s Hugh Grant’s prime minister, who abuses his status to pursue a romantic relationship with an employee. And, of course, there’s Andrew Lincoln; the man who orders his friend’s wives to be completely silent while he wordlessly recounts his sickest fantasies to them. It’s actually incredibly easy to imagine Louis CK playing every single male role written for Love, Actually.

Meet Me in St Louis

undefined

The film that contains Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, which is less of a song and more of an unconvincing attempt to distract yourself from the unrelenting horrors of the world with tinsel. It fools nobody. Also, some of this film is set at Halloween, and Halloween is spooky.

Jack Frost

JOSEPH CROSS JACK FROST (1998)EF9WMA JOSEPH CROSS JACK FROST (1998)

In which a boy’s dead father is dragged back to Earth from the afterlife, taking the guise of a wisecracking, sentient, genital-obsessed snowman in a doomed bid to win back the affection of his grieving son. But as soon as the plan succeeds, the sun comes out and the man dies all over again, trapped in a never-ending hellcycle of death after death after death. Merry Christmas everyone! Your dead parents will never find the peace they’ve always longed for.

Home Alone

undefined

A tale of parental neglect, the effects of which manifest themselves in the sort of extreme dissociative violence that usually lands people in secure facilities. You sense that, straight after the credits ended, Macaulay Culkin went out into his garden to pull the legs off some kittens. Plus, if Old Man Marley isn’t a serial killer I’ll eat my hat.

A Muppet Christmas Carol

undefined

Here’s something nobody ever mentions when they talk about A Muppet Christmas Carol: what happened to all the other humans? There’s Michael Caine and a smattering of family members, and everyone else is a Muppet. What happened? Did the Muppets kill them all? Is Caine their slave? Is he simply biding his time before he attacks the Muppets and inevitably wins, thanks to his giant size, massive teeth and comparative resistance to fire? This film is all of my nightmares come to life.

The Polar Express

IMAGINARY ACTINGShown in this photo released by Warner Bros. Pictures, is a still from company’s new film “Polar Express,” in which actor Tom Hanks performs all three characters. Hanks used experimental technology to morph into a little boy, a train conductor, a hobo and Santa Claus (father christmas) for the new computer animated Christmas adventure. (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

Not exactly a creepy story per se, but you try spending a couple of hours watching Tom Hanks’s cold, lifeless eyes float around unmoored on a succession of smooth, squidgy, objectively evil motion-capture creations. It’s like watching the scene from Alien Resurrection where all the half-formed mutant Ripleys beg for death, but with more choo-choo trains. Monstrous.

Santa Claus: The Movie

undefined

Ostensibly, this is a Santa Claus origin film. However, when that thin gruel of a plot runs out of steam after about 10 seconds, we’re treated to a second act where Dudley Moore’s elf becomes ravaged by long-gestating daddy issues and attempts to force Santa into a miserable wilderness of irrelevance. This film is Shakespearean in its cruelty.

The Santa Clause

THE SANTA CLAUSE (1995) TIM ALLEN STCL 048BKBA68 THE SANTA CLAUSE (1995) TIM ALLEN STCL 048

Incredibly The Santa Clause – in which a man harrowingly transforms into Santa against every last one of his wishes – was not an early David Cronenberg body horror film. Wonders will never cease.

The Family Man

undefined

Where successful businessman Nicolas Cage is sent to a parallel dimension to learn the wholesome values of family life. You know who comes out worst here? Those poor children who suddenly have to have Nicolas Cage for a dad. Merry Christmas kids! Unwrap your present! It’s a dinosaur skull that your dad can’t really afford!

Contributor

Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Home Alone at 30: how the unlikely Christmas comedy has endured
No one could have predicted that a simple family film would have been such a box office smash in 1990 or that it would remain a favorite decades after

Charles Bramesco

16, Nov, 2020 @2:16 PM

Article image
Home Alone review – 1990 Christmas cracker resurfaces
Macaulay Culkin is nearly incandescent with confidence in the yuletide rerelease of Chris Columbus’ box-office smash

Peter Bradshaw

30, Nov, 2018 @8:00 AM

Article image
Which Christmas movie are you?
We all have a favourite festive film. But what does it mean if you are an Elf fan or a Love, Actually aficionado?

Stuart Heritage

25, Dec, 2019 @9:00 AM

Article image
The key to a great Christmas film: misery and mayhem | Jack Bernhardt
Classic festive films contain more than their fair share of murder, suicide and doomed relationships, says comedy writer Jack Bernhardt

Jack Bernhardt

04, Dec, 2017 @8:00 AM

Article image
Hidden presents: 10 Christmas movies you might not have seen
From violent heist films to lo-fi indies, there’s no need to rely on It’s A Wonderful Life to get you in the festive mood

Scott Tobias

14, Dec, 2016 @1:30 PM

Article image
What is the best Christmas movie? You asked Google – here’s the answer | Lucinda Everett
What is the best Christmas movie? The arts writer Lucinda Everett has the answer

Lucinda Everett

27, Dec, 2017 @8:00 AM

Article image
'Absolutely kills me': you pick your saddest movie scenes
Our writers picked their peaks of cinematic sadness and you responded with animated elephants, Christmas melancholy and emotional reunions

Guardian readers

19, May, 2018 @9:00 AM

Article image
There’s a lot to hate in Love Actually. But it’s also the ultimate Christmas fantasy | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
Ignore the sexism if you can, and revel in a world of palatial flats where everyone adores the prime minister, says Guardian columnist Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

08, Dec, 2019 @3:01 PM

Article image
The ultimate festive film? No, it’s not Die Hard | Hadley Freeman
A true Christmas movie must adhere to the following scientific, mathematical and logical rules

Hadley Freeman

22, Dec, 2018 @9:00 AM

Article image
What's your favourite film to watch at Christmas?

Catherine Shoard: We need to fill the Christmas Eve spot on our film advent calendar. And that's where you come in …

Catherine Shoard

01, Dec, 2009 @11:27 AM