As a festive special I thought I’d watch 12 Christmas Movies for my 365 Film Challenge.
Film #114: Black Christmas (2019)
A slasher set at Christmas as a bunch of sorority girls are picked off by a mysterious killer. first kill has a certain dark humour, with the victim making a snow angel as they flail around. After that it turns into the tale of our heroines having to deal with members of a bizarre cult and fight for their survival.
The supernatural aspect is interesting, but the movie suffers from a poor script, and characters who regularly make stupid decisions. It touches on themes like misogyny, rape culture and patriarchal obsession and structures, but it falls flat in places. 6/10.
Film #115: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
I’ve seen the ’90s remake of this, so I kinda knew what to expect and the plot is largely the same. Is the store Santa actually the real Santa? It’s pretty old fashioned and the acting has that old, slightly stilted quality, especially the young Natalie Wood. Cheery and cheesy. 5/10.
Film #116: The Polar Express
I’ve never seen this movie before because the animation style, where it’s all motion capture and then CGI’d over is something I just can’t get on board with. My problem with it is that (a) the characters all look kinda creepy and dead eyed, but more importantly (b) it just seems pointless. Just do it as a live action or actually commit and use all the benefits of the animation medium.
The story isn’t particularly inspiring, either, a young boy is starting to outgrow Santa but then on Christmas eve a train arrives and takes him to the North Pole. Setting and telling a story that takes pretty much all takes place on a train is hard to do (obvious exceptions being Murder on the Orient Express, The Lady Vanishes and Under Siege 2). Also, why are so many films where a kid losing faith/belief in Santa is portrayed as a bad thing, and not a sign of them growing up? There’s a time to put away childish things of course. 3/10.
Film #122: The Grinch (2018)
The Dr Seuss story The Grinch Who Stole Christmas seems to be one of those things that is massive in America but less beloved here in the UK. I’ve never seen the animated original, but have suffered through the Jim Carrey live action version. This CG version features Benedict Cumberbatch voicing the mean one.
Plot is simple- the Grinch, a green monster, lives north of Whoville, a town that loves Christmas. Tired of their festive cheer he decides to steal Christmas from the town and revel in their misery. But an encounter with a young resident, and the town’s response to his theft lead him to have a change of heart and soften in his attitude towards the holiday.
Coming from the Illumination studio this is a typically bright and silly. The plot is pure festive cheese of course, but it does have considerably more charm than Carrey’s mugging version. 7/10.
Film #124: Home Alone 4
I remember really liking Home Alone as a young kid, but rewatching it years later I found myself hating it (the sequel even more so). And it’s one of those series that I’m always surprised kept on going. This fourth instalment has some of the original characters returning, but all with new actors.
One of the things about rewatching the first two films is how obnoxious Kevin is, he’s this bratty, gobby, smug mini-douche, but this time around they’ve overcorrected and the result is that he’s this irritatingly “sweet kid” and a bit of a wet blanket. He’s again forced to deal with criminals, but this time they want to kidnap a prince who is coming to stay with his dad’s new girlfriend.
The problem is that this keeps so many of the themses from the other films that it feels less like a sequel and more like a really low budget remake. There’s the “person who initially is scary but turns out to be nice” trope, the wishing his family away only to realise that he actually does love them. Aggravating, mediocre dross. 2/10.
Film #125: Krampus
Another festive-frightener as a young boy’s loss of the festive spirit results in his family being attacked by the Krampus, a demon who punishes naughty children at Christmas. Can the family put their squabbles aside and save themselves?
The film starts with a fun opening where “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas” plays over scenes of brawling shoppers, frustrated shop workers and ends with our characters introduced as the son fights another kid mid-nativity show. We then get the family fully introduced- arguing parents, fed up teen, redneck relatives and an unwanted great-aunt showing up.
What follows is a super entertaining horror comedy where the Krampus’ nightmarish minions (the clown jack-in-the-box was my least favourite) terrorise our family who have to work some way to survive as a blizzard cuts them off in their home. The film does a good job of balancing the family stuff and the monsters, and the cast are on fine form as the bickering, blundering survivors.
There’s also a really cool animated sequence where the German gran tells of her previous run-in with the Krampus, it’s a fun, clever and gripping movie. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO