Ho, ho, ho… OF DEATH! I mean that’s one interpretation of today’s title, indeed. This is our Top 10 list of Alternative Christmas Films, which means we’re looking for a Christmas film that isn’t about the spirit of Christmas, at least not directly. Christmas may be present and may be a major part of it, but the film should not have it be the sole focus. Now, since it’s Christmas Eve today, here’s our gift to you!
10) Santa’s Slay
Cast your mind back to 2015, if you’ve been with us for that long. We had a really terrible looking GeekOut South-West advent calendar, which was a nightmare to update. It’d often go out of sync, then links would appear in the wrong places… It was a terrible idea. But part of the calendar was an article every single day – and we succeeded! One of the ‘treats’ we gave you was a review of Santa’s Slay.
The first thing you’ll notice about Santa’s Slay, other than being a bit of a crazy film, is that it features Bill Goldberg as a rather naughty Santa. He goes around killing all those on his naughty list… Although I’m pretty certain everyone is on his naughty list. He just kills for the sake of killing and with the most unfitting music possible: Christmas music. Still, the murders are really quite entertaining, if somewhat gruesome! Go Santa, you evil beast!
9) Bad Santa
Santa Claus is a man known for giving, as y’know, that’s kinda what Santa’s whole gimmick is (See what I did there? Gimmick, straight after talking about Santa’s Slay, which features Bill Goldberg? Ah, I crack me up). Still, that doesn’t mean that all representations of Santa need to be so charitable. Released in 2003, Bad Santa is a comedy film with one very naughty Santa indeed.
Misrepresentation is the goal of this film, having a man impersonating Santa so he can ultimately rob a store. It was knocked off our list at first by a horror film which was effectively an “Elf” clone of Gremlins (more about that later). However, when we considered the impact this film had, along with the fact that there is now a Bad Santa 2 which does look equally as hilarious, we would be fools to forget this comedy genius.
8) Batman Returns
Fond lovers of Michelle Pfeiffer everywhere went mad over this one, as it was a case of her dressed up as Catwoman… And she made it as provocative as possible. To do this in the same film as The Penguin who is genuinely portrayed as the most terrifying version of him ever, by the legendary Danny DeVito, on paper it doesn’t sound like it’d make much sense. However, director Tim Burton had a vision for this film – and it was phenomenal.
The grotesque face of the Penguin is effective cinema imagery. Michael Keaton as Batman was a fantastic choice and the acting throughout the whole film was spot on, especially for one of the 90’s Batman films. The story was logical, the action scenes were excellent… Good god, I need to go and re-watch it now!
7) Love Actually
We gave consideration to putting this into the honourable section, purely because it’s rapidly becoming a modern day classic since it first came to cinema in 2003. Aside from the film showing how the season can put stresses on relationships, bringing people together, driving them apart, or even kindling something that had lain just beneath the surface. It’s a time of year in which the one thing we want to think about the most is the people we want close to us.
Director Richard Curtis delivers a selection of stories about ordinary British folk as they undergo a transformative Christmas, be it happy, sad, cathartic or bittersweet. It shows us love from all angles, and reminds us that love, really is all around.
But thankfully Hugh Grant is not so much.
Who likes a good family horror? Because this is one. I may have given it a mixed review a short while ago but it’s a fun thing to watch with the family, so long as the family aren’t easily terrified.
The Christmas demon takes away the bad children, no lump of coal for the naughty, sacks and chains, and a life of punishment. This 2015 film made the monster something truly terrifying, and filled his court with a collection of festive monstrosities to terrify those who forget the true meaning of Christmas, love and family. Turn away from them and they shall be taken from you one by one, and replaced with creepy snowmen.
Krampus brings blizzards in his wake, caging his victims in a wall of white, isolating them from everyone who might help them. Then he fills their little world with misery. This is not a Merry Christmas, this is ungrateful little children getting exactly what they wanted.
Adorable fuzzy creatures that you can’t get wet? Just sounds like a film about cats if you ask me. But in all honesty, everyone here knows of Gremlins – and if you didn’t know of the blockbuster hit, then there’s something wrong with you and you must stop reading right now and go watch it. Nevertheless, Gizmo, the most famous Gremlin, got into so many shops after this film was released, that even Furby had to release a Gizmo model.
These Gremlins are known as Mogwai’s, which Gizmo lets off (it’s not his fault – He’s not evil, promise!) But of course, antics happen and all this is because the main character’s father decides that a fuzzy unknown creature is a good present for Christmas. Remember people: A Dog or a Cat is for life, not Christmas… Oh and don’t forget the rules.
- Do NOT expose the mogwai to bright lights or sunlight,
- Do NOT let it get wet,
- Do NOT feed it after midnight
4) Home Alone 2
Though all of the Home Alone films are based at Christmas, we both prefered the second, and to be honest it felt more “Christmassy” than the first, and the others were a bit… very bad.
Perhaps it’s the incredible lengths Kevin’s mother goes to in an effort to track down her son, the touching moments shared by Kevin and the owner of Duncan’s Toy Chest as they discuss what’s important at this time of year, and the same with the Pigeon Lady. Oh sure, everyone remembers the booby traps, but there’s a film wrapped around the torture of the Sticky Bandits.
The most iconic moment of the series may be when Kevin and his mother are reunited at New York’s most famous seasonal tradition, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. Something about that soaring evergreen and that moment of true familial love makes Home Alone 2 just that little bit more touching than its fore-bearer. That, and Tim Curry, Tim Curry improves everything.
3) Rise of the Guardians
This one’s really more of an easter film, because it actually takes place at easter. It is also grotesquely underrated, and I really could not fathom why it’s not in constant circulation in the family film rota for Christmas.
The Guardians are the watchers over the innocence of children; wonder, excitement, dreams, memory, and fun, embodied by the fairytales who visit us all year around, the Easter Bunny, Sandman, the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost, and big, russian, heavily armed Santa. It’s a story about capturing the joy of youth, and Santa may take a back seat in telling the tale, but he’s no small part of making childhood an amazing experience.
2) Nightmare Before Christmas
Another seasonal out-of-season favourite, and our second Tim Burton entry on the list. We all know this one, the story of when Hallowe’en stole Christmas because the Pumpkin King got wistful and didn’t like scaring people any more. Now there’s nothing wrong with breaking out of your comfort zone to try something new when the day job is getting stale, but this is also a story that reminds us that if we’re good at something then we should stick to it, especially if we really mess up badly when we try something else.
It’s also one of the best musicals in the world, features some of the finest stop-motion animation that would eventually give rise to the rising star of Laika Studios (who’s highest rated film lost out big to the box office! Come on people!) so it’s a fine piece of cinema history that was not appreciated fully in it’s time. It may not be your typical Christmas film, but it’s rapidly becoming a seasonal favourite that will likely outlast most others.
1) Die Hard
If you thought anything else would get the number one slot on this list, then you were probably barking up the wrong tree. It’s a very well known fact that Die Hard is probably the ultimate in Alternative Christmas Film viewing. Haven’t you noticed this is often on TV on or around Christmas Day? I haven’t noticed it on TV this year, but hopefully it’ll be on at least one channel at some point… Otherwise, tradition is broken!
Now, if you don’t know, Die Hard is set around Christmas Eve. Now, we’re not the only ones to think this deserves a slot in a top 10 list for Alternative Christmas Films… Don’t believe us?
- Digital Spy – #5
- Empire – #1
- Entertainment Weekly – #4
- Forbes – #1
- The Guardian – #8
- Hollywood Reporter – #4
- San Francisco Gate – #1
Taken from Wikipedia
So of course… If all of these others also think it’s the ultimate Christmas movie… I think it’s fair to say that it is just that.
They say there’s snow time like Christmas, but as you’ve seen, it’s not always just a winter wonderland. Often there’s death, there’s violence… Or there’s just downright questionable comedy. Here are two more picks of the finest alternative Christmas movies that we hope will tide yule over until next year:
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Not a surprise to see The Muppet Christmas Carol in this list, but of course it’s a pretty typical film for Christmas. In fact, most main TV Channels used to show this around Christmas at some point… Sometimes they still show it! Yes, The Muppet Christmas Carol is a classic now, which is why it only gets in the honourable mentions list – It might be too much of a Christmas staple to be considered alternative.
With this said, we couldn’t leave it off this list. It’s definitely an alternative to the typical story of A Christmas Carol, but the Muppets inject their amazing sense of comedy into an otherwise classic story. It’s amazing seeing just how creative the team behind The Muppets were when this was out there – I mean they’re still being creative today! We love you Muppets, please never change!
The events of Snowpiercer actually take place at New Years, so this is not entirely out of season, but I found myself thinking “What’s the coldest film I can think of?”.
In the aftermath of civilisation all of humanity is reduced to a train that circles the planet on a single track, always moving so as not to freeze in place, sustained by an endless power source, an engine that never fails, and the undying faith of the population, who live and die within its many carriages. Our story takes us the length of the train, from the suffering and abject misery of the back through to the decadence of the front, uncovering a host of truths along the way.
Ok, it’s not very Christmas but it’s a really good film! And no other film I’ve seen has impressed the sensation of cold upon me quite so thoroughly. If you want to take a Christmas theme from Snowpiercer then it should be that all people should be treated evenly, and that a little more generosity can go a long way.
We have just one more Top 10 to handle for the rest of the year 2016… And what a year it’s been. I mean honestly, a lot has happened and we’re happy to say that GeekOut South-West is still going strong. We refuse to stop our crappy challenges of Top 10s, but a new year means a new leaf… But it ain’t the new year yet! That’s next week!! As such, pick from our three New Year’s Eve Top 10s.
Hopefully you get to eat plenty of great food, drink lots of drink, be safe out there and see all of your friends and family. Be sure to keep warm, open all of your presents eagerly and even if it’s just a pair of Simpson’s socks, be thankful this season. Here on GeekOut South-West, we wish you all a very merry Christmas. Leave us a comment below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit. Did we get the order of our list right, or are we going to wind up on your naughty list?