Gremlins is the definitive Christmas horror movie, less bleak than Black Christmas and livelier than Silent Night, Deadly Night; it strikes the right balance between humour and gore. The black comedy follows Billy Peltzer whose father gives him a strange creature known as a Mogwai for Christmas. The adorable critter he names Gizmo comes with three strict rules; don’t expose him to bright lights or sunlight, don’t get him wet and definitely don’t feed him after midnight. But of course, rules are made to be broken and thus hilarity and chaos ensues in the quaint suburban setting; with the most memorable scenes involving a microwave and a stair lift. Beneath the surface is a cynical statement on consumerist culture, but it’s also a lot of fun.
Die Hard (1988)
I’m pretty sure the general consensus is that Die Hard is one of, if not, the greatest action movie ever. Best of all, it doubles up as a Christmas classic (yes, it is a Christmas film; it takes place on Christmas eve and a corpse with a Santa-hat makes an appearance); a sweet relief from the usual schmaltzy offerings this time of year. Bruce Willis is seriously cool as John McClane, the archetypal action hero; an off-duty cop who takes on a bunch of “terrorists” that crash his wife’s office Christmas party and take the employees hostage; to distract from their heist. This group of criminals is led by Hans Gruber, portrayed brilliantly by Alan Rickman, in one of his most unforgettable roles. Whether you’re yet to see this film, or you’ve seen it ten times and counting, it is two hours well spent.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Johnny Depp is masterfully able to convey emotion with few words in Edward Scissorhands; the
tale of an artificial man who is left unfinished after the passing of his creator (played by
horror icon and Burton’s idol Vincent Price). When Edward is discovered in his lonely mansion by a caring Avon lady, she welcomes him into her family. However, having scissors for hands presents challenges when faced with an array of quirky suburban characters and a waterbed. At the heart of the film is the tender romance between Edward and Kim (Winona Ryder, who you’ll recognise from this year’s hit Stranger Things); which makes this heart-warming film ideal for the Christmas season. Indeed, the scene in which Edward carves an ice sculpture of an angel modeled on Kim and she dances in the snow-like shavings, as the family prepares for Christmas, is stunning and magical. This film has all the components of a Tim Burton masterpiece; a youthful Johnny Depp, a beautiful score by Danny Elfman and his signature Gothic style.
Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Dr Seuss was the master of peculiar children’s books (the less said about his ‘adult’ book containing nude ladies farming, the better) and of those adapted to film; the feature length movie, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ is undoubtedly the best. The story follows the reclusive Grinch who decides to ruin Christmas for the sickeningly cheerful Whos of Whoville. It may well have received a mixed reaction from critics, but Jim Carrey’s hilarious performance has ensured that the movie has become a beloved Christmas classic. Carrey’s maniacal and energetic performance is all the more admirable considering he needed CIA training to endure torture to get him through filming; though it no doubt added authenticity to the grouchiness of his character.
Elf is one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time. The story follows Buddy, one of Santa’s elves who learns that he is actually a human and so decides to travel to New York to find his biological father and makes it his mission to spread Christmas cheer. In a cynical world, this is the perfect movie to put you in the festive mood. Whilst this is a feel-good movie, there’s enough hilarity to balance out the cheesiness. Will Ferrel as Buddy is the highlight of the film; playing the character with delightful naivety and goofiness. It is utterly re-watchable and should practically be considered compulsory holiday viewing.