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Die Hard (1&2) (1988 & 1990)
Poor John McClane never seems to enjoy the festive period. Christmas Eve generally means that at some point he'll have lost his shoes after beating up a phalanx of Uzi-toting mercenary terrorists in order to foil some kind of convoluted plot or other when he'd rather be trying to work on his marriage. Or having a mince pie. McClane's presents usually comprise grazes, burns, bullet wounds and a dirty vest.
It's what every child wants to find under the tree. A furry, wide-eyed creature that's not your usual puppy, kitten, hamster or guinea pig. But some people just have to go one step further than a chinchilla, and in doing so unleash a gang of homicidal reptiles. The Gremlins, which misbehave if fed after midnight and rather inconveniently multiply when wet, overrun a bar (not usually an issue at Christmas), take out a department store (ditto) and ransack a cinema. The little tykes. But given the strict care instructions from the sinister Chinese antique shop from which the Mogwai was bought, their ruined Christmas serves the Peltzer family entirely right.
Bad Santa (2003)
There are few more sad characters in cinema than Billy Bob Thornton's Willie, the self-loathing, booze-soaked Saint Nick in 2003's 'Bad Santa'. He hates kids, buts loves whiskey, fornicating and larceny.
The film paints a notably miserable Christmas for Willie, as he struggles to stay sober long enough to finish one last job robbing the shopping centre he and accomplice Marcus (Tony Cox) are working at.
But he didn't count on conniving security man Gin (the fabulous Bernie Mac) or Marcus's scheming wife. Stuff 'It's A Wonderful Life', 'Bad Santa' is easily the best Christmas movie of all time.
Black Christmas (1974 and 2006)
Considered the very first teen slasher film, 'Black Christmas' became a cult classic after a poor reception on its release. Sorority girls start going missing after a Christmas party, all murdered in grisly fashion by a stalking lunatic. It became a blueprint for later slasher hits and inspired the likes of the still-terrifying 'Halloween' and 'Friday The 13th', with its point-of view camera work, mysterious murderer and adolescent victims. Merry Christmas.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
As veteran US film reviewer Leonard Maltin asked back in 1984: “What's next, the Easter Bunny as a child molester?” He had a point. 'Silent Night, Deadly Night' pitched a vicious murderer in a Santa costume, causing consternation among the American Parent Teacher Association, who called for it to be banned. It might have been for the best. Young Billy Chapman sees his parents brutally murdered on Christmas Eve by a man in a Father Christmas outfit. Years later, traumatised by his experience, he then takes on the mantle of murderous Santa himself, wreaking deadly havoc upon those who have been 'naughty' as opposed to 'nice'. It is now, of course, a cult classic.
Jingle All The Way (1996)
Horrific for very different reasons is Arnold Schwarzenegger's 'Jingle All The Way', classed among the Governator's 'comedies'. Workaholic mattress salesman Howard Langston (Arnie) has a disastrous experience trying to snap up the sold-out Turbo-Man action for his son's Christmas present. Hilarity, sadly, never ensues, as Arnie suffers various indignities including having his car stripped by thieves, almost being molested by a reindeer and brawling with a gang of Santas. USA Today said: 'This painfully bad movie has been inspired strictly by the potential jingle of cash registers.' It's a valid point.
If there's another dystopian future Christmas film out there, then we've not seen it. In the future, according to maverick director Terry Gilliam, there won't be a great deal to ho-ho-ho about. Under the grip of an Orwellian regime and numbing, maddening bureaucracy, the festive period is punctuated with fear and paranoia. And when Santa (played by Grouty from 'Porridge') does turn up, to the beleaguered hero Sam Lowry (the frazzled Jonathan Pryce) in his padded cell, all he's got to offer is sporting cliches.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
No vacation is calamity-free for the hapless Griswolds, so why should Christmas be any different? Clark (Chevy Chase) wants things to go perfectly but the odds are yanked from his favour the minute the cousins arrive unannounced from Kansas. And then a SWAT team. Yep, it's pretty much business as usual for Chicago's most disastrous family, but things turn out alright in the end. Despite a minor explosion.
Home Alone (1990)
Forget, for a moment, the staggering unlikelihood of forgetting one of your own children while heading to Paris for the holidays. Because otherwise, you won't really enter into the classic, capering spirit of 'Home Alone', in which wily eight-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin in his cherubic heyday) has his solo festivities threatened by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. Luckily, he is able to outwit the doltish burglars in increasingly painful ways. There are bone-crunching tumbles down iced concrete steps, hot irons in the face, blow-torches to the head and glass decorations crushed into bare feet. There's an 18 certificate director's cut here for the taking.
The Ice Harvest (2005)
A mob lawyer (John Cusack) and a pornographer (Billy Bob Thornton) rather unadvisedly pinch $2 million from their employers on Christmas Eve, but find that their escape route has been iced over by the harsh Wichita winter. As is often the case with such complex schemes, there are double crosses aplenty and not a few murders. Without wanting to enter spoiler country, there are mobsters locked in trunks, dead wives, strippers and slip-ups. Some figurative, some literal. Ouch. 'A Christmas Carol' this is not.
Dan Aykroyd’s yuppy Winthorpe has an awful Christmas in this 80s classic after he’s tricked out of his cushy lifestyle by sinister millionaires the Duke brothers, and replaced in high society by Eddie Murphy’s hobo. He reaches a low ebb after unsuccessfully trying to nab his job back at the Christmas party, and finds himself dressed in a filthy Santa outfit, munching salmon through his rank beard on the bus. He gets off, a dog wees on him, it starts raining... so he tries to shoot himself in the head. Things turn out alright in the end, but this is comedy of the blackest variety.
It’s a Wonderful Life
The granddaddy of all depressing movie Christmases. Usually the clips of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ show James Stewart joyously running through the snow screaming ‘Merry Christmas!’. Some folks forget he’s running from a bridge he was about to jump off, after going bankrupt, getting arrested for bank fraud and drunkenly crashing his car into a tree.
The most miserable movie ChristmasesBy Ben Arnold | Yahoo UK Movies Features – Thu, Dec 20, 2012 11:20 GMT
It's the most wonderful time of the year. Well, mostly. You might find yourself with a scorched turkey, socks that don't fit and a Jeremy Clarkson DVD, but things could always be worse. Check out these other not-so-happy holiday movies...
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