Ah, the holidays. A time for family and friends, gift-giving and sharing, love and peace and all that. Of course it’s also a great time to watch sentimental, life-affirming seasonal movies too, like A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. Right? Wrong! There are plenty of movies to watch that give Christmas a dark, nasty or weird spin. When you’ve had enough of hackneyed holiday tunes, opened one too many bad presents from your Aunt Millie or simply need a break from the sticky-sweetness of it all, put these 12 twisted movies in your player and make your Yuletide a little more fun -- one for each day of Christmas.
Christmas Night: Scrooged (1988)
We’ve all seen A Christmas Carol too many times to count, but never quite like this updated retelling. Bill Murray, hilarious as usual, is the cold-hearted TV exec who has a change of attitude when visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. The familiar tale is given a modern, more satirical setting and who better to get scrooged than an entertainment executive?
Dec. 26: Black Christmas (1974)
A vicious serial killer terrorizes girls in a mostly deserted sorority house during the holiday break in this chilling horror tale from Bob Clark, who later directed A Christmas Story. Avoiding graphic gore, Clark still ratchets up the tension to the breaking point in a movie that many claim was a huge influence on Halloween just four years later. Avoid the rotten 2006 remake.
Dec. 27: Gremlins (1984)
You should never give a mogwai as a Christmas gift to begin with, but if you do, remember not to get it wet or feed it after midnight. Of course those lessons go right out the window in director Joe Dante’s nasty little horror comedy, which was criticized for the gleefully nihilistic violence that the gremlins bring down upon the town of Kingston Falls. Beware salesmen bearing live animals.
Dec. 28: Die Hard (1988)
It’s Christmas Eve and all New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) wants is to reconcile with his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). He travels all the way to Los Angeles to do so, but instead of a romantic Christmas Eve together he ends up rescuing her -- and dozens of others -- from a skyscraper taken over by thieves posing as terrorists. This guy can’t catch a break -- he spent another Christmas Eve rescuing an airport in Die Hard 2.
Dec. 29: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
This one was hugely controversial at the time of its release, due to its depiction of a vicious killer dressed as Santa Claus (a gimmick used a few years earlier, actually, in Christmas Evil). Parents’ groups and film critics demanded its withdrawal, while families protested outside theatres showing the thing. Needless to say, the boycott backfired: four sequels followed.
Dec. 30: Batman Returns (1992)
In Tim Burton’s second Batman film, Gotham City’s holiday cheer is spoiled by deadly weapons disguised as gifts, exploding department stores, the kidnapping and murder of the city’s Ice Princess and even an army of homicidal penguins. That’s not to mention the plan by the Penguin himself (Danny DeVito) to kill all of Gotham’s first-born. In case you didn’t guess by now, this was the darkest Batman film ever until Chris Nolan took over the franchise.
Dec. 31: Go (1999)
It’s Christmas Eve in L.A. and everyone wants to score some drugs in director Doug Liman’s fast-paced and bitterly funny black comedy. Arguably inspired by Tarantino and Pulp Fiction, everyone is talking past each other as three different plotlines start, stop, meet in the middle and go their separate ways again. If this is Christmas in Hollywood, perhaps we should consider going away for the holidays.
Jan. 1: The Ref (1994)
This black comedy finds small-time burglar Gus (Denis Leary) acting as the mediator when he holds bickering couple Lloyd (Kevin Spacey) and Caroline (Judy Davis) hostage on Christmas Eve -- and that’s before the rest of their family shows up. If a family gathering gone way wrong and 90 minutes with the acidic Leary light your tree, this might be your perfect holiday movie.
Jan. 2: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
What would happen if someone from Halloween Town crossed a portal into Christmas Town? That’s the premise of this macabre cult animated classic directed by Henry Selick and produced by Tim Burton (who seems to really have it in for the holiday). Animated or not, it’s sophisticated, even creepy fare and its imagery often lives up to its title. A twisted Christmas film indeed.
Jan. 3: Bad Santa (2003)
Is there any badder department store Santa than Billy Bob Thornton? This nasty, politically incorrect, rude and absolutely hilarious cult favorite is one of the funniest comedies of the last decade. Thornton is Willie, the dissolute Santa who robs stores on Christmas Eve with the help of his dwarf associate Marcus (Tony Cox), among other misdeeds. We will be watching very carefully when we bring our kids to meet Santa, that’s for sure.
Jan. 4: The Ice Harvest (2005)
It’s a snowy, slippery Christmas Eve in Wichita and mob lawyer Charlie (John Cusack) and gangster Vic (Billy Bob Thornton, again up to no good at Christmas) conspire to steal two million dollars from crime boss Bill (Randy Quaid). A weird mix of the deadly serious, the pitch black and the absurdly funny, The Ice Harvest makes you wonder just what everyone else is really up to while you’re sipping your eggnog and waiting for Santa.
Jan. 5: P2 (2007)
Where would you most like to be on Christmas Eve? Stuck in an underground parking garage, perhaps, with a homicidal security guard? That’s what happens to sexy Rachel Nichols in P2 after she learns her car won’t start and the lobby doors are locked. Of course, it’s all part of an elaborate set-up by Thomas (Wes Bentley), the psychopathic guard who’s been secretly stalking her. If anything, P2 makes the case for why it’s not good to spend Christmas alone.
Got a favorite twisted Christmas movie? Tell us below.