As the armies of holiday stress besiege the walls of your sanity this season, it's important to take a step back to pop that aggravation balloon with a little levity. There's only so many Fa-La-La's and diamond commercials a man can stand before dressing as Santa for a reign of terror. As we near the dreaded dinner season, I felt that a list of campy, corny, and funny holiday horror films was in order. And in case you don't have full streaming access at your in-laws, I've loaded the list with trailers that you can watch from your smart phone. Deep breath. Exhale. Good. Now let's rock this list.
Two Front Teeth (2006)
I'll be completely upfront: this film has an intended audience; it knows exactly who they are; and it shameless delivers a product only they could love. Clausferatu is an evil vampire, who employs zombie elves and ninja nuns (cleverly coined "Silent Knights") in his eternal war on good. Do I really need to elaborate any further? This is a modern B-Movie in every sense. True aficionados will see it for completion's sake, and revel in the cheese. Everyone else has been warned.
New Years Evil (1981)
Here we find a product from right in the middle of the holiday slasher craze. The trailer really is more fun than the full fledged film, which follows a magical time zone jumping killer. In an incredible logical loophole, he somehow kills a victim at the stroke of midnight, hour after hour. It's never really addressed, because this is already a film where you checked your brain at the door to watch. Still, I totally dig the song. It always gets stuck in my head. New Years Eviiiiiillll!
Terror Train (1980)
A brilliant bit of casting against type sees David Copperfield play Ken the Magician, in this frat prank gone awry revenge tale. Sarcasm aside, this by the numbers New Years timed slasher plays the genre tropes to tremendously good effect. The train bound setting removes many of the lifelines normally available to our characters. Arranging it as a costume party helps create more confusion over the identity of the killer. And casting Jaime Lee Curtis in the lead role brings some respectable horror cred to the proceedings. About the only detraction is it's slightly overlong running time of 97 minutes.
Gremlins! I almost don't need to say anymore. Arguably Joe Dante's best film, Gremlins also mixed in the creative juices of writer Chris Columbus and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg. With that dream team at the reigns, is it any wonder that the movie is considered the offbeat Christmas classic? Bill it as a double feature with Die Hard and I almost don't need any other movies for the holiday. Perhaps that's a slightly exaggerated stance on my part, but it brings the point to bear.
Jack Frost (1997)
This isn't the heart warming, stop motion 1979 flick from Rankin & Bass. Nor is it the heart boring Michael Keaton snooze-Fest from 1998 or the 1964 Russo-Finnish film featured on MST3K. Would you believe that this is the loin girdling story of a death row inmate who is genetically mutated into a snow man by a freak car crash? It's bizarrely true. This snowman-sploitation exercise bashes you over the head with puns, gleefully leaving no sacred holiday tradition untouched. It's also the first acting role of sultry Shannon Elizabeth, who receives the forcible thrust of Frost's carrot. This one is a yearly tradition over eggnog for me.
Those suggestions should get your through the cranberry in a can and fruit cake courses. I'm always on the lookout for the more than mundane among crazy cinema. If you follow any of the suggested video tangents, and stumble across something truly special, be sure to tell us about it in the comments. Happy Holidays, Maniacs.
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Saturday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.