Tag Archives: Christmas Horror

A Holiday Horrorthon

Merry Christmas! The orgiastic ritual of consumption and regurgitation—of taking and giving and taking again—has ended and you’re now sitting around wondering what to do. Somehow you wound up here with us on this fine day, and if the forecast is holding as your reading this it is a fine day indeed out there. So let’s get to it, I know why you’re here after all. It is no real secret to me, nor to any of the Morbid Movies staff; you’re here because now that you’ve watched Black Christmas with us earlier this month and Rare Exports a few days ago at my request, you’re now uncertain as to how you should proceed with your horrific holiday viewing. I’m glad to be of assistance.

I need to preface the rest of this article with this disclaimer: there is only one movie in the following discussion that I think you HAVE to watch, watch the rest in order to achieve that perfect mixed tape kind of feel. Alright, time to stop dragging my feet and get to it, and so here, without further ado, is my perfect holiday horrorthon.

Rare Exports (2010)

If you haven’t watched it yet, here are some good reasons to. You may have already watched this, probably have, but if you’ve saved it for the big day don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on this one early. Here’s the synopsis* “In the depths of the Korvatunturi mountains, 486 metres deep, lies the closest ever guarded secret of Christmas. The time has come to dig it up! This Christmas everyone will believe in Santa Claus.”

Gremlins (1984)

It makes sense to go from Rare Exports with the demented and delightfully mad cap tale of a boy and his mogwai gone awry. The levity here is a perfect bridge between this and the next film I recommend to you. So spend a few hours lost in the childlike joy that this film is guaranteed to bring to you each and every time you hit play on the VCR. You know what this one is about, so I will spare you the synopsis.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

The description of this film courtesty of IMDB is as follows: After his parents are murdered, a tormented teenager goes on a murderous rampage dressed as Santa, due to his stay at an orphanage where he was abused by the Mother Superior,  and that description still doesn’t come close to the actual experience of being there as this classic plays out its twisted happenings. Here’s the thing though about this one, and it might be the thing that absolutely elevates this one above Black Christmas for me, it’s a very mean spirited and blackly comedic film. The film is just so much fun with its patently ludicrous plot and gleeful dissimulation of the consumerism surrounding the holiday. This one definitely deserves a viewing later on today.

A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

In this film, “Interwoven stories that take place on Christmas Eve, as told by one festive radio host: A family brings home more than a Christmas tree, a student documentary becomes a living nightmare, a Christmas spirit terrorizes, Santa slays evil.” This one needs to come after Gremlins and Silent Night, as it takes the nuttiness of both films and takes them to new heights. This anthology film is a solid bit of fun filmmaking and should be viewed ASAP.

The list is good so far and It is almost perfect. Here are the final two finals to throw up on the screen at the end of the night.

Krampus (2015)

Director Michael Dougherty is responsible for two penultimate holiday horror films. The first was Trick r Treat and the second, Krampus, should be required viewing in the month of December. This film is as twisted as the other films on the list, and it serves as a perfect evolved form of the family-friendly, holiday horror film. It’s a great way to send the kids off to bed. Here is the synopsis: “A boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a festive demon to his family home.” This film is an action filled romp that contains some truly disturbing creature design, and should not be missed. (Note: this film can be switched with Gremlins and the flow of films will still be solid.)

Inside (2007)

I saved the best for last. This is not a movie I recommend lightly, and it is certainly not for the kids. Inside is not only the best Christmas horror film, it’s also one of the best horror movies ever made period. Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury created a Christmas film that is as  brutal and vicious and relentless as it is beautiful and sumptuous and fascinating. Other than the following synopsis, I am not not going to try to sell you on this film. “A young woman, recently widowed, goes to sleep on Christmas Eve planning to induce the birth of her baby on Christmas Day. She wakes in the night to find an intruder who wants to remove the baby a little earlier than intended, and she is forced to fight for her life and the life of her unborn child as she tries to fend off this scissor wielding maniac.” It’s even more depraved than you think or remember. Warning, it is a French film so there will be subtitles. DO NOT WATCH THE AMERICAN MADE REMAKE. I REPEAT, DO NOT WATCH THE REMAKE. IF THEY ARE NOT SPEAKING FRENCH THEN TURN IT OFF.

So there it is, my suggestions for the things you may want to watch on this beautiful South Florida Christmas Day. I hope you, dear reader, have had a wonderful holiday season.

Year Walking

Christmas is the most magical time of the year. Well, one of them. This is not a tale about family, or gifts—well that is not is not entirely true, they are gifts of a different kind—or Saint Nick. This is one of old magic, ancient and vast, and those who would seek to stare into the void.

While Christmas is currently a brightly hyper-commercialized annual consumer event these days it was once a dark time of the year, one where it was us against the primordial darkness, a single fire against the hungry cold.

These nights have power, it is why the pagans chose them for their celebrations after all— along with Halloween and Valentine’s Day (which is actually originally a feast for werewolves). The world beyond ours, the one filled with things we cannot explain, moves within inches of ours on these nights. It’s easy—if one is to believe the stories of old—to traverse the distance and see the supernatural on these nights, say a certain set of words and meet a certain set of conditions and strange things will happen. Such is the case with the Year Walk.

Known as the Årsgång , the ceremony originated in Sweden and took place on Christmas or New Year’s Eve. The ceremony involved purifying oneself thoroughly and then walking in the forest at night with no fire or light. If performed correctly the ceremony would allow one to see the future.

There is a catch though, in order to gain this future sight one had to overcome challenges and challengers from the other realm. The creatures that populated yesterday’s top ten list roamed the woods at night and one who was undertaking the Årsgång needed to proceed with care lest they meet their end at the hands of the supernatural. Even those not undertaking a Year Walk understood the threat posed by the beasts that swarm and fly through the Yuletide night. Food was left out, not for Saint Nick, but as a distraction for the hungry dead and other things that might visit over the course of the night. It was madness pure and simple to attempt the Year Walk. Oh, and of course there was the weather, with the threat posed by the elements also contributing to the dangers of the night. If one did not get eaten or have one’s soul confined to a special Hell, then one may still succumb to exposure.

The successful completion of the the ceremony often allowed the seer to glimpse the bounties and disasters of the year, so that one could adequately prepare for the year to come. Sometimes though the information provided was of a much grimmer nature. In one case, a year walker reported seeing his own funeral .  

So the ceremony was one of high risk/reward and fraught with danger. If you’d like to experience the Year Walk for yourself, check out the amazing game from Simogo titled Year Walk. It is available on a variety of platforms, including iOS and Steam. If you’re seeking the full experience make sure you download the Year Walk Companion app as well. For the fascinating story of the game came into being, click here.

Rare Exports (2010)

DIRECTOR Jalmari Halander
STARRING Tommi Korpela, Per Christian Ellefsen, Jorma Tommila, Jonathan Hutchings, Onni Tommila, Risto Salmi, Peeter Jakobi
DISTRIBUTOR FS Film Oy
RELEASE DATE September 24th, 2010
RUNTIME 82 Minutes
COUNTRY Finland

A young boy named Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his friend Juuso (Ilmari Järvenpää) think a secret mountain drilling project near their home in northern Finland has uncovered the tomb of Santa Claus. However, this a monstrous, evil Santa, much unlike the cheery St. Nick of legend. When Pietari’s father (Jorma Tommila) captures a feral old man (Peeter Jakobi) in his wolf trap, the man may hold the key to why reindeer are being slaughtered and children are disappearing.

I am often asked what my favorite Christmas movie is. The answer—surprisingly—is It’s a Wonderful Life. I know, I know, it’s unfathomable that my favorite is not a horror movie. I can save this though, there are in fact only two films I have watched every Christmas break for the last few years. One is It’s a Wonderful Life, the other is Rare Exports. This little slice of Amblin-esque goodness is an all time great Christmas flick and an just an all time favorite of mine in general.

So there you have it, an intriguing synopsis that offers basically nothing! Here is my take, this is one of the most unique Christmas horror film—maybe ever!—because it doesn’t take you by the hand. It leaves a lot left to the imagination, from filling the backstory of the town where our protagonist, young Pietari, to the true nature of the beast trapped inside that mountain. It tells an emotionally charged story that feels lived in and real. It’s also completely foreign, hailing from Finland. I suppose I could have led with that. Yes, this is a foreign film replete with subtitles and all that jazz. After 10 viewings I can say that it is emotionally complex with beautifully created characters-a film about brave mach men learning how to be softer and children growing up in a hard and unforgiving world learning how to be brave.

The story follows Pietari and his father, a widower who is scrounging out a living wrangling reindeer once a year with his fellow townsfolk. Meanwhile, a crew is excavating a nearby mountain. It becomes clear that they have found something when a series of disasters plague the town, first something kills the reindeer and then a number of children go missing, vanishing without a trace. Whatever took the kids left twisted wooden replicas in their place. Things get truly strange when Pietari and his father find an old naked man impaled on a stake in a deadfall trap built to catch wolves. The man looks like Santa Claus, but as we soon learn there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye.

Still here? Good. So if you’re still here you want to know what makes Rare Exports so damn good it’s worth watching every year alongside a Frank Capra masterpiece? It’s a lot of things, I guess. It’s the originality and imagination of the film. It’s the childlike wonder that it exudes from every frame. It captures my mind in a way that few movies can, and with every viewing I find more to love about the film, a detail here and there or perhaps something I forgot and am delighted to remember. There are very few films that do this for me, and I will always revisit the ones that do. It’s the characters. Tough as nails, but sweet as can be. They band together when the going gets tough and it is a joy to watch them attempt to save their town and their livelihoods by returning Santa to the mountain where they are certain he came from and claim a reward from the men who dug him up. The only problem is that the thing they found in the woods isn’t Santa, but one of its helpers.

It’s that plot twist that might make this movie absolutely sublime. The pure Lovecraftian presentation of Santa Claus in this film is astounding. We never see him, just his towering form trapped in the ice. His servants are frantically trying to wake him from the ice, gathering all the lights and heating units they can find, and are prepping for his arrival by stocking the larder full of children to eat. Here we have an ancient god of sorts, a beast so fierce and terrifying and insatiable it had be lured into a volcano and frozen deep inside of it just to contain it. I love this and I love the film’s assertion of the place of man in the face of the supernatural. The men from the village who help to rescue the children and save the day? They cut the horns off the head of the great beast and blow him up using an excessive amount of blasting materials. The film shows that—in contrast to other films or stories dealing with these large god-type beings returning to life—the men have control over the situation, that they are allowed to be brave in the face of horror and that they can overcome said horror if they work hard enough. I like that a lot. 

In the end, that message—the one that says no matter how bad things get, all is not lost—is a perfect way to end the film. There are eleven other months in which to be bleak and sad and to exist in perpetual state of existential innue, but for this month maybe try something a little more uplifting. To that end, I hope you give Rare Exports a shot or a revisit. It’s worth it.