By Frisco Rosso
It’s that time of year and depending on the extent of your plans and the excitability of friends and relatives, there’s a strong possibility that you’re going to find yourself staring at the tube on Christmas Day, after the vast majority of people have passed out or gone to bed early.
The early evening classics such as Indiana Jones, The Sound of Music and multiple adaptations of A Christmas Carol (if you’re lucky you’ll catch Scrooge (1951) with Alastair Sim) tend to serve as obligatory viewing but if you don’t feel like watching the usual post-watershed fare such as Die Hard for the millionth time then give this selection of Christmas-related horror flicks a bash for a shot of adrenalin.
Black Christmas (1974)
While it may sound like a seasonal Martin Lawrence comedy, Black Christmas is fortunately something completely different. This is one of the first post-Psycho slasher films and possibly served as the inspiration for When a Stranger Calls and the classic line “We’ve traced the call, it’s coming from inside the house!” The plot centres on a group of college students forced to take on a disturbed maniac, with a penchant for making obscene phone calls, prowling around inside their sorority house.
At first glance it may read like another hackneyed teen horror but keep in mind this is one of the early ones and it doesn’t have the contemporary fare of tits and snotty one-liners. Of course someone just had to produce a remake in 2006 but, as in most cases, give the original a blast first.
The Day of the Beast or El Dia de la Bestia (1995)
Grab your crucifixes and hold onto your hats, things are about to get strange. The Day of the Beast is best described as a cross between The Devil’s Advocate, Doberman and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Although perhaps more akin to dark comedy than horror, there’s enough satanic weirdness to keep you on the edge of your seat.
The peculiar plot concentrates on a priest who naively attempts to commit as many sins as possible with the intention of selling his soul to the Devil in order to book a ringside seat at the birth of the Antichrist, which he hopes to kill and save the world.
If you battle with subtitles or the concept of anything made outside of Hollywood then give it a go anyway – you’ll probably find it terrifying.
Dead of Night (1945)
This classic anthology tale of suspense set in rural England involves perplexed architect Walter Craig who arrives at a country house party with a peculiar sense of déjà vu. Craig proceeds to entertain and unsettle the other guests with his powers of foresight while some eerie ghost stories begin to unravel.
Check out one of the most memorable scenes from Dead of Night below – a distinctly creepy and unhinged conversation between barmy Maxwell and his dummy Hugo which, if nothing else, may shed some light on intimate discussions between comedian Jeff Dunham and Achmed the Dead Terrorist in the cool silence of the night…
If you’re battling to find a copy, you can view the full film on YouTube:
Tales from the Crypt (1972)
This fairly ancient epic is always worth a revisit and is likely to bring a few chills to an already frosty season.
Although And All Through the House is the only story of the five covered in this anthology film that relates to Christmas, Tales from the Crypt is still worth a look as a reminder that good will to all men tends to save you from having your heart ripped out by wronged neighbours.
Five curious strangers become separated from a tour party visiting ancient catacombs and wander into the domain of the Crypt Keeper, who subsequently tells the stories of how each unfortunate soul will die.
Tales from the Crypt is typically low budget with a high cornball factor but it beats listening to Bruce Willis uttering “yippee ki yay” for the umpteenth time and is a must-see for Peter Cushing fans.
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Jacob’s Ladder is by far and away the most powerful and disturbing in this selection of films and is not for the faint-hearted.
Vietnam veteran Jacob Singer suffers from sequences of worsening hallucinations and flashbacks that appear to be gradually driving him to the edge of madness. Singer later discovers that other veterans are also suffering the same symptoms and that there may be more to the flashbacks and macabre visions than mere insanity.
Due to the film’s unwavering graphic depictions and morbidly sinister tone throughout you might want to save it for Boxing Day, or for the second your pissed aunty Nora decides to plonk her arse in front of the piano with the Christmas song book. The overall effect is much the same.
With more tension than your mother’s suspension, I am Frisco Rosso. I’m likely to deliver a few lines worth at any given moment regarding film, music, sport, books and anything morally unsound that strikes a blow between the eyes in the name of entertainment.