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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

The Present / The Junky’s Christmas

Friday, December 23rd, 2022

I don’t usually post on Fridays, but here is my second one today, because I got two last stocking stuffers for you before the holiday weekend. Here are reviews of two Christmas related shorts, one horror, one crime (sorta). Pretty obscure ones, but both worth checking out.

First up is THE PRESENT, which is a 2005 episode of a Japanese anthology show called Kazuo Umezz’s Horror Theater (released on DVD as part of Horror Theater 3). The titular Kazuo Umezu (the spelling varies) is a famous author of horror manga, as you can guess by the art laid over the introduction to the show, so this is an adaptation of one of his stories. He’s been around long enough that the 1968 movie THE SNAKE GIRL AND THE SILVER-HAIRED WITCH is based on his comics too.

THE PRESENT filters the classic American form of the killer Santa movie through a more Japanese (and specifically manga) style of fucked-upness. It’s about a little girl named Yuko (Kiyo Ôshiro) who wakes up on Christmas Eve, terrified by a nightmare about Santa. She has a Christmas tree in her room and a stocking on her bedpost – I’m not sure if that’s how they do it in Japan, or if it’s weird. But her parents comfort her and tell her to go back to sleep and she’ll get presents because she’s a good girl (though “if you do bad things he’ll come and get you.”) (read the rest of this shit…)

Toys of Terror

Friday, December 23rd, 2022

TOYS OF TERROR is a 2020 Christmas horror movie that’s exactly what it sounds like – a movie about toys coming to life and doing evil toy shit. It seems to have premiered on SyFy, and it’s on DVD and VOD. The director is someone named Nicholas Verso (BOYS IN THE TREES) and it’s written and executive produced by Dana Gould, the comedian, Simpsons writer and podcaster. I had no idea when I rented it that anyone notable was involved, and I respect that Gould seems to have just wanted to make a straightforward, non-parody Full Moon type movie. But it comes from the dystopically named “Blue Ribbon Content” division of Warner Bros. Television, responsible for some DC Comics web animation plus the DTV movies DAPHNE & VELMA and THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE, and has better craft and production value than many of the actual Full Moon movies, especially the later ones.

It’s the story of a family coming to stay at a former children’s home that they plan to refurbish into a mansion and flip. (Same set up as The Haunting of Hill House.) It’s implied to be somewhere in Washington state, but it’s filmed in Canada – as usual, and as indicated by a cast full of actors you know are Canadian because of how many Hallmark Christmas movies they’re in. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas

Thursday, December 22nd, 2022

I really enjoyed Rob Zombie’s love letter to THE MUNSTERS earlier this year, and it even got me to check out the o.g. Munsters movie MUNSTER GO HOME!. But Zombie’s movie did not go over well with or cause much of a splash among the general public, and now there’s this Netflix show Wednesday, based on Munsters rival The Addams Family, which is actually a huge streaming hit (and which I have to admit I like even more than THE MUNSTERS). So it kinda looks like a Photon Warrior to Lazer Tag situation for ol’ Herman and Lily. Or Gobots to Transformers. Or IRON EAGLE to TOP GUN.

Still, I am making this The Year of the Munsters by watching a Munsters Christmas special as part of my holiday festivities. THE MUNSTERS’ SCARY LITTLE CHRISTMAS (not to be confused with the weird New Zealand Christmas special THE MONSTER’S CHRISTMAS) is a 1996 Fox TV movie. The Munsters are entirely recast from the 1995 Fox movie HERE COME THE MUNSTERS, but they carried over an uptight neighbor character named Edna Dimwitty, played by Mary Woronov (DEATH RACE 2000), so I guess they’re connected. (read the rest of this shit…)

Christmas Blood / Alien Raiders

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022

Whether Christmas is a religious holiday for us, or just a way to celebrate giving, or whatever, we can all agree that it’s mainly about trying to find more movies we haven’t seen that are about a killer Santa or some shit. That’s the true and sole meaning of Christmas, is what it says quite clearly in the Bible, and if you don’t believe me I challenge you to tell me which verses it’s not in. You can’t do it, can you? Case closed. Anyway the point is this year I saw CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS but for those of you who would prefer to have the same title but shorter there’s also CHRISTMAS BLOOD (Juelblod), a Norwegian one from 2017.

IMDb lists it as a horror comedy. It really doesn’t read as one to me, but maybe it’s an exceedingly dry sense of humor – there is certainly some absurdity to it, which is what I liked about it. It’s very openly a Santa Claus version of HALLOWEEN. It opens in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, 2011, when a little girl and her parents get killed by a guy dressed as Santa. The police show up in time to shoot the Santa, and Detective Thomas Rasch (Stig Henrik Hoff, THE THING premaquel), who’s been chasing this guy for 13 years, unloads his gun into him while he’s down. (read the rest of this shit…)

Christmas Bloody Christmas

Tuesday, December 20th, 2022

CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS is the new one from writer/director Joe Begos. I previously reviewed his first two features, ALMOST HUMAN (2013) and THE MIND’S EYE (2015), but I’ve been sleeping on his 2019 double whammy of BLISS and VFW. Nevertheless I had to see his new one as soon as it hit Shudder because it’s Christmas horror. There’s a timeliness factor.

It’s a low budget movie but seems huge and lush compared to those other two I mentioned. It continues in the same tradition of filtering a specific ‘80s horror aesthetic through Begos’ brain, now with more dialogue and humor. But I wouldn’t call it a comedy. After the comical advertisements that open the movie and introduce the absurd horror premise, there aren’t really jokes. The laughs come from the characters themselves being funny. Otherwise it comes across as very serious – an odd choice that I like. (read the rest of this shit…)

Adult Swim Yule Log a.k.a. The Fireplace

Monday, December 19th, 2022

I do believe this is my first review where just telling you the movie exists is kind of a spoiler. But I had to have it spoiled to know to watch it myself, so now I’m passing that information on to you. This is a horror movie that was designed to be found on accident, originally promoted like this: “ADULT SWIM YULE LOG: Get in the holiday spirit with this cozy, crackling fire,” and airing at 11:30 pm after the season finale of Rick & Morty. Now it can be found on Home Box Office Maximum under “Adult Swim Yule Log – a.k.a. The Fireplace.”

It starts off as a normal Yule Log or fireplace video. Just footage of a fire with some Christmas music playing. But after a few minutes of that we start to hear something going on outside of the frame. The owner of the cabin containing the cozy, crackling fire is talking about getting the place cleaned We see her walk past the fireplace a few times. Then there’s a knock on the door, a woman (Tordy Clark, GLORIOUS) talking about her car breaking down, and introducing her son… a hulking, grunting Leatherface type (Brendan Patrick Connor, JOKER) wearing a plastic Halloween mask of a Ken-doll type character. He bursts in and attacks as his mom reminds him to “Say nice things to her, women like that.” It’s off camera, but we get the implication, and this is a really fucked up thing to have on as holiday background ambience. (read the rest of this shit…)

Violent Night

Monday, December 12th, 2022

When I first heard that the trusted manufacturers of sturdy action cinema at 87North Productions were making a Santa Claus movie, I misunderstood. I pictured sort of a BAD SANTA meets DIE HARD – a serious action movie where it’s some deadbeat mall Santa who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time and has to save the day, hopefully using a velvet sack’s worth of seasonally themed methods.

So when I realized that the Santa Claus played by David Harbour (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN) in VIOLENT NIGHT is the actual Santa Claus, having his Christmas Eve deliveries interrupted by hostage takers and using “Christmas magic” to fight back, I was disappointed at first. Sounded corny, I thought.

I was wrong. I want to apologize to Santa. VIOLENT NIGHT is an admirable and solid take on a type of movie I treasure: the genre mash-up that knows it’s ludicrous to combine these particular types of movies but moves forward trying to deliver on both genres as well as the unique opportunities offered by their combination. So it has the trappings of a DIE HARD/UNDER SIEGE scenario (ruthless mastermind, elite mercenary force, carefully planned heist, hero mixed up in it by mistake, shocking deaths of innocent people, bad guys picked off one-by-one with stolen or improvised weapons) but also a heartwarming holiday tale (little girl wavering in her belief in Santa, family having trouble getting along, lessons about selflessness). It’s a comedy, but not a spoof. It tries to deliver faithfully on the mission of each genre. (read the rest of this shit…)

Batman Returns

Monday, July 11th, 2022

“It’s the so-called normal guys who always let you down. Sickos never scare me. At least they’re committed.” —Selina Kyle

“He had graduated to a point where he wanted to make movies that are his movies. And this is one hundred percent Tim’s movie.” —BATMAN RETURNS producer Denise DeNovi


On June 19, 1992 we got a blockbuster super hero movie unlike we’d seen before or have since. Since Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS was about as much of a sure thing hit as a studio could ever have, and because the director had been unsure about doing another one, Warner Brothers left him alone to do what he wanted. So it’s a rare combination: an expensive summer blockbuster based on pop culture icons, but also an odd, personal film by an earnest visualist director without much interest in crowdpleasing spectacle. Okay, maybe that describes 1990’s DICK TRACY also, but this is DICK TRACY’s much freakier second cousin. As the first sequel to the movie that made comic book adaptations a hot commodity it was in a unique position to make up most of its own rules about what a super hero sequel is supposed to be, and it wasn’t timid about it.

I’ve written before about my love for the era of comic book movies that started with BATMAN and ended around BLADE or X-MEN. Since the medium that inspired them was still considered nerd shit, since digital FX were in their infancy, since most of them never worried about setting up a sequel let alone a cinematic universe, and since most were heavily influenced by what Tim Burton had done in BATMAN, the genre was very different from what it is today. There was far less literal fidelity to the source material (for good and bad), and relatively few attempts to depict extravagant super powers and creatures, meaning less falling back on visual effects sequences. Some tried to reimagine a pulpy past (THE ROCKETEER, THE SHADOW, THE PHANTOM, DICK TRACY), while the ones trying to be new and contemporary often celebrated colorful outsiders and weirdos (THE CROW, THE MASK, BARB WIRE, TANK GIRL, X-MEN). And I think my favorite thing about them is that they didn’t usually take place in “the real world.” They depended on a stylized look with big sets on sound stages, matte paintings and miniatures to create their own heightened reality. (read the rest of this shit…)

To All a Goodnight

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

Programming note: This will most likely be my last review until some time after Christmas. My MATRIX RESURRECTIONS review is in-progress but I don’t want to rush it and I’m hoping I can get in a second viewing soon. For now please enjoy this perhaps overly detailed assessment of a lesser known killer Santa movie. Happy holidays, friends!

 

David Hess was a singer and songwriter in the 1950s. Under the stage name David Hill he recorded a version of “All Shook Up” before Elvis did, and later wrote some lesser known Presley songs including “Come Along” (from the movie FRANKIE AND JOHNNY) and “Sand Castles” (from PARADISE, HAWAIIAN STYLE). He also penned songs for Pat Boone and Sal Mineo.

In 1972, like The King before him, Hess took his talents to the big screen, starring in a movie and recording the soundtrack for it. But this was pretty different from LOVE ME TENDER; it was Wes Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and he played the despicable villain Krug. It kicked off an acting career in American and Italian exploitation, episodes of Knight Rider, The A-Team, etc., often, I’m afraid, playing criminals and rapists. He was in THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK, Craven’s SWAMP THING, and even Mark L. Lester’s John Candy movie ARMED AND DANGEROUS (as Gunman #4). Since he was reportedly a Method actor, I’m sure he was fun to be around.

And he directed exactly one feature, the Christmas slasher movie TO ALL A GOODNIGHT, given a limited release in January of 1980 before going to video in ’83. (Yes, it’s surprising that a Christmas movie didn’t catch on a month after Christmas.) (read the rest of this shit…)

The Green Knight vs. Sword of the Valiant

Monday, September 27th, 2021

THE GREEN KNIGHT was one of my adventures in mostly-empty Covid-era theater-going, but I’m always working on a million things at once and I didn’t finish the review until after it’s left most theaters and most people’s minds. And yet I continue, undaunted. (It’s on VOD now and comes to disc October 12th.)

It’s the latest from director David Lowery (PETE’S DRAGON, A GHOST STORY, THE OLD MAN & THE GUN), and it’s his weird arty take on a fantasy knight movie, released, as you would imagine, by A24. I enjoyed this at a mostly empty matinee, just as I did with pre-pandemic movies like 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE, HERCULES and KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD. But I don’t consider this to be in that same genre I call “fantasy sword guy movies,” and not just because he uses an ax. It’s different because the whole appeal of it is different. It’s more about deconstructing the things we expect from that genre, or at least finding a different angle on them, than reveling in them.

It’s based on an anonymous 14th-century poem called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. And I tend to like movies based on anonymous poems, judging by the only two I can think of, BEOWULF and BEOWULF. I never heard of this one, but it has been adapted before, including as SWORD OF THE VALIANT, which I went ahead and watched afterward. And I certainly didn’t get this from the movie, but Sir Gawain (Dev Patel, CHAPPIE) is one of the members of King Arthur (Sean Harris, PROMETHEUS)’s Round Table. (read the rest of this shit…)