A very Merry Christmas to all fans of redmangoreviews or first time readers. What better way to celebrate this festive season than with a good old Christmas movie list. But instead of your typical Yuletide film fare like It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and How the Grinch Stole Christmas I decided to choose some non-traditional flicks set during this holly jolly time.
And I also thought it would be fun to include three of my fellow Trinidadian film critics; we call ourselves the Trini Critics League, so adorable. So joining me (Julien) for this momentous collaboration are regular collaborator Sommerleigh from Moviejunkies (her horror film lists are the bomb digetty), and first timers Matthew from ¿Waz D Scene? and Wayne from Rock N Reviews. Here are Five Non-traditional Christmas Movies. Ho ho ho and let’s go:
#1 Die Hard (1988) by Julien from Redmangoreviews
Fine it may be an obvious choice but man is it a good one. Nothing says Christmas cheer like watching John McClane (Bruce Willis) blow away European thieves with a machine gun and beating them bloody like an undercooked Christmas ham. The original Die Hard is also one of the greatest action movies of all time. Unlike other action heroes of the 1980s like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger Willis’ McClane was no muscle bound beefcake (this was the goofy guy from “Moonlighting”) but an every man cop who found himself in a horrible situation. As a hero he is likable, witty, vulnerable and most of all relatable.
McClane goes up against a group of robbers posing as terrorists led by Hans Gruber, who is brought to life brilliantly by the late Alan Rickman. The plot is tight, the action is breathtaking and the scenes and dialogue iconic. There were many Die Hard imitators but none have ever recaptured the Christmas Eve action magic of the original. And watching Gruber fall to his doom this holiday will surely make your heart grow twice its size.
#2 Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) by Matthew from ¿Waz D Scene?
From Finnish director/screenwriter Jalmari Helander, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale tells the story of Pietari (Onni Tommila), a Lapland boy who was brought up on the folk tale of Santa Claus (in this case, a monstrous being who kidnapped naughty children and killed them). Oh, it gets better from there! Centuries ago, villagers tricked Santa onto a freezing lake, and afterwards, a giant block of ice (with Santa’s body) was buried deep beneath a gigantic mound.
Thanks to an American research team doing excavation work at that same mound, Santa Claus (apparently) is freed from his icy tomb and proceeds to target the naughty kids of the area. Now it’s up to Pietari and his father Rauno (Jorma Tommila) to hunt Santa and stop him before it’s too late.
Take the origin story of Santa Claus, add it with elements from The Thing (the John Carpenter version) and you have one of the most unique films centered on the Yuletide season. The beauty of this movie – apart from its BEAUTIFUL wintry cinematography – is the way Jalmari Helander uses his outlandish premise to create a clever parody of the horror movie genre. The acting, music, tone and pace of Rare Exports play out like a serious horror flick, but at no point in time does the movie stop to remind the audience that “Hey, we’re not ACTUALLY being serious here”.
While not as gory as you might expect from a R-rated movie about an evil Santa Claus (with the exception of one scene that will make reindeer lovers squirm in their seats. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale still makes for recommended Christmas viewing, especially for those who’ve seen Miracle on 34th Street, The Santa Clause and other family-friendly, Santa Claus-centered movies one too many times.
#3 Better Watch Out (2017) by Sommerleigh from Moviejunkies
I recommend going into this one, without knowing anything about it, as the reveal is a doozy! Better Watch Out was released this year and it follows a babysitter who gets more than she bargains for as she defends a twelve year-old boy from a home invasion during the Yuletide season. It’s a little bit Home Alone and a lot Psycho and manages to keep the tension cranked up as this thriller unfolds. I enjoyed it so much, I’m asking Santa to bring me a sequel next year!
#4 Black Mirror episode White Christmas (2014) by Wayne from Rock ‘N’ Reviews
My guess is that when Julien asked me to be a part of this collaboration he expected that my pick for a non-traditional Christmas movie would be something humourous and light, like a Shane Black film or Better Off Dead. Imagine his surprise when he reads this and discovers the plot twist! Though not exactly a movie (although with its 74-minute run-time, it’s not exactly a stretch to call it feature length), I can’t think of anything more non-traditional than Black Mirror’s one-off special, White Christmas.
Equal parts dreary, bleak and utterly hopeless, White Christmas evokes the exact opposite of the warm, cheery feelings often associated with the holiday season. In it we’re introduced to Matt and Joe, two men of undisclosed professions, who are stationed at a remote cabin outpost in the middle of heavy snowfall.
It is Christmas Day and Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” (oooooh, foreshadowing) plays on the radio. The two men have been stationed together for five years, but have never spoken about their pasts or the series of events that brought them to their current state. With Joe still being reluctant to open up, Matt, played by the always-charming-with-just-a-hint-of-malice Jon Hamm (Mad Men), tells his story first and this catapults us into what is arguably one of Black Mirror’s most chilling and haunting tales.
It doesn’t stop there though. For the first time, we’re treated to three separate stories in one episode, and much like what happened when I binged-watched Season 3 of this very Series on Netflix in one day, it will leave you broken, empty and yearning for human comfort. You know, like every Christmas!
All the Black Mirror conventions are present in full force. Dark twists on emerging technologies that warp and distort humanity. Clever, subtle puns (cookies at Christmas anyone?). Protagonists who make you root for them, yet arouse your suspicions as to their true motivations. And of course, those final, soul-crushing twists, that leave you feeling hollow but somehow craving more. So, this Christmas, forget happy go-lucky elves and murderous pre-teens preventing a home invasion. Make a hot beverage (trust me you’ll need it), bundle up in front the television, hug a pillow (you’ll need this too) and put on White Christmas. At the very least, it will make every other Christmas special feel that much more special.
#5 Gremlins (1984) by Julien from Redmangoreviews
Yes I am doing two films on this list. What, it’s my site. Anywho my second choice and the final non-traditional Christmas flick is Gremlins. Now I chose this one because on the surface it looks like a cute Christmas adventure with an adorable mascot in the Mogwai Gizmo facing off against some mischievous Gremlin baddies. But this movie is dark, somewhat disturbing and probably had younger viewers hiding under their seats in the cinema. Some folks were so miffed that, along with the also dark Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins led to the creation of the PG-13 rating.
While its sequel is a sci-fi comedy with horror elements the original Gremlins is a horror film with comedy, fantasy elements. And like a Gremlin in a blender it wonderfully mixes together fantastical whimsy, black comedy and jump scares. Which is pretty much every family’s Christmas get together.
Well that’s our list. I would like to thank my three guest reviewers and I do hope you will check out some of our suggestions this holiday season. Here are some links for the Facebook and YouTube pages of Trini Critics League members. If you like what you see do like/subscribe for more: