Christmas brings about the best and, more often, worst in mankind. Hollywood knows this, especially Shane Black, who seems to set every film of his somewhere in or around Jesus’ alleged birthday.
For what are becoming increasingly dark days, I've compiled a list of what I think are the most physically brutal Christmas-related films, those that undermine and expose what Christmas is truly a symbol of: rampant capitalism in a barbaric country.
Now, for this particular list, I excluded some extremely bleak Christmas films, such as It's A Wonderful Life and Scrooged, as well as psychosexual pictures like Kubrick's wildly underrated Eyes Wide Shut, because they aren't really violent enough, though they delve into somewhat similarly dark, adult territory.
For my Jewish friends out there, I apologize on behalf of all of Hollywood that there are not more ultraviolent Hanukkah movies. Please consult The Hebrew Hammer.
10. Krampus (2015)
This film from last year isn't perfect, but it does a really effective job of realizing its titular monster, the Krampus, one of Germany's most ghoulish and genuinely frightening characters in its extremely bleak mythological history.
9. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
This low-budget slasher flick is pure VHS dollar-bin trash in all the right ways: It flips St. Nick into a murdering Jason Voorhies knockoff. Bonus points for how absolutely on-the-nose it all is. See also: Don't Open Til Christmas, also from ’84.
8. Jack Frost (1996)
A wise-crackin' evil snowman terrorizes a small town called Snomonton (no joke) after a truck carrying a serial killer crashes into “a genetics truck,” whatever the fuck that is. This is pure cinematic filth of the highest order. All jokes aside, I truly appreciate how unafraid this movie is of sucking. Apparently there's a letterbox version, which somehow makes it seem classy.
7. Santa Claus (1959)
This Mexican production from the ’50s is technically a cheat because there is little literal violence. I'd argue the violence takes place in your mind, as its portrayal of the power struggles between Santa and Lucifer (and Merlin the magician, natch) are the stuff of nightmares. It's as if someone found a way to make It's a Small World even scarier. This is the entire movie streaming above, BTW.
6. Die Hard (1988)
Part of the reason this is one of the best action movies ever is its attention to character and what a lovable (arguably) sleazeball Bruce Willis is capable of embodying. Its weaving in of the Christmas setting with all the terrorist shoot-’em-up-bad guy stuff is so artful that it naturally inspired a wave of chintzy knockoffs. And it's a good example of the N.Y. tough guy in L.A. subgenre, too. Pour one out for Alan Rickman.
5. Every Home Alone Movie
Kevin McCallister —what a piece of shit. Have you heard the theory that he grows up to be the villain from Saw? Home Alone is a horror movie for kids wherein a spoiled brat from the Chicago ’burbs gets to physically and psychologically torture a couple of petty thieves because reverse class warfare. Kids plus Three Stooges–style violence plus Christmas equals box office gold.
4. American Psycho (1999)
American Psycho is another perfect movie to watch in 2016, seeing as we've cycled back to the early ’80s and are about to repeat that dismal decade when it comes to the economy and loads of bad policy. While Psycho doesn't lean too heavily into the Christmas shenanigans, it certainly nails the ultraviolent nihilism that is the diametric opposite of what the holiday spirit is all about. The Patrick Batemans of the world are back in charge (as if they ever weren’t), and we should all be very, very afraid.
3. Black Christmas (1974)
Black Christmas is an important early slasher film about a maniac who goes HAM on a house full of sorority sisters over the winter break. John Saxon (the actor who played Nancy’s dad in the original and third Nightmare on Elm Street) plays a cop in this one, too. Remade (poorly) in 2006.
2. A Christmas Story (1983)
This film is on the Library of Congress’ Registry and rightfully so (though our No. 1 pick deserves this distinction as well). It perfectly encapsulates the brutality of childhood in a way that is somehow romantic and brutally honest by the same stroke. It doesn't have a high body count or anything, but man, is it dripping with pain. Fun fact: Little Scotty Schwartz, the kid who got his tongue stuck on the frosty pole, grew up to be a very unimpressive porn actor.
1. Gremlins (1984)
Could it be anything else? Gremlins and its superbly subversive sequel are canon. And Joe Dante is one of our great underrated directors working within the studio system. Never has a movie been able to hit the despair and angst that Christmas brings while delivering a gleefully violent and sly satire of Reaganomics in “the Real America.” Let us make a sacrifice to the movie studio gods so that these wonderful movies never get rebooted or sequeled into oblivion.
Honorable mentions: Bad Santa, Scrooged, L.A. Confidential, End of Days, Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang