Patrick Freyne: Home alone? Here’s a few scary movies for Christmas
These festive classics seem innocent, but they hide a darker, more disturbing message
A Muppet Christmas Carol: What the dickens is going on?
Apparently, as well as shouty Brexit end-times, Christmas is happening. Here are some classic Christmas films to watch, lest you feel insufficiently Christmassy due to Britain being on fire next door.
In a Ken Loach version of this film social services would certainly get involved in a heartrending third act. However, the Chris Columbus original is set in America where everything is broken. So the scriptwriters instead play Kevin’s abandonment by his feckless parents for laughs and invite us to cheer on as this damaged, lonely child proceeds to inflict life-changing injuries on two vagrants who gain entry to his home.
Key themes: property rights; childcare tips; pain management; libertarianism.
Hard-bitten cop John McClane gatecrashes his estranged wife’s office Christmas party in a skyscraper only to find that it has been overrun by terrorists. “Terrorists!” mutters McClane, for they are the bane of his life. He’s like sugar to them, those terrorists. Anyway, he takes his shoes off, puts on a vest and starts yelling, much like your da.
The terrorists are admirably diverse, so their leader Hans Gruber looks, in retrospect, quite progressive. Consequently, when John McClane goes on to kill members of almost every nationality, it looks problematic.
“Stop being such a ‘precious snowflake’ and eat your avocado toast,” says you.
“I will not,” says I. “I’ve written a one-man show that retells the story of Die Hard from Hans Gruber’s perspective. It’s three hours long with no interval and I’m doing it in your house on front of the television on Christmas Day. I call it Live Easy: Hans around the World.”
Key themes: skyscraper maintenance; how to spice up your marriage; how to spice up your marriage with additional murder; getting in shape for vest season.
This film should really be rereleased now with the title #MeToo the Movie. Never has a film been more upended by a changing zeitgeist. Here are some of the key plot points: A prime minister has a boundary-crossing sexual relationship with a junior employee. A man relentlessly stalks his friend’s wife. A sad widower teaches his traumatised child not to take no for an answer. Two elderly men celebrate Christmas by watching porn together. A ginger pervert goes to America as a sex tourist. Considered “romantic” in its day (ancient 2003), nowadays its evidence of why we really need consent classes.
Key themes: romance; avoiding a lawsuit; interesting roles Hugh Grant has taken; mild to severe pervery.
The Sound of Music
A singing nun who likes to spin around amid the hillsides of Austria is lured from her vocation by a grumpy old aristocrat and a melodic batch of differently sized, lederhosen-clad children. Run away, Julie Andrews! It’s a trap! She doesn’t listen. Before you know it she’s left her fulfilling job (see: warbling around hillsides) in order to be a caregiver to these large children, and the Nazis are after her. The message, really, is “leave well alone”.
Key themes: singing; fascism; the mental load.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
After a day being psychologically tortured, a golden-haired child is gifted a factory by an eccentric capitalist who literally has a top hat and cane. Meanwhile, other lesser children are scorned and, in some cases, literally disfigured. It’s the strangest documentary about chocolate production I have ever seen. However, it is still my favourite Christmas time film (I mean, Gene Wilder is in it!) and it has taught me a lot about how to flourish in a large organisation like The Irish Times.
Key themes: child labour; management theory; mentorship.
A young man visits a strange old curiosity shop where he acquires a cuddly pet that must be tended to according to bizarre rules outlined at length by a gnomic Asian stereotype. The young man and his friends break those rules, spilling water on the delightful creature and feeding its offspring after midnight, thus spawning a bunch of reptilian bastards who proceed to destroy the world in accordance with WTO trade rules. Conor Pope should really do a Pricewatch special on strange old curiosity shops run by gnomic stereotypical mystics.
Key themes: the free market; fluffy cuteness; evil lizard people; watching the world burn; what a no-deal Brexit looks like.
The Lord of the Rings
“Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings is not a Christmas movie.”
“Well, why is Santa in it, then?”
“That’s not Santa. That’s Gandalf the Grey. He’s a wizard not a magical present-delivering home-invader.”
“Well, why are Santa’s elves in it, then?”
“Those aren’t Santa’s elves. They’re just generic elves. They speak Elvish and talk to trees and occasionally ride Viggo Mortensen. ”
“Well, why is baby Jesus in it, then?”
“If you mean Gollum, I don’t think we should talk about this anymore.”
Key themes: Santa delivering presents; the nativity; the spirit of Christmas; tinsel; the Christmas star/Eye of Sauron.
Eyes Wide Shut
People tend to forget that Stanley Kubrick’s final film, the Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman-laced Eyes Wide Shut, is essentially about a big Christmas party. This is probably because of the creepy masked orgy bit, which doesn’t appear in too many other Christmas films or, indeed, too many other Christmas parties (the Irish Times Christmas party is on next week; I’ll let you know how I get on). I nonetheless still respect Kubrick’s tribute to festive fun and will be watching with my Christmas jumper and gimp mask on.
Key themes: sexual jealousy; Christmas party fun; neighbourliness.
A Muppet Christmas Carol
In a world of weird, misshapen humans and flappy-headed talking animals, a crusty old businessman (Michael Caine) manages to undergo a period of Oprah-style self-development. After being visited by the ghosts of Statler and Waldorf and Christmases past, present and future, he vows to redistribute some of his wealth to the poor. But not, I observe, to upend the social order, overhaul the tax system and initiate an anarcho-syndicalist collective. He’s basically just a Victorian Bill Gates.
Key themes: the subjugation of the working class; forestalling revolution with incremental reforms; turkey-based gluttony; puppet hi-jinks; why Tiny Tim should get a job.