What happens if you let the director of the outstanding Trick R’ Treat loose on Christmas? The answer is the delightfully dark Krampus of 2015. A film that revels in the European folklore of St Nicholas and the Krampus while layering it with Gremlins and Poltergeist inspired horror. The family home, invaded by fantastical creatures ranging from spooky and sinister elves to killer gingerbread men, as Christmas becomes a matter of life and death. But, aside from its devilishly brilliant visuals and engaging narrative, Krampus is also a delightful celebration of Christmas. The film’s central themes of faith, family conflict and commercialism astutely weaved into the comic book horror that ensues. While at the same time providing us with a journey embedded in the folklore of Christmas as a festival of light in the cold depths of darkness.
Director: Michael Dougherty
Batman Returns (1992)
Batman Returns remains one of the most underrated comic book films of the past 25 years. One that saw Tim Burton delve even deeper into the gothic fairytale horror of his Gotham. At the same time, bringing together the Bat, the Cat and the Penguin for a nightmare Christmas in DC Comics darkest city. With Keaton building on his debut outing as the Batman. While also relishing the opportunity to play alongside Pfeiffer’s psychotic yet sensual Catwomen and DeVito’s damaged and dangerous Penguin. The resulting movie is pure comic book fantasy joy, as Gotham’s Christmas lights sparkle against the darkness of Burton’s vision.
Batmans 1992 return is Tim Burton with the gloves off, dovetailing his trademark for gothic fairytales with the action of the first Batman outing. In effect, creating a comic book Christmas adventure full of bite as Burton’s universe expands and develops. However, unfortunately, Batman Returns proved too dark for some at Warner Brothers. The 1992 movie sadly marked the end of Keaton, Pfeiffer and Burton’s involvement in the franchise. But if you’ve got a go. Go in style.
Director: Tim Burton
Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard was released mid-summer of 1988, a world away from the Christmas season it represented. However, Die Hard is a Christmas movie through and through. Its testosterone-fuelled action, giving us all the opportunity to slump on the sofa with a drink, some leftover turkey and a perfect slice of 1980s bombastic action.
Die Hard is pure muscles, vests and Shakespearian terrorists in all of their overblown glory. The sweat-soaked figure of Bruce Willis, nothing more than an overgrown boy scout thrown into a world of counter-terror. Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ ringing in our ears through a haze of blood, gunfire and explosions. Meanwhile, the late, great Alan Rickman brings his trademark Shakespearean villainy to Hans Gruber. The bright lights and capitalism of the ‘Nakatomi Plaza building’ engulfed in a wave of terror. The result is a movie full of dark holiday cheer, as the works Christmas party turns to a disaster zone. The 80’s obsession with the Filofax wielding and cocaine sniffing yuppy, replaced by guns, one-liners and explosives.
Director: John McTiernan
Like so many other films on our list, Gremlins had its worldwide premiere in the height of summer. But make no mistake, this is pure Christmas comic book horror. The dangers of buying cuddly creatures for your children during the festive season lay bare as Billy’s new pet, ‘Gizmo,’ gives birth to bloody anarchy. The Christmas holiday’s turning from ‘Joy to the World’ to ‘Danse Macabre’ as Gremlins run rampant through Kingston Falls.
It would be easy to label Gremlins as a simple creature horror movie. But there are also more profound social messages within the comic book carnage, from the dangers of rampant consumerism to American fears of foreign powers and technology. Meanwhile, surrounding this is the dark truth that Christmas is not always the happiest time of the year. A theme vividly brought to life when Billy’s girlfriend (Phoebe Cates) recounts the story of her father’s unfortunate death. A story that takes Gremlins from comic book to mainstream horror before the anarchy starts again.
Director: Joe Dante