Four Geek-flavored Holiday films
There are films that are staples of the holiday season, A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life and A Miracle on 34th Street all come readily to mind. However, there are films that reflect both classic holiday themes, as well as the sensibilities of an ever growing geek population. People whose tastes runs a bit askew to the normal yuletide story lines and prefer something different. If you enjoy things like monsters, superheroes, and 80’s violence, you might pour yourself a cup of eggnog (if you’re of age, don’t forget the bourbon) and consider some of these more off-beat Christmas classics.
Gremlins (1984), Director: Joe Dante
When a young man is given the gift of a small, exotic pet. There are just three rules regarding his new gift: don’t get it wet, don’t ever feed it after midnight, and don’t ever expose it to sunlight. As the rules get broken, one by one, we see a town get invaded by reptilian creatures with a taste for carnage, alcohol, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It’s a Wonderful Life meets a 1950’s invasion film is the perfect way to describe Joe Dante’s classic film Gremlins. All of the hallmarks of the Capra classic are there; the family with money troubles, the vindictive, rich old lady, and the little hamlet of Kingston Falls. However, these classic ingredients are somehow made better by the inclusion of murderous little monsters. When we see Mrs. Peltzer get taunted and attacked in the kitchen by the Gremlins, in the most terrifying scene of the movie, we finally understand why we can’t have nice things.
Batman Returns (1992), Director: Tim Burton
You either love this film or hate it, but there’s no denying the design and winter setting of the film. The Gotham City we see in Batman Returns is a fascist snow globe, populated not just by costumed vigilantes, but by gatling gun-toting organ grinders and skeleton clad motorcycle gangs. Batman Returns is a amalgam of Citizen Kane, It’s a Wonderful Life, and an operatic tragedy. The three main villains (Penguin, Catwoman, and Max Shrek) all represent portions of Batman’s psyche, forcing him to examine each part of himself and reflect of the life he wants and why he does what he does. The final scene of this film is my favorite of all the Batman movies before or since; Bruce packing up a stray cat and being driven away by Alfred in the snow, framed by the nightmarish architecture of the city he has sworn to protect.
Die Hard (1988) Director: John McTiernan
Die Hard tells the story of an altruistic public servant who sacrifices his body for his fellow man, in hopes of defeating the forces of darkness… kind of. No, it’s not Jesus, it’s officer John McClane (Bruce Willis)! Look, other than taking place during the holiday season, Die Hard has very little to do with Christmas. First of all, it takes place in Los Angeles, not a setting one thinks of when you think of the holiday season. Secondly, it’s all about a hostage situation. This however doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s one of the best 80’s action films ever created. When New York policeman, John McClane travels to Los Angeles to visit his estranged wife during her corporate Christmas party, things are heading toward reconciliation. Unfortunately for John, German terrorist Hans Gruber shows up and takes everyone hostage. McClane has to rely on his police training, disregard for human life, and love of western cinema to save his wife and what remains of her coworkers. Yippy ki-yi-yay indeed.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Director: Henry Selick
Do you watch The Nightmare Before Christmas during Halloween or Christmas? Both? The answer is both. Based off of the Tim Burton children’s book, this Henry Selick-directed masterpiece tells the tale of Jack Skellington, the annual Halloween party planner for a world of monsters. After years of the same celebration, Jack makes an unplanned trip to a Christmas-themed world, giving him new inspiration. Wanting to inject some freshness into his holiday, Jack decides to bring his own brand of Christmas cheer to the masses by taking over for “Sandy Claws”. This film is a perfect mix of the macabre and cheerful, delivering not just brilliant animation, but gorgeously composed music. The Nightmare Before Christmas is an all ages film for those who prefer werewolves and vampires to elves and reindeer.
Did we forget any of your favorite geeky Christmas movies? Let us know in the comments.