Bah, humbug! For some people, the Christmas season conjures up visions of sugarplums and Santa Claus and peace on Earth — but you're not one of those people. For you, Christmas is a uniquely unpleasant time of year, where you can't so much as go out to buy milk without having to fight your way through gift-obsessed crowds, or have to listen to yet another blowhard politician make "Merry Christmas!" into a kind of culture-wars battle cry. If the season's crass commercialism and forced good cheer make you want to see just how flammable a Christmas tree can be, these movies can feed your inner Scrooge instead.
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You may be familiar with the Krampus: a Germanic goat demon who acts as kind of a counterpart to Santa Claus, punishing bad children instead of rewarding good ones. In Michael Dougherty's Krampus, Tom Engel (Adam Scott) has to oversee his dysfunctional family, who have arrived at his home for the holidays. Tom's family doesn't have much in the way of Christmas spirit, though, which acts as the perfect lure for the Krampus. Their antics as they try to evade the creature make for an agreeable comedy-horror film, and the body count should satisfy any Christmas-induced bloodlust.
There's something about Shane Black and Christmas movies. Between In Bruges, Iron Man 3 and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, he's used the holiday as a backdrop often enough. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang stars Robert Downey Jr. as Harry Lockhart: a small-time crook whose botched Christmas robbery might be just what he needs to kickstart his acting career. Like Black's other movies, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is part crime thriller, part dark comedy, and a whole lot more watchable than listening to overly sincere families blather on about the true meaning of Christmas.
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Christmas seems to bring out the wisecracking criminal in all of us. The Ice Harvest (directed by Harold Ramis) features John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton as Charlie Arglist and Vic Cavanaugh, respectively. Arglist is a lawyer for the mob; Cavanaugh is a smut peddler. Together, they've stolen $2 million from some very bad guys, just in time to celebrate Christmas. A series of double-crosses and back stabbings put the two in constant danger, but there's something undeniably charming about the film's bizarre situations and witty banter. The ending, while satisfying, is anything but heartwarming, though.
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If Christmas inspires feelings of nihilism and apathy for you, Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa has your back. Nothing is sacred in this dark comedy heist film, which stars Billy Bob Thornton as Willie T. Soke. Each year, Soke gets a job as a mall Santa Claus, then robs his employer blind, and this year's score might be his biggest yet. Full of foul language, lurid sex and shattered dreams, Bad Santa is nonetheless darkly reassuring: It's willing to be just as irreverent about Christmas as you are. Fun fact: The Coen brothers served as executive producers on the film, and even had a hand in rewriting the script. (Which makes sense.)
Listen up, fellow Hebrews and Shebrews. We may not have many Hanukkah movies to call our own, but at least The Hebrew Hammer (directed by Jonathan Kesselman) is a treat for Jews and Gentiles alike. Mordechai Jefferson Carver (Adam Goldberg) is the Hebrew Hammer: a secret agent tasked with taking down anti-Semitism all around the globe. In the film, Santa Claus is a friend to the Jews — until he's murdered and replaced by his villainous son (Andy Dick, of course). Now, the Hammer must save both Hanukkah and Kwanzaa (just roll with it) from an evil Saint Nick.L'chaim!
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Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (directed by Nicholas Webster) is that special brand of mid-'60s kitsch that's enjoyable only if you make fun of it. Enter Mystery Science Theater 3000: a show dedicated to making fun of chintzy old B-movies. Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson) and his two robot buddies leave their good will toward men at the door, then strap in and roast the flick for 2 hours. In the film, Martians kidnap Santa Claus and force him to create toys for their underprivileged children. If Christmas leaves you in a snarky mood, this is a pretty controlled way to get your frustrations out.
All Christmas movies are melodramatic tearjerkers about the wholesome magic of the season, right? Batman Returns begs to differ. Tim Burton's second Batman film is melodramatic, sure, but beyond that, it's an over-the-top, action-packed superhero romp, full of skintight catsuits, groan-worthy puns, and a surprising amount of mayhem and murder. Batman (Michael Keaton) squares off against Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and the Penguin (Danny DeVito) in order to save Gotham City from a Christmastime killing spree. Arguably the weirdest of the Caped Crusader's films, Batman Returns is dark, sexy, violent — and about the furthest thing you can imagine from a cheerful holiday classic.
Credit: Warner Bros