I actually LOVE Christmas, or I would if it ever lived up to expectations.
Everyone else seems to be having such a great time, with their well-behaved children who simply want a hand-carved wooden toy and a five shilling book token in their stocking. Unlike my ungrateful wretches, the youngest of whom told a charity Santa last year that he wanted £1,000 and a car.
All that present buying is expensive, especially if you use my “one for them, one for me” approach; and it’s often exhausting, baking festive masterpieces at all hours to make your friends feel inadequate when you post them on Instagram.
So put the little rotters to bed (it’s bedtime somewhere in the world), pour yourself a pint of wine, eat their chocolate advent calendars and replace the contents with mini breadsticks, then check out my Bar Humbug movie reviews.
And just to prove I’m not entirely evil, scroll down for a few links to some scarily cheery Christmas films. Well, you might as well know what the enemy is up to.
Merry Christmas, misanthropes!
Why John Wick Is The Ultimate Alt-Christmas Movie – Forget Die Hard. This has those gold coins you get in net bags for a quid, family arguments, a middle-aged guy going clubbing once a year, a puppy given as an unexpected gift (WHAT!), and a massive snowflake.
Rare Exports – A Christmas Tale – (4.5 stars) an unnerving, funny and quirky Santa Origins story set on the border of Finland and Russia. What’s Santa Claus really like? Well imagine Krampus but with all the nice bits taken out. Plus a herd of naked marauding elves who look like they should be in ZZ Top tribute bands.
A Bad Moms Christmas – (2.5 stars) Not the best Christmas film ever, but at least you get to see you’re not the only parent with a homemade decoration that looks like poop hanging every year at the back of the tree.
There’s a countdown, and I’ll admit that by the time they got to two days before Christmas I was ready to go home and start peeling sprouts. Still, Kathryn Hahn is fabulous and the grandmas are a hoot – even if no one drinks enough.
The Ref – (4 stars) a warring family ruin the Christmas of a poor jewellery thief who’s taken them hostage in a movie that’s rude, loud, funny – and (apart from the home invasion by a gun-toting jewellery thief bit), pretty realistic about relatives and Christmas.
Office Christmas Party – (3 stars) a funny but patchy adult comedy that offers more than it delivers, though to be fair it does deliver a drunk office worker 3D-printing his dick.
Black Christmas – (4 stars) THE ORIGINAL! And a horror classic, as a killer calls the young women in a sorority from inside the house…
One of the first slasher films and something of a period piece, though an influential one – this is still an unsettling and effective festive horror. Enjoy it now while people still know what a dial telephone is.
A Christmas Horror Story – (4 stars) an underrated movie that is, strictly speaking, four interwoven Christmas horror stories. And all happening to the rather unfortunate residents of Bailey Downs, a town so riven with terrifying goings on that having William Shatner as their local radio DJ is the least of their worries.
Unlike beautifully wrapped stocking gifts that turn out to be socks and pants (yes I am that mum), this festive horror delivers considerably more than it promises. The last of the four linked stories is melancholy, brutal and very chilling – and that’s the one about Santa!
Bad Santa – (4 stars) it’s 14 years old but how many nicely matured 14 year olds do you know? Exactly. Still a sweary shagathon with some properly alcoholic Christmas spirit thrown in, this film about a misanthropic safe-cracking career criminal Santa who forges a genuine if still sweary friendship with a lonely boy, is one of the delights of any festive season.
Bad Santa 2 – (1.5 stars) ten years on from the darkly funny yet rather uplifting original, this sequel is a bad-tempered misery fest which laughs at the weaker or less privileged. Which, if I were more of a chin-stroker, I would suggest is much like society now.
Still, you get Kathy Bates as Willie’s mom, and Willie shagging Christina Hendricks up an alley (and no that’s not a euphemism).
Krampus – (3.5 stars) Comedy horror where a dysfunctional family are menaced by Krampus the “Shadow of Christmas” and his hoards of evil elves. It’s not that scary (I’m more worried about missing the last posting day for Christmas cards) but Krampus and his murderous gingerbread men are fun. Watch after losing your own Christmas Spirit: when you’ve run out of sellotape while wrapping presents and then realise someone’s eaten all the purple ones out of the Quality Street.
If you must, here’s some proper festive cheer
Just don’t blame me if you start wishing people a Merry Christmas and meaning it, or paying carollers to sing rather than to go away.
The Man Who Invented Christmas – (4 stars) Beautiful and darkly festive. Dan Stevens’ Charles Dickens is prone to bah humbug himself, with six weeks to write A Christmas Carol. Victorian London is bustling and clean; Plummer’s Scrooge dour and mocking; gratifyingly, ordinary people are assumed to be well-read.
Last Christmas – (2.5 stars) based on the Wham! song Last Christmas, literally. An elf gets ghosted, and I haven’t the heart to say anything more.
Klaus – (4 stars) Gorgeous to look at, clever and funny, with a sometimes dark wit that’s suitable for all ages. But that’s enough about me.
This is a Santa Claus origins story, and surely destined to become a Christmas classic – as lonely woodsman Klaus’s unshakeable belief that “a true selfless act always sparks another” combines with postman Jesper’s initially self-interested promotion of letter-writing to create the Santa Claus legend we all wish was real.
The Muppet Christmas Carol – (4 stars) A remarkably faithful adaptation with a classy straight man and a dark side. Plus jokes galore – whoever felt it was appropriate to use Rizzo as a pair of bellows to get the fire going deserves an extra helping of plum pudding.
The Knight Before Christmas – (3 stars) there’s a medieval knight, who ends up in present day Ohio, before Christmas. So if nothing else it does what it says on the tin. This is romantic, witty and sincere, with an occasional sharpness to offset the festive syrup. There’s even a bread dough kneading scene, like Ghost for Nigella fans.
The Christmas Chronicles – (3 stars) Kurt Russell IS Santa. He’s old yet modern, and, dare I say it, hot? Clad in a long red leather coat, with a huge grey beard and hair so big and bouncy it wouldn’t look out of place on a 1980s Dynasty matriarch, he works out daily to stop all those free cookies taking their toll. When two children stow away in his sleigh and cause it to crash and the reindeer to go AWOL, it’s a race against time to save Christmas.
A Reindeer’s Journey – (3.5 stars) part informative documentary, part anthropomorphic family film, this story about the first year in a reindeer calf’s life is a captivating and stunningly beautiful journey, as little Aïlo grows up in the ancient forests and mountains of Lapland.
The Night Before – (3.5 stars) Three friends on their final Christmas Eve night out take drugs, have sex in toilets, spoil a Midnight Mass service and finally – FINALLY – make it to the near-mythical Nutcracker Ball. Of course, on the way they work out what Christmas, and friendship, is really about. A little patchy but with some great jokes and epic Christmas jumpers.