This Saturday, on Christmas Day, the Tower Theatre opens Rare Exports, a dark Finnish horror comedy about what happens when a scientific expedition uncovers Santa Claus frozen in ice -- and he's not particularly jolly once thawed out. In that spirit, here are a few lesser-known cinematic attempts to shift the tone of the holidays.
Black Christmas (1974): Before director Bob Clark made the iconic A Christmas Story, he made a somewhat less nostalgic holiday treat. In this little stocking-stuffer, the residents of a sorority house on holiday break start getting alarming phone calls, and then start disappearing. Is it the boyfriend of the girl who's considering getting an abortion? Or is it a psycho who's living in the sorority house's attic? This was a "slasher film" before the term even existed, but with a few more creepy complications beyond the fact that it doesn't make every female victim a ho-ho-ho'.
Christmas Evil (aka You Better Watch Out) (1980): Young Harry didn't just see Mommy kissing Santa Claus; he saw Mommy having sex with Santa Claus. And as a result, he develops some fairly unhealthy ideas about perpetuating the Santa myth. Long before Billy Bob Thornton put on the suit to be a Bad Santa, here was an even worse one.
Gremlins and Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984): Yes, 1984 was a banner year for those who prefer to have themselves a scary little Christmas. Joe Dante's creature-feature was more mainstream, but it delighted in skewering sacred holiday cows: the possibility that your gift might kill you; Santa as the victim of a vicious attack; the worst way possible to find out that there's no Santa Claus. In the latter, a kid is traumatized even more by a childhood vision of Santa than in Christmas Evil: He sees a guy in a red suit murder his parents, leading him to a similar homicidal path. Yes indeed, it was morning in America in 1984 ...
Santa's Slay (2005): What if Santa wasn't really a kindly eternal spirit, but in fact a demon who had only been doing good because of losing a bet with an angel? And what would that pissed-off demon do when the deal was no longer valid? And what if the supernaturally evil St. Nick in question was played by pro wrestler Goldberg? And what if -- in one of the many bits of priceless hilarity -- the fate of Christmas throughout time hinged on the results of a pair of curling matches? Here's one for when you want your chestnuts roasting on an open hellfire.