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The Pomegranate

The Student News Site of Granada High School

The Pomegranate

The Student News Site of Granada High School

The Pomegranate

Grabbing Life by the Horns

Bored of “It’s A Wonderful Life”? Here Are 7 Odd Christmas Cult Classics

Looking for a cheerful Christmas film to watch by a fireplace? One that reminds you of the magic in the world, and puts you in the holiday spirit? Well, this may not be the list for you.

The movies presented here are alternative takes on classic Christmas iconography, beyond even debatable Christmas classics like Die Hard. If you want some odd Christmas flicks to throw into your holiday rotation, then you’ve come to the right place.

Black Christmas (1974) Olivia Hussey – Warner Bros. Pictures. Dir. Bob Clark

Black Christmas (1974)

The late, great Bob Clark directed two Christmas movies over his career and they could not be further apart: Black Christmas (1974) and A Christmas Story (1983). The first of which is an absolutely brutal 70s slasher flick, and is considered by many film historians to be the first slasher movie ever made, pioneering the tropes that most people know from Halloween (1978). Final girl, stalker, sorority house, all of the now generic hallmarks. 

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Despite being copied endlessly and losing a lot of its innovation as a result, the film still works very well for several reasons. The greatest part of the film is undoubtedly the villain, who I will avoid saying anything about for the sake of not spoiling anything. The film has surprisingly great acting on the part of the female leads, and the ending is great. The film has seen much modern reinterpretation as a surprisingly feminist horror picture, including female characters with more development and agency than most horror films, a reproductive rights plotline, and casual misogyny rampant in society. Above all else, Black Christmas is a great Halloween watch and a great Christmas watch. This is a Christmas movie that’s sure to ruin everyone’s time… but in a good way.

Gremlins (1984). Warner Bros. Pictures. Dir. Joe Dante.

Gremlins (1984)

This critical and commercial box office smash is most known today for, along with executive producer Steven Spielberg’s own Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), being one of the key reasons we have the PG-13 rating today, its memorable third act bursting at the seams with brash depictions of over-the-top comic violence in a movie otherwise appropriate for all ages… which is what makes the film so much fun. Directed by Joe Dante, the film follows a man who receives an adorably strange Christmas present for his son. The mystical creature has 3 rules to take care of, which, of course, cause chaos when broken.

The film, like almost all of Dante’s work, is a send-up of 50s B-movies with the humor and tone from transgressive 60s and 70s films. Along with the mean-spirited tone, the Christmas setting lends a unique vibe to the film which expands upon both its twisted fairy tale vibe and its satire of Western consumerism. Gremlins is also great because of all of the Joe Dante-isms present throughout, with tons of background gags that make the film infinitely rewatchable. Even without them, Gremlins is one of the most creative films of the 80s, and a fantastic madcap black comedy. Check it out, along with Joe Dante’s other films, and its underrated sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

Santa Claus (1959) José Elías Moreno and José Luis Aguirre ‘Trotsky’ – K. Gordon Murray Presents. Dir. René Cardona

Santa Claus (1959)

The 1959 Mexican fantasy film Santa Claus should not and could not at any point be mistaken for anything resembling a good film. However, that is what makes it such an enduring classic of the “so bad it’s good” ilk. Surreal, unconventional, borderline unintelligible, but very very fun. Making a film so terrible and strange that what was supposed to be a whimsical children’s film is categorized by Google as “Fantasy/Horror” is an accomplishment in and of itself. If watching something like this isn’t your kind of thing, try checking out the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode where they watch this film. Hopefully, at some point, we as a society will be able to accept that any movie where Santa Claus fights the devil is a masterpiece.

Edward Scissorhands (1990) Johnny Depp – 20th Century Studios, Inc. Dir. Tim Burton

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

While Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are both controversial figures, it’s hard to deny the sheer beauty of their first collaboration, Edward Scissorhands. Even before the film shifts to Christmas Day, the film is already a strange but fitting film to watch around Yuletide. A bizarre concept, an unfinished science experiment with scissor blades in place of fingers (Depp) is taken in by a suburban family. 

The Academy Award-nominated film’s most recognizable trait is the blending of gothic imagery with American suburbia. The film grounds its bizarre conceit with a warm humanity and simple, humble beauty. A retelling of Frankenstein? A tragic romance? A bizarre comedy? An empathetic art film? Edward Scissorhands is all of this and more. It is such a silly story to turn into a tearjerker, but a tearjerker nonetheless.

The War of the Roses (1989) Michael Douglas – 20th Century Studios, Inc. Dir. Danny DeVito

The War of the Roses (1989)


Between this and Trading Places, The War of the Roses is the better-aged 80s Christmas black comedy. This is about as funny, dark, and disturbing as American black comedies get. After 17 years of marriage, Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas want out. In Roses, Christmas isn’t about family, sharing, or the birth of Jesus — it’s about the over-consumption, the materialism, and the bubbling hate and anger between couples. The film’s inherent fun comes in watching two entitled, selfish members of the elite destroy everything around them, both literally and figuratively. The film also features Danny DeVito in a lead role, who also directed the film with many distorted camera angles. While this is only the second-best twisted film about a marriage falling apart leading to a larger discussion on misogyny and love, it is worth a watch for fans of black comedy.

Brazil (1985) – Universal City Studios LLC, Dir. Terry Gilliam

Brazil (1985)

It’s hard to describe the satirical, surreal beauty of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil in just words. Considered by the British Film Institute and Time Out to be one of the greatest British films of all time. Terry Gilliam’s science fiction film is intensely political but is also hilarious and incredibly inventive. The black comedy portrays capitalism, consumerism, bureaucracy, hyper-surveillance, pollution, and totalitarianism in ways that only become more and more relevant each year. To say anything else would be to ruin one of the most audacious and inspired films of the 80s, and what is quite possibly the ultimate anti-Christmas movie.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) Tom Cruise – Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Dir. Stanley Kubrick

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

The final film from legendary director Stanely Kubrick is one of his darkest and most mysterious (and given his filmography, that’s saying a lot). Soured only by some truly, unfortunately, bad lead performances from Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Eyes Wide Shut is one of the most monumental accomplishments in the history of American cinema. Shot over 400 days, the film holds the Guinness World Record for longest continuous film shoot, and that’s mostly due to Kubrick’s infamous perfectionism on sets. The acclaimed director considered it to be his “greatest contribution to the art of cinema”. The film takes place during the holiday season, rendering the whole experience with a surreal, cozy feeling, which only feels more bizarre as the characters descend down a disturbing rabbit hole.

The film is a chilling psychological mystery set in 90s New York, an unflinchingly subversive and strange film, made on a huge scale, starring two of Hollywood’s biggest stars at the time. The film is not for young audiences and embodies a less appealing side of Christmas, but it is nonetheless a cold, quiet, uncomfortable masterpiece commentary on gender politics and class.

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    Jacob ManningDec 11, 2023 at 12:58 pm

    fantastic article, broseph. your opinions are right