Have yourself a merry little UnChristmas

By Pat Black

Posted on December 20, 2013 in Friday Favourites with tags Stephen King

Christmas is a time of feasting, fun and traditions – and our fictions tend to reflect that.

But what alternatives do we have to A Christmas Carol, The Snowman and It’s A Wonderful Life?

We take a look at some of our less-well known winter’s tales as we reach the darkest part of the year:


Die Hard

Yeah, alright, I said it, John Boy. Okay? It’s a Christmas movie. I mean, you’re not really going to take these crazy German guys on just in a vest and your bare feet, are ya, John Boy? Am I right? This is the Nakatomi Plaza, John Boy, it ain’t the mall. But if ya make fists with ya toes, I guess ya gotta kick someone in the face, right? John Boy? And there’s always Christmas wrapping tape to help ya shoot the bad guys if ya need it. Hey, John Boy, are ya there? I don’t like the look on Alan Rickman’s face. I think he –


Misery by Stephen King

Brrrr! It can get parky at this time of year. Best take care on the roads – especially if you’ve just finished your latest novel and allowed yourself a cigarette and a glass of something fizzy before getting behind the wheel.

But if your car should become upsy-daisied in the deep snow, never fear. When times get tough, there are selfless people about, ready to turn their hand towards helping those who have met with misfortune. I mean, what a stroke of luck! Imagine a nurse digging you out of the snow! Things are looking up!


The Box of Delights by John Masefield

We’re cheating a little, as John Masefield’s novel has lots of lovely traditional Christmas tones. Edwardian public schoolboy Kay Harker’s battle against Abner Brown’s wolves and foxes in a strange un-reality during the snowbound Christmas holidays is becoming a much-loved classic. This is mainly thanks to the BBC’s wonderful adaptation of the story in 1984 – certainly one of my all-time favourites as a young boy.

And yet, there’s an edge to it; even though Abner Brown’s not really a vicar, it’s hard to divorce the villain from the dog collar. And the story adheres more to the ancient, pagan things of British folklore, such as Herne the Hunter, rather than the Christian tradition. A Yuletide story with a difference.


Black Christmas

Fascinating fact: the director Bob Clark is the same guy behind the children’s classic, A Christmas Story. That movie bears little relation to this prototype slasher, preceding Halloween by a good four years. It features a crazed killer taking residence in the attic of a sorority house, stalking a young Margot Kidder and an almost impossibly beautiful Olivia Hussey. Genre hero John Saxon also makes an appearance – about a year after he had appeared with Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon.
This one is more about atmosphere than gore but the kills are horrific, while the murderer’s deranged phone calls are genuinely disturbing. Not the DVD to put on when aunty Bessie comes to visit – unless you want to get rid of her. Ho ho ho!


American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

We all love Christmas – except, ha ha, when it’s a nuisance, filled with consumerist tat and fake sentiment peddled by vapid idiots. Wall Street ripper Patrick Bateman is an unlikely counter-cultural champion, but as those Rudolph ears are slipped over his empty shell of a head by Evelyn at her annual Christmas party, we can understand how he’s feeling.

Only a little bit, mind.

Poor Patrick; he never could understand why he was so angry.


John Carpenter’s The Thing

Away from all the partying, it’s always nice to take a moment’s quiet reflection at Christmas as the snow falls. Perhaps you’ll take a wee nip of whisky before a blazing fire and kindle memories of Things past – like MacReady and Childes at the end of this complete and utter icebound masterpiece.
Oh sure, you might explode into a tentacular alien gutmonster at any moment – just not that one.
Cue the bass.


Bad Santa

Come, now: whatever your wintertime festival, there’s always a little bit of a traditionalist in us. What could be more Christmassy than a small-time criminal disguised as Santa to rip off a shopping mall in the heat of Phoenix, Arizona, with a vile Elf for a sidekick, and who ends up being shot to pieces by police? John Ritter, bless him, would wince at the very idea.

As much of a Christmas tradition in our house as mince pies and sherry.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The adventures of Mole, Ratty, Toad and Badger might seem better suited to lazy summer days spent picnicking by a slow-oozing river, but Grahame’s evergreen classic also captured the chill of winter, and the animals’ hibernating instinct. Then there’s the appearance of the Piper at the Gates of Dawn, heralding the return of the sun… A big part of what our winter festivals are really about.

Here’s to you and yours.


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