Christmas movies are all about magic, miracles and faith. It takes a special kind of monster to cast a critical eye on these wondrous films and crudely drag their filthy little secrets out for all to see. Well, our teachers always told us we were special, so let's get monstering: Here are six "family friendly" Christmas films that contain nothing but horror beneath their shiny wrapping paper.
#6. The Santa Clause (1994)
Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, a divorced advertising executive who's vying for his son's lost affection (as is the case for every single father in Hollywood; be careful, as soon as the wife dies or divorces you, that kid will turn on you like an ungrateful top). But, since this is a Christmas movie, he's also attempting to reaffirm his son's waning faith in Santa Claus. The tables turn, however, when Scott accidentally startles Santa and Claus falls off the roof, tragically dying in the process. Santa's body mystically disappears, Scott dons the red suit and now there's a new Santa Claus.
Presumably with a teardrop tattoo under his eye.
While reluctant at first, Scott embarks on an emotional journey, during which he comes to grips with the reality of the Santa Clause, reconnects with his estranged son and becomes a better person overall thanks to his new position ...
... and it was all made possible by the death of the former Santa. Not that it was a difficult kill. No, this guy practically murdered himself:
-- Self-disappearing body! No pesky corpse to hide or chop up, since Santa vanishes within seconds after his demise!
"Well, there goes any closure to this sad little incident."
-- Automatic new identity! Afraid you've left evidence behind that might net a conviction? Don't worry: If you murder Santa, he'll leave you his clothes, his physique and his hair color as well! This fat son of a bitch comes pre-Talented Mr. Ripley-ed.
"Yep, dead before you're 50."
-- Complete with getaway vehicle and remote hideout! You've got flying transportation and a kingdom of newly acquired servants to cover up for you. The best part is, it's in the North Pole; not just remote, but inhospitable! No extradition going on up there!
"Wow, this is awkward. Does it make it any better if I just admit all my crimes? I'm on a registry and everything."
Oh, but it's not all fun and games. For starters, you'd better learn to sleep with one eye open. When murder is made this easy and rewarding, you can be sure that there will always be a target on the back of the bright red suit that you can't take off. Being Santa means you have your own kingdom, clothes, vehicle, servants and nigh-omnipotent power. Who wouldn't want a piece of that? And in exchange, all you have to do is work one night a year -- a fixed night where you have to break into everybody's house and quietly rummage around their living room in the dark, thus giving everyone on earth a heads up and an easy shot at the king, all without ever having to put pants on.
"Ho ho ho, there can be only one!"
Fun fact: Near the end of the movie, Charlie (Scott Calvin's son) talks about going into the family business when he gets older. Get ready for The Santa Clause 4: PatriCider and Cookies.
#5. Fred Claus: The Curse of Santa
A more modern take on the Santa mythos, this holiday film features Vince Vaughn as Fred Claus, the resentful deadbeat brother of Santa Claus.
Christmas has never looked so cheese-filled and hung over.
Along with giving him a disgruntled brother, the filmmakers of Fred Claus also elaborated on the agelessness of Santa. Instead of just Mr. and Mrs. Claus being immortal, when Nick Claus is ordained a saint, then he, his spouse, his immediate family and their spouses were all frozen in time. And it makes sense, doesn't it? Nobody wants to watch a movie about Santa sobbing over the corpses of his loved ones.
But that's all we hear on the subject of immortality. After that, the movie goes on to outline the standard "the magic of Christmas can fix even the most dysfunctional of families (even if Vince Vaughn is in it)" spiel. And we're left alone to ponder the implications of the rules governing Santa's eternal life. Or else, you know, to enjoy the movie for what it is, not overanalyze everything and try to find the fun in the experience.
Then again, this is Fred Claus. Anything that keeps your mind off the plot is good for your blood pressure.
Nah, screw that. On to the logistics of immortality!
Santa himself being immortal is never a problem in the mythos, because his traditional family is a self-contained unit: Himself, the wife and the elves are all isolated from the rest of the world. They're like a little cult up there, bribing us to turn a blind eye to their godless ways with free annual toys. The rest of the Clauses, however, have to live in the real world ... as immortal freaks.
Let us all be thankful Vince Vaughn is mortal.
That leaves two possible outcomes.
One, that the immortality only affects the family members specifically mentioned. If true, this means that the Clauses must contend with the Highlander Complex: They will have to watch their friends and relatives wither and die right before their callous, eternal eyes. And, once all of their current acquaintances and noncovered family members have died off, they have to decide whether it's worth it to make new friends (which they can also watch die) or if it'd be better to just live among themselves and wait for the end of time. Worse still, if the family's immortality doesn't transfer to their offspring (Remember: The movie never said it did), then all of the Clauses are doomed to bury every single child they birth.
Taunted forever by the childlike faces of the elven horde.
Or else there's the other option: That the immortality flows outward from all of the family members to their children, their children's children, their spouses and so on. They say that one in every 200 men traces his ancestry back to Genghis Khan.
Now, what if none of them could ever die?
The world would be crushed by an endlessly repeating clan of jolly, immortal resource hogs. So which is it, Fred Claus? What horrible fate have you wrought on the family of Santa? Do they bury their babies, or bury the world with them?
The last thing you'd hear would be sleigh bells, and then the eternal silence.
#4. Santa Claus (1959): Santa Is Your God Now
This movie features Santa Claus.
This Santa Claus:
Of course he bites.
This particular Santa has a unique spin on the whole "saint of charity" thing: He's fired all of the elves, started kidnapping children from all over the world and is taking them to his palace in space (yes, space), where they must manufacture Santa's toys against their will. There they subsist solely on cake and ice cream -- probably in order to make sure they never have the strength to start a rebellion against Der Space Kringle -- while the narrator tries to reassure the viewers that the children just volunteer each year to give the old man some help with his toys. But then why do the kids have lines that make it painfully obvious they haven't set foot on Earth since they were infants? Lines like, "What food do they eat on Earth, Santa Claus?"
"... because it sure is hard to build ALL THESE GUNS without any vitamins."
Also of note: Santa segregates the children by race and outfits them in uniforms that range from kind of racist to blatantly racist to holy shit, that's way too racist.
Ironically, the scale of racist used to be color-coded.
This movie's version of Santa Claus depicts the jolly old elf as an omniscient being who spies all with his observatory. He can even peer into your dreams by use of his "Dreamscope." And since it's not specified, we're forced to assume that, yes, he can even see the wet ones. Actually, looking at that picture of him again, we're forced to assume he can especially see the wet ones.
"He sees you when you're cli-max-ing/so stop screaming 'cause it ruins the mood."
Santa's nemesis in this flick isn't "selfishness" or "depression." No, that monster Claus up there would make short work of your Lesser Grinches and your Greater Scrooges. In this movie, Santa is fighting Satan himself. Yes, the actual, literal devil, and his minion, Pitch, Chief of All Demons. You see, every Christmas, Pitch is charged with the task of causing chaos in the name of Lucifer, but is apparently routinely foiled by Santa and his bumbling wizard companion, Merlin.
"I guess between Santa and Satan I would choose you as my new God."
So to recap, this world's Santa is a kidnapping, slave-owning racist tyrant who rules with godlike power from his space palace, but it's OK, because every year he joins forces with Merlin to battle the Prince of Lies and his demon armies into submission.