Movies in the Obscure

Movies in the Obscure

By Christopher Lawrence

With its short bursts of slightly rude nostalgia, “A Christmas Story” just may be the perfect holiday movie.

But if you see it one more time, you just may shoot your own eye out.

And the next time a bell rings and an angel gets his wings, there’s a very real chance you’ll want to bludgeon that angel with that very same bell.

Here’s a look at some alternative Christmas movies to help bring some variety to your holiday viewing habits:

“Die Hard” (1988): Vacationing New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) spends his Christmas Eve battling terrorists (led by Alan Rickman) in a Los Angeles high-rise. Not only is it one of the best action movies of all time, it has all the ingredients for an epic L.A. Christmas party: intra-office quickies, plenty of coke and a limo driver named Argyle baby-sitting a giant teddy bear while grooving to Run-D.M.C.’s “Christmas in Hollis.” Yippee ki-yay!

“Die Hard 2” (1990): It’s Christmas Eve, two years later, and McClane is once again battling terrorists, this time at Dulles International Airport. “Another basement, another elevator,” he laments. “How can the same (expletive) happen to the same guy twice?” Exactly.

“Lethal Weapon” (1987): It opens with “Jingle Bell Rock,” and the first images are of a topless blonde who does a line of coke before taking a header out of a high-rise. Riggs (Mel Gibson) gets in a shoot-out in a Christmas tree lot when a cocaine bust goes south. Man, people did a lot of blow in the ’80s.

“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (2005): “Lethal Weapon” screenwriter Shane Black revisits the holidays with this neo-noir thriller about a small-time crook (Robert Downey Jr.) and a private investigator named Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) that captures the weirdness of L.A. at Christmas. Plus, Michelle Monaghan spends several scenes dressed as a sexy Santa.

“About a Boy” (2002): Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) has a complicated history with Christmas. The self-absorbed Londoner lives off the royalties from “Santa’s Super Sleigh,” the truly awful holiday hit written by his father. But his life changes forever when he forgoes his usual Christmas plans — “watching videos and getting drunk and stoned” — in favor of spending the holiday with a weird little kid (Nicholas Hoult) and his suicidal mom (Toni Collette).

“Love Actually” (2003): Grant is back, as is “Die Hard’s” Rickman, in this largely overlooked collection of romantic holiday tales that should have become a Christmas staple. The cast is phenomenal: Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy and Laura Linney star alongside “The Hobbit’s” Martin Freeman and a very British Andrew Lincoln of “The Walking Dead” fame. See it now before “Glee” ruins it forever with tonight’s tribute episode.

“Gremlins” (1984): When they’re fed after midnight, adorable, cuddly little Mogwai turn into hideous monsters and wreak havoc on a small town. That’s what you get for buying your kid a Christmas present in some subterranean junk store in a seedy back alley in Chinatown.

“Reindeer Games” (2000): Rudy (Ben Affleck) is a fresh-out-of-prison car thief who just wants “some (expletive) hot chocolate and some pecan (stronger expletive) pie.” But he can’t resist lying about his identity to hook up with his dead cellmate’s pen pal (Charlize Theron). Before long, he’s strong-armed by her brother (Gary Sinise) and other lowlifes (Donal Logue, Danny Trejo) into helping them rob Dennis Farina’s rundown Indian casino. On Christmas Eve. In Santa suits.

“Silent Night, Deadly Night” (1984): You could start your own “A Christmas Story”-style marathon just with holiday-themed horror movies. “Black Christmas,” “Christmas Evil,” “Santa Claws,” “Santa’s Slay,” “Don’t Open Till Christmas,” “Jack Frost,” “To All a Good Night,” “Sint” and “Rare Exports,” just to name a few. But it’s hard to top this cult classic, re-released on DVD, about a homicidal teen in a Santa suit. Five-year-old Billy developed a crippling fear of Santa Claus after seeing his parents murdered on Christmas Eve by a petty criminal dressed as Saint Nick. Thirteen years later, when he’s called upon to fill in for the Santa at the toy store where he works, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) snaps and goes on a killing spree highlighted by his impaling a topless coed on the antlers of a mounted deer head. You could give a hundred monkeys a hundred typewriters — and a hundred tabs of acid — and they’d never come up with anything this hysterically, awesomely horrible.

“Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (1964): It’s Santa Claus conquering Martians. What other reason do you need?

Christopher Lawrence is the film critic for the Las Vegas (NV) Review-Journal. Contact him at

Categories: Commentary