I admit—it’s not really my time of year. I don’t like Christmas sweaters, ugly or otherwise, particularly those new ones that are just a weird pattern stamped on the front of a sweatshirt. As a kid, I privately poked a lot of logical holes in the Santa story. And Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” makes me want to stab my eardrums out. But it’s a long time ‘til next Halloween, and we’ve all got to get through December somehow.
Below are two strategies for how to get through the holidays when you’re less about bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens and more about ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties.
Strategy One: Adapt to Your Surroundings
While watching the big-time lawyer bang the small-town baker in a Santa suit (look, I don’t know, I haven’t watched many Hallmark movies), imagine how the scenario would go down in a slasher film.
(I mean, Home Alone is essentially the Kidz Bop version of Saw so it’s not exactly a stretch. But more on that later…)
Take 12 Days of Christmas, a standard piece of Hallmark fare about a lady who gets gifts from a secret admirer. There’s literally an Office episode about how, according the song, “the first eight days are basically thirty birds.” Imagine a stalker drawing closer and closer, bombing your house with giant swans bearing threatening messages. Just when you think you’re safe, ten lords a‘leaping show up with medieval weaponry and hunt you down, then burn you at the stake.
Or, better yet, what about an entire Hallmarkian Dystopia? In this post-apocalyptic world, all men wear red sweaters and all women wear green ones. The punishment for deviation is death. Adolescence, because it’s neither cute nor good fodder for romance, is spent slaving away in Christmas décor factories, after which you receive your assignment for life: Romantic Hero, Romantic Heroine, Evil Ex, Funny Best Friend, or Background Character. Children suffer bone deficiencies and scurvy because they eat nothing but candy canes and hot cocoa.
Or maybe it’s not a dystopia. Right now, your feel-good Christmas movies are ground out in this bleak land of Hallmarkia, and the UN is thinking about getting involved.
Okay, forget Hallmarkia, if that doesn’t do it for you. Consider this: pretty much any Santa-based story is creepy. I’ve been saying for years that he only has his workshop up at the North Pole to avoid those pesky labor laws.
Let’s start out tame: in The Santa Clause, Santa literally just dies on screen within the first ten minutes of the movie. Imagine if the power went out and you never got to see what happens. “G’night kids! No need to wait up for Santa—he fell off a roof.”
But when the guy stays alive? Holy crow. Sees you when you’re sleeping, acts as the lone arbitrator of Nice and Naughty, breaks and enters with impunity, and engages in a Cold War with Jesus and his mom over who owns this holiday anyway.
(No Celtic Pagans could be reached for comment, as they were too busy preparing for Yule and not freaking out about what color cups they drink their coffee out of.)
Don’t get me started on that scene in The Polar Express where the toys attack the annoying kid and call him a “Doubter.” Full-on intimidated many millennials into believing for another year or so, I’d wager.
(Are the angry toys a metaphor for the Inquisition? There’s a research paper there…)
Point here being, this is actually a way scarier time of year than we give it credit for.
Ultimately, though, you’re going to get tired of the traditional Christmas flicks. Which brings me to…
Strategy Two: Watch Some Christmas Horror Movies
And never fear, I’ve got some recs for you. I’ve ranked them in order from Actually Scary to Slightly Spooky, going by the precise scale of my own impressions, so start at the top for real scares and meander down toward the bottom for wholesome-but-creepy (great for middle schoolers who are Too Cool For Any of This).
Better Watch Out: this is a babysitter-home-invasion as you’ve never seen it before. I can’t explain much without spoiling, but it is a genuinely disconcerting film wrapped in a pretty Christmas aesthetic package. Watch after Home Alone. 10/10
Krampus: What’s scarier—the Krampus, or the family Christmas he interrupts? Todd Packer from The Office (David Koechner), the Uncivilized Republican Uncle we’ve all been warned about, interrupts the nice Christmas celebrations of Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec (Adam Scott). This, predictably, goes poorly, and when his son loses the spirit, he invites in something ancient and evil. The family dynamic is fun, and even a little heart-warming at times, and where the film gets ridiculous, it’s forgivable. 7/10
Nightmare Before Christmas: This one’s okay for pretty much all ages, but it definitely lends itself to the macabre. A solid classic that I’ve previously argued is a Halloween movie at heart, no kid should miss out on kidnapping the Sandy Claws. 10/10