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Holiday Heist and Horror
Put away the sentimentality, it’s time to be thrilled and chilled.
It is not, and should never have been, controversial to claim that 1988’s action-thriller Die Hard is a Christmas movie. It so clearly is. I think it just became fashionable to assert knowledge beyond the typical holiday fanfare of Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life. And those that disagreed, well, they just need something better to do.
So here are some more titles that aren’t Elf and Rudolph, titles that are holiday centered or Christmas-adjacent for those who have watched Die Hard 93 times already as an act of defiance.
First, some Holiday Heist films. Forget The Grinch and Bad Santa, here are a few you don’t know:
Die Hard 2 (1990)
Off-duty cop John McClane is gripped with a feeling of déjà vu when, on a snowy Christmas Eve in the nation’s capital, terrorists seize a major international airport, holding thousands of holiday travelers hostage. Renegade military commandos led by a murderous rogue officer plot to rescue a drug lord from justice and are prepared for every contingency except one: McClane’s smart-mouthed heroics.
You read that right! Just two years after the Nakatomi Tower Incident, McClane finds himself once again the only capable person to stop a Christmas Eve heist. At least he’s totally self-aware, at one point exclaiming “Oh man, I can’t f — ing believe this. Another basement, another elevator. How can the same s — t happen to the same guy twice?”
Incredibly difficult to believe that he would wind up in the same situation on the same day, the sequel gets away with it because it has the same spirit as the original. It does, however, fall short of being as much fun as the first, which probably explains why this one has faded as the ‘88 classic endures.
The Silent Partner (1978)
Toronto, Canada. A few days before Christmas, Miles Cullen, a bored teller working at a bank branch located in a shopping mall, accidentally learns that the place is about to be robbed when he finds a disconcerting note on one of the counters…
Elliott Gould shines in this Canadian thriller that has been more-or-less forgotten in the States. Despite winning the Canadian Film Academy Award for Best Picture, this masterpiece never found an audience here, which is a complete shame.
With that being said, you probably don’t know this sleeper hit, so I’m going to write very little about it — you should just go experience it. I will say that Christopher Plummer is terrifying as a career criminal who stalks a bumbling Gould. What more do you need!
A chauffeur kidnaps his rich boss’s dog to hold it for ransom, but when she accidentally gets the dog back, she thinks that it’s the chauffeur who’s been kidnapped.
Most 90s/00s comedies don’t hold up and have been appropriately buried, but I think this one has been unfairly placed in that category.
It’s always fun to watch a flick with a couple of well-meaning idiots (we can get into the mechanics of comedy another time), but Norm Macdonald and Dave Chappelle make a particularly dense duo. The caper moments balance the comedy really well and Danny DeVito makes a zany cameo appearance which really helps pickup the movie when its needs it and carry it to the end.
Now, the counterbalance to the Christmas cheeriness, some newer Holiday Horror.
Black Christmas (2019)
Hawthorne College is winding down for the holidays, yet one by one, sorority girls are being picked off. Riley Stone, a girl dealing with her own trauma, begins to notice and tries to save her friends before they too are picked off.
Slasher films used to be all the rage and (aside from indies) seem to be made less and less these days. Production company Blumhouse supplies us with a lot of flicks we wouldn’t get anywhere else (or at the very least, without a substantial amount of money) and horror fans are indebted to their commitment.
The second remake of the 1974 classic, filmmaker Sophia Takai brings the story to the modern day by letting the girls fight back against both the masked killer and the patriarchy. It’s feminist horror at its most salivating.
The film isn’t brilliant, but we don’t get much like it anymore.
The Lodge (2020)
A soon-to-be stepmom is snowed in with her fiancé’s two children at a remote holiday village. Just as relations begin to thaw between the trio, some strange and frightening events take place.
I think that the film world should really watch out for Riley Keough. For example, her performance in 2016’s Lovesong shows that she can carry a picture, but her featured roles in Logan Lucky and The House That Jack Built show her character actor skills.
This film isn’t the greatest and can be a bit slow at times, but she makes it work, which is another valuable skill as an actor.
Other solid performances include It and Knives Out child star Jaeden Martell and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her Alicia Silverstone.
If you’re looking for a cold-chilled slow burn, check this one out.
Krampus: The Christmas Devil (2013)
Jeremy, a local police officer leads a life of a confusing past, spending his current time searching for his kidnapper as a child. After other children begin missing, Jeremy pieces together the truth and realizes that his childhood kidnapper could be a creature of ancient yuletide lore, Krampus.
A few years ago, we saw an explosion of Krampus-centered horror films and this one is…probably the worst of the bunch. A very low budget independent film, you can only blame it for so much. And the heart is there.
This one should be saved for when you’re in the mood for something bad, raunchy, and over-the-top silly. It could be a good refuge from the well made, perfect, holiday cheer.
As a matter of fact, I hope all of these picks work in that way for you. You can only watch The Little Drummer Boy so many times.
Credit: Each plot synopsis comes from Letterboxd via TMDb.