Author Heather Wixson has had a busy year, with the release of her fantastic new book Monsters Makeup & Effects – Volume 1.
Heather kindly put a few moments aside to discuss her favourite Christmas horrors with us, here’s what she had to say –
Gremlins: Yes, I know that picking Joe Dante’s Gremlins is probably a pretty basic choice, but it’s a film that has been ingrained in my holiday traditions for decades now. I am old enough to have seen Gremlins in theatres during the summer of 1984 and it scared me and thrilled me in equal measure. There are a lot of iconic moments from Gremlins but even after all these years, I still think the movie theatre scene is an absolute marvel to watch as a long-time fan of practical effects and creatures. Plus, who can resist little Gizmo riding around in his tiny car saving the day? Not me.
Black Christmas (1974): I finally caught up with Bob Clark’s Black Christmas about a decade ago, but it has quickly made it into our holiday viewing repertoire and for good reason – it rules. Hard. There’s just something so off-putting about the warmth of the holiday atmosphere that Clark manages to conjure up in his Black Christmas and the juxtaposition of the danger that is lurking inside the sorority house setting where at any time, any one of these co-eds could become the latest victim of Billy. Black Christmas also features a handful of incredible performances from Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, Marian Waldman, and even if Olivia Hussey’s Jess gets slightly overshadowed by her far more vivid cinematic counterparts, her character is still amongst the best in the pantheon of the final girls.
Anna and the Apocalypse: John McPhail’s Anna and the Apocalypse is probably the newest entry on my list, but after first seeing it at Fantastic Fest years ago, I knew immediately that it was a film that was destined to become required viewing for me each and every holiday season. In Anna and the Apocalypse, McPhail combines three of my favourite things – Christmas, horror, and musicals – to create a story that feels even more relevant now as we’re nearly two years into a pandemic. In fact, as much as I love all the songs in the film, “Human Touch” hits differently now in the wake of the events of the last few years (and never fails to make me tear up), and I really hope people continue to catch up with this ambitious little film that is pure magic from start to finish.
Santa’s Slay: For as long as there is breath in my lungs, I will forever champion David Steiman’s Santa’s Slay, which takes the Santa Claus mythos and turns it squarely on its head in a purely demented fashion. The dark horror comedy stars wrestler Bill Goldberg as the big guy who has been resurrected as a demonic form of Santa who lays waste to the residents of a sleepy little town, with only two teenagers (Douglas Smith, Emile de Ravin) and an old curmudgeon (Rober Culp) standing in his way. Santa’s Slay embraces its campy nature to deliver up a yuletide tale that is viciously funny, slightly vulgar but has a big heart beating beneath its violent veneer, and its cold open (that features an entirely Jewish cast) is an all-timer of total WTFery, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Christmas Evil: Picking my last film was actually tough, because SIlent Night, Deadly Night seemed like the obvious choice. But over the last few years, Lewis Jackson’s Christmas Evil has really grown on me, so I thought I’d show it some love on my list since it may not be a film that too many people know about. For the uninitiated, Christmas Evil introduces us to Harry Stading (Brandon Maggart) whose obsession with Santa Claus goes too far one holiday season after he experiences the duplicity of man and decides that it’s time to punish everyone who deserves to be on the naughty list. We’ve had a lot of murderous Santa movies over the years, but I think the way Jackson approaches the psychology of Harry and the fallout of his actions is deeply thoughtful and far different from anything else we’ve seen from stories of a similar ilk. Also, the final moments of the film are wonderfully absurd in a way that makes perfect sense and yet no sense whatsoever, and I always appreciate it whenever filmmakers take some chances with their material. Christmas Evil also features a strong performance from Jeffrey DeMunn as well and some pretty gnarly attack scenes to boot.
Monsters Makeup and Effects Volume By Heather Wixson is out now.