Arnie: So, I made the list, huh? This is awkward....
Every once in a while when we're not looking for a serious award movie in this time of giving, we would get the gift of Christmas through a Christmas movie. Unfortunately, like a badly picked gift, there have been some that aren't the most merry as Hollywood tinker and toy with good and bad ideas to liven up the Christmas mood.
So if you think you have it bad to spend time this Christmas with awkward family dinners, just be happy that you aren't spending this Christmas revisiting any of these movies to suck out any remnants of the Christmas cheer, unless you get a DVD of these as a present.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
When children on Mars are brainwashed by the images of Santa Claus and Christmas broadcast from Earth, the council of Martians decides to bring some of the seasonal spirit to their planet by kidnapping the real Santa Claus from the North Pole along with two children. "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" sounds as iffy as the title suggests, mixing the tropes of alien abductions with Christmas that results in some unfortunate scenes like a giant robot crashing into Santa's workshop who mistakes it for a toy, or a jealous Martian trying to throw Santa off an airlock. The plot and production value of this is so camp that it would elevate 'Plan 9 From Outer Space" as a masterpiece.
Often cited not only as one of the worst Christmas movies, "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" is just one of the worst movies ever made period. If there is one justification why it deserves that title it is because it gets made as a parody in "Mystery Science Theatre 3000".
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Billy is an orphan when his parents were killed by a robber dressed as Santa and is put into a traumatising childhood at the orphanage. When Billy finds work at a toy store as the retail's Santa, a brutal crime is committed against a female co-worker and love interest that brings back memories of his parents' murder. Billy then picks up an axe and goes out looking for naughty children, sending the gift of death in the form of impalements, shootings, decapitations and throwing people out of windows.
Upon its release during the Christmas season of 1984 in the United States, "Silent Night, Deadly Night" faced fierce opposition by Christian groups for 'immoral' depictions of nudity, blood, deaths, violence and stringent Christian upbringing all during the merry season for peace, celebration, love and family. That still didn't stop it from outgrossing Wes Craven's "A Nightmare on Elm Street" on its opening day, and spawning four sequels after that. Tis' the season to be bloody indeed.
Jingle All the Way (1996)
Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Myron Larabee (Sinbad) are two fathers from Minnesota who are out there to get the best Christmas gift for their sons; a Turbo-Man action figure. When a mad dash for the action figure makes it hard to find on Christmas Eve, Howard and Myron will have to outsmart each other, get chased by reindeers and punch several Santa Clauses to get what they want for their kids.
"Jingle All the Way" is one from the string of bad movies where Schwarzenegger tries to flex his comedic muscles more than his actual biceps (with shotgun in hand) and the appeal of seeing Schwarzenegger punching a reindeer (or sending a midget Santa flying) can only go so far. Besides that, the highly consumerist undertones and message that equates materialism with happiness during Christmas is really the kind of healthy message we want to tell our kids.
Santa With Muscles (1996)
Blake Thorn is a mean millionaire who treats his workers poorly. While evading the police for reckless driving, Blake dons on the Santa suit, but gets his head hit while trying to get down a chute. Losing his memory (and meanness), Blake thinks he is a real kind-hearted Santa and somehow gets involved in saving an orphanage from an evil scientist who is planning to tear it down.
Another muscle-bound actor playing as Santa Claus from 1996, except with far less acting ability. If you think Schwarzenegger was out of his element in "Jingle All the Way", then wait till you see wrestler Hulk Hogan trying to show off his acting outside the ring. With the same consumerist intentions of "Jingle All the Way", this one was another poorly executed cash grab on the name of Hogan that didn't last long in theatres on its release, so if the silliness of seeing Hogan drop kicking bad guys with a Santa hat doesn't turn you off, the plot involving magic crystals underneath the orphanage will.
Jack Frost (1998)
Jack Frost is a singer who is rarely home because of his tours. When Frost gets killed from a road accident, his son plays a magical harmonica that Frost had given him, which brings back Frost's spirit into the snowman his son had built. With a last hurrah, snowman Frost is given his last chance to spend quality time with his son before winter ends.
People were probably missing Michael Keaton's performance in "Bettlejuice" ten years ago, but it would have been better to wish that he'd never make his return as a quirky mascot in "Jack Frost", because that presumably impression of his face on the snowman is just weird. Also, we don't think the idea of having a snowman as a father really cuts him for the coolest dad, figuratively speaking. Often confused with the just as awful R-rated title of the same name, this one has the warm fuzzy feeling in the end that isn't because of blood spewing out from your open bowels.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (2002)
The marriage of Justin Carver's parents is hitting the rocks and a divorce seemed imminent. But when little Justin catches his mother kissing Santa in their house before Christmas Eve, he sets traps and other naughtiness to make sure that Santa wouldn't come to his house to whisk away his mother on the day before Christmas.
If we can't fault this TV movie for its originality in using the Christmas song, then we could probably blame it for being a poorer knock off of the "Home Alone" series (also set in Christmas usually). Either way, it's still a bad way to find out that Santa isn't real.
Christmas With the Kranks (2004)
Christmas is a family tradition for the Kranks. But when the only daughter of the Kranks departs for a Peace Corp mission in Peru after Thanksgiving, the couple decides that they won't be celebrating Christmas for the year and go on a cruise when the neighbours get wind of it.
Set in a stereotypical American neighbourhood, the nosy neighbours with their passive aggressive ways of enforcing the 'laws' of Christmas is probably the very reason that would have any family wanting to skip town for Christmas. Strangely adapted from a book by legal novelist John Grisham, even with Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis at the fore, it's hard to revive the Christmas cheer, if there was any left, after watching "Christmas With the Kranks".
Santa's Slay (2005)
In 2005, as the son of Satan, Santa is allowed to go on a killing spree after he has delivered gifts for 1000 years as punishment for losing a bet to an angel. We'll just stop here because we'll let you digest that for a second.
You could tell whether you were going to like "Santa's Slay" from the beginning when it opens with the massacre of a family at a Christmas dinner, because that's what you are going to get for the rest of the runtime. Instead of being darkly violent like in "Silent Night, Deadly Night", it substitutes the killings with cheap effects for low black comedy. It's also hard to tell whether they got the right man in former wrestler Bill Goldberg as the rampaging Santa because you would either agree that his attempts at being in characters is abysmal, or fittingly maniacal like he was in the ring.
Deck the Halls (2006)
Steve Finch is the master of spectacle during every Christmas in his neighbourhood at Cloverdale, Massachusetts until his new neighbour Buddy Hall moves in. As they set to outdo each other to light up their houses so bright that it can be seen from space, they resort to sabotages and one-upmanship to be the biggest daddy of Christmas.
It seems that after two years from "Christmas With the Kranks", they never learn. Making the same mistakes with the same premise of neighbourly Christmas spirit with a much more unlikeable cast (sorry Danny DeVito), this commercial and critical failure should have reverted to its original title "Wreck the Halls" so that any would-be watcher would be able to stay away from this wreck.
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006)
Without a holiday to call his own, Jack Frost tries to upstage Santa Claus as the master of Christmas by tricking him into renouncing the title. After successfully getting Santa Claus to evoke the Escape Clause, both of them travel in time to the moment before the then human Scott Calvin takes over the job as Santa Claus.
Somehow managing to tie up "The Santa Clause" trilogy, how it got there is really anyone's guess. If Tim Allen hasn't ruin enough Christmas movies in our list so far, then his combo appearance with Martin Short as Jack Frost should be enough to freeze any enthusiasm for watching this or any in the series. Sorry for the pun, but in fact, one of the main reasons why it gets harder and harder to even remotely like this is because of the punic script when Jack Frost takes over Christmas.
Fred Claus (2007)
When Fred Claus, elder brother to Santa Claus, is taken to the North Pole to reunite with his estranged brother and family, Fred causes chaos in the workshop that causes worries that the presents won't be ready for Christmas. While trying to save Christmas again, Fred also has to find the meaning of family.
There's a pretty neat story of family to tell in here, but telling it in the setting of Santa's workshop and Christmas is just not the place to do it. Not even Paul Giamatti, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz, or Ludacris' appearances here could help Vince Vaughn much, which makes this a real waste of talent assembled for one Christmas story.
Four Christmases (2008)
Brad and Kate have been avoiding spending Christmas at home for the past years since they've been together. When a bad fog cancels their trip to Fiji, they run out of excuses to not meet their respective divorced parents and siblings when they come calling. Wanting to end all four Christmas gatherings as soon as possible, the couple soon learn more about family secrets and secret yearnings they have for each other.
This one goes in the list because it reminds us exactly of the reasons why some of us just avoid staying home for the holidays. This feature debut of Seth Green has an aim for the laughs but gets carried away by a very forced longing about family that Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon looked more happy to avoid, than to be with. While "Four Christmases" would be a disturbing stain on Gordon's career, at least he is slowly improving with "Horrible Bosses" and "Identity Thief".
Cinema Online, 23 December 2013