Quickies: Christmas Horror Shorts
Traditions are a staple of the holiday season. Tree trimming, light hanging, cookie baking, meals, that one quirk of gift giving in your family; these traditions add a comforting touch point of familiarity to an often chaotic season. For many years, one of my traditions was to avoid the world on Christmas Eve, putting off family plans for the next day and retreating home after long work days to a very bachelor-y set of activities. I’d construct a very specific cold cut sandwich, I would sample one of each of the beers in a holiday 12 pack sampler, and I’d bask in the glow of various screens, one of random deep basic cables playing tangibly related to Christmas programming, and another my monitor to game in some browser based game I was addicted to at the time (often Farmville), or to use endlessly the great internet time suck of its generation, StumbleUpon. On Christmas Eve 2011, I stumbled into the weird world of Christmas Horror Shorts.
Horror and the short film format go together like your favorite combination of two items you like to describe as being a perfect combination (Editor's Note: He means peanut butter and jelly, basically). Short horror avoids time consuming exposition, so the circumstances of the story on hand aren’t as important as the scare that’s essentially promised in the title. It treads familiar themes and folklore, and by subverting it, horror shorts tend to tell the most fulfilling and memorable stories in the genre.
When it comes to Christmas time, horror excels by preying on the seasons innate goodness. It’s at it’s most effective when it’s deconstructing the mythology of Christmas, asking first ‘Why?’ we do these rituals and traditions, and then adding a layer of ‘What if?’ to them. And while mainstream movie producers and the movie going public are resistant to holiday specific horror, when executed correctly they make an argument for inclusion in an honorary section of canon.
So, if you need a few horror pick me ups in between guys wearing green and red and love that umm actually and are alone in your house and wonder about what kind of life it is, take a cruise through this list to break up the holiday monotony - and stay for the swerve at the end.
Playing off urban legend and adding a holiday twist, Christmas Presence tells the story of a babysitter in a new house for the first time, and the extravagant holiday decorations that allow something dangerous to hide in plain sight.
Christmas is often touted as a time to be together, and in our digital world, it’s easier to feel left out than ever before. Intersecting modern FOMO with supernatural horror, I’ll Be Alone For Christmas features a young woman looking for someone to spend the holiday with who is surprised by someone unexpected.
One of the simplest wishes many children have is the fleeting glimpse of Santa Claus as he places presents under the treat. In Here Comes Santa Claus, one enterprising lad sets up a live camera and a closed circuit in his house to get his wish - but what he says isn’t as jolly as you’d expect.
And for the final horror film in this feature, I go back to the oddball I found somewhere in the depths of the internet back in 2011. Wearing it’s early Peter Jackson and Sam Rami influences on it’s sleeves, Treevenge is a dark and slapstick horror comedy told as an uprising by the slaughtered side of our annual Christmas war on forests who have had enough, and won’t take it anymore.
So, like all good horror films, I feel the need to throw in a swerve. This final entry sat in my to watch list for just a little too long last year, and when I got around to it, I was surprised that it wasn’t a grim and bloody romp, but a short little doc about the joyless expression the holidays become when you take up seasonal work at a ‘Winter Wonderland’ style attraction. I think for anyone that’s ever worked in a traditionally busy holiday industry, there’s a lot to be found in The Christmas Light Killer that is relatable, and the otherworldliness of acres of lights reflected against a windshield is a nice bit of cinematography you might not have expected.