The holiday crevasse is upon us: a gauntlet of bad weather, dark days, reckoning with mortality, and familial control, all smeared over with a thick compote of forced cheerfulness. That’s why, this month, I chose films that speak to the true horror of the holidays. Let the catharsis begin! Find these movies on the Mercury’s shelf at Movie Madness (4320 SE Belmont, moviemadness.org) from Sun Dec 1-Tues Dec 31!
Mon Oncle Antoine (dir. Claude Jutra, 1971) Everyone remembers their first dead body at Christmas-time. No? You didn’t come to terms with mortality, in a blizzard, with your drunk uncle ranting about his wasted life?
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (dir. Nagisa Oshima, 1983) Captives and guards in a WWII Japanese POW camp (but mostly David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto) torture and murder each other—out of respect!
Black Christmas (dir. Bob Clark, 1974) The patriarchy is calling from inside the house! A cult classic Canadian slasher with surprisingly feminist undertones. You’ll want to watch this before the Blumhouse remake hits theaters on Thursday, December 12.
Best Christmas Pageant Ever (dir. George Schaefer, 1983) A family of “tough kids” invade the “nice kid” Christmas pageant. It’s a TV movie, but I love all the sarcastic parents and loud-ass ’80s child acting.
Joyeux Noël (dir. Christian Carion, 2005) Based on the true story of a WWI Christmas Eve cease-fire. In the following days, all are punished for laying down their arms and recognizing their fellow man.
A Christmas Tale (dir. Arnaud Desplechin, 2008) Like the Royal Tenenbaums, but French and with even more acrimony.
Fanny and Alexander (dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1982) The story of an imaginative boy—a cypher for Bergman himself—whose stepfather is intent on crushing his creativity.
The Ice Storm (dir. Ang Lee, 1997) Behold treacherous weather, uncomfortable swingers’ parties, awkward teenage sexual exploration (a young Elijah Wood dry humping a young Christina Ricci in a Nixon mask), and the fleeting fragility of life.