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5 awful Christmas films that are just misunderstood masterpieces of cinema

December is finally here, and one of the absolute delights of the holiday season is to indulge in outrageously cheesy Christmas films.

Aside from breaking our diet with all kinds of greasy, carb-loaded delicacies, abusing our wallet like there’s no tomorrow and piling on the credit card debt, one of the most fun and self-destructive traditions of the holidays is to expose ourselves to very, very bad Christmas-themed movies.

It’s almost inescapable. In December, every local broadcaster, cable operator and subscription service bombards us mercilessly with a flurry of these seasonal “delights”. Stuff like The Grinch, Home Alone and Jingle all the Way are so ubiquitous, it’s almost like a perverse indoctrination program: be it at the mall, at your mother-in-law’s or at the dentist, our tired retinas are subject to images of reindeers cruising the sky, Macaulay Culkin and some guy in a ventilation shaft saying, “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!”

To honour the holiday spirit and bring something different to your seasonal movie experience, we’ve decided to showcase five obscure gems that are so outrageously shoddy, we believe they are actually some of the most exquisite and satirical pieces of experimental cinema.

Call us contrarians, but we’re not convinced these are just campy, badly written films. We have analysed them thoroughly, spending weeks deconstructing every frame, every editing beat, every line of dialogue. We conclude that under all the bad makeup, soap opera-level acting and nonsensical plots, in each of these works lies a profoundly excogitative, infinitely perspicacious and unusually cognizant meditation of human nature.

And yeah, a bit of nudity.

Massacre on Aisle 12 (2016)

Mr Beaver’s (no, really) is a small, smelly, dingy hardware store where nobody, the employees least of all, wants to be.

At first, the story follows Dave, a fresh-faced recruit arriving on Christmas Eve for his first day of work. Jack, the disquietingly creepy manager, introduces the new employee to the band of misfits who work at the store: a bizarre rogue’s gallery that includes drug addicts, chemists, war veterans and undercover cops. Yep, it’s pretty much who populates your Twitter feed.

Dave’s delightful first night on the job is suddenly disrupted by the discovery of a dead body and a duffel bag full of cash. From that point on, the whole film plays out as this gory, raunchy version of Clue.

The trailer doesn’t do the movie any justice at all, as it fails to capture the real dimension of this epic human drama. On the surface, this may look like a low budget horror comedy, but at its very core, Massacre on Aisle 12 is a poetic exploration of the pathos of blue collar workers in our post-capitalist society.

The movie subverts what mainstream audiences would expect of a holiday film and delivers instead a surrealist, magical universe where stuffed animals are used as lethal weapons, pieces of flesh fall off of people during sex and there are so many racist stereotypes Tomi Lahren would feel proud.

If you’re still not convinced you need this movie in your life like, right now, I’ll just leave this bit of delightful dialogue here (all of which is delivered by the same actor in the space of ~25 seconds).

“Are you talking about my disability, the one caused by some fucking towel head who shot an RPG up my ass during my fourth combat mission killing a no good cock suckin’, camel fucking terrorist in Iraq, while you were in college sucking off your liberal, no good hippie professor at your communist loving college in upstate-my-daddy’s-a-rich-prick who bought me a Porsche but can’t afford to pay his taxes that would fund the fucking veteran’s hospital that would fix my leg so I could kick you in your fucking teeth right now? That disability?”

It’s enough to bring a tear to the eye.

Trapped in Paradise (1994)

I’ll start out by saying Nicholas Cage is in this. So that automatically turns the movie not only into an infinite source of memes but also into one of the most grandiose works of art ever created by humankind.

The Firpo brothers, played by Cage and Saturday Night Live duo Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey, are a really peculiar trio. An emotionally unstable loser, a pathological liar and an irredeemable kleptomaniac, the three embark on the criminal enterprise of robbing a small town bank on Christmas Eve.

The plan backfires when the brothers find themselves trapped in the town and end up being hosted by the very people they just robbed.

The film stands as the ultimate homage to the American dream ever achieved in cinema. Trapped in Paradise convinced me that the United States is truly a land of opportunity, a place where everybody, even a bunch of morons, can rob a bank.

Seriously though, this screwball comedy does have authentically hilarious moments and provides one genuine point of reflection: “Nobody really dies as long as someone cares.”

Well, actually, it provides two: “I wish I were a witch, cuz then I’d shove my broomstick right up your ass.”

Elves (1989)

Now Elves is as eclectic as can be. This is a sweet Christmas tale for the whole family that includes interspecies sex, a drunken Santa Claus, bathroom electrocutions and of course, Nazis.

It crosses genres, deals with controversial topics and makes absolutely no sense. Why this didn’t win Cannes is beyond me.

This supreme work of the absurd tells the story of a teenager who discovers in the days preceding Christmas that she was conceived with the sole intention of breeding a race of mutant elves (Santa hat included) to take over the world.

Yep. We’re dealing here with something truly special.

The acting is top notch Days of our Lives-quality with evil stepmoms delivering deliciously long stares and characters indulging unabashedly in devilish cackling. The German accent here is so good it almost sounds like a third-generation Hungarian living in Brooklyn.

Dialogue is delightfully expository, Santa gets poetically stabbed in the crotch and the plot twist is so mind-blowing your life will never be the same again.

Citizen Kane, Casablanca and Blade Runner all look like well-intended but ultimately amateur creations in comparison. I mean, there’s a scene of a guy smoking and brushing his teeth at the same time. How on Earth can critics ignore something like that?

This movie should be studied, homaged and revered to posterity. The fact it isn’t mentioned in any ‘best cinema in history’ lists just another telltale sign of our cultural decadence.

People, really. This is so good, it rivals Troll 2 and The Room as the best film ever made. There, I said it.

Santa with Muscles (1996)

When you have a title like that, you know they’re cooking up something good. Blake Thorn, portrayed by none other than the multitalented Renaissance man Hulk Hogan, is a self-made millionaire who spends his days organising outrageous paintball bashes and kicking the living hell out of his mansion employees. His fortune comes from selling bodybuilding supplements and equipment, and he’s a selfish, self-centred and lonely guy a la Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge.

One day, during one of his reckless paintball battles (not weird at all), Thorn ends up being chased by the police. He manages to evade his pursuers by disguising himself in a Santa costume, but shortly afterwards he hits his head pretty hard and suffers from temporary amnesia, leading him to believe he’s the real Santa Claus.

That’s when hilarity ensues. In the name of the Christmas spirit, he fights off petty thieves, redefines the concept of holiday haute couture and becomes entangled in an epic confrontation with a cartoonish yet powerful villain who is hellbent in expropriating an orphanage to mine the quartz hidden beneath.

Hogan’s highly enthusiastic and surprisingly versatile performance extends to vocals – yep, he even sings – and it’s such a moving scene I couldn’t help shedding a silent tear of joy. The film will go down in history for being the second feature in the filmography of the iconic Mila Kunis.

Santa with Muscles is so meta, at the end you won’t even know what the hell you just experienced. Villains wear lab coats and carry stethoscopes for no apparent reason, there’s a lightsaber fight with two quartz stones… did I mention Hulk Hogan sings in this?

Don’t kill it (2016)

On the verge of Christmas Eve, a small conservative town in Mississippi is raided by a series of random killings characterised by an unusual pattern: locals with no previous criminal history end up murdering their whole family and neighbours.

The disturbing occurrence attracts the attention of a hard-boiled FBI agent and a demon hunter who join forces to solve this bizarre phenomenon. But oh, no, don’t think the premise is forced at all; this is not your ordinary demon hunter, this is none other than Dolph Lundgren. THE demon hunter.

Casey Affleck ended up winning the Academy Award for best actor in 2017 for his role in Manchester by the Sea, and to me, that’s the best proof you’ll ever find that the Oscars are rigged. How can Casey’s dry performance in such a boring film match the power and range Lundgren achieves in this low-budget comedy horror flick?

The Swedish-born star is so committed to this role, he goes so far as to create his own peculiar version of a Southern US accent. It’s such an exotic subterfuge I bet Daniel Day-Lewis is burning in envy.

The absolute highlight in Lundgren’s performance is this one scene in which the only thing he does is eat a plate of ribs, and boy does he make it convincing. I mean, hell, it was so captivating I even went to the supermarket to buy some after I watched the movie. He’s that persuasive.

But it’s not all about the performances. This film as a whole is so incredibly incisive, it even has the audacity to comment on the state of contemporary politics. For example, our beloved demon hunter is not fond of such politically correct practices like bathing or changing clothes. In fact, his hygiene is so precarious, every woman in the film is irresistibly attracted to him. That is obviously a profound questioning of the #MeToo movement and a sharp reflection on gender roles in today’s society. It’s obvious, and it’s all there.

And I’m not kidding you when I say this film is so ambitious, so magnanimous in scope, and its script so culturally relevant, it serves as a prequel to Jaws. Did you ever wonder why that monstrous shark in Spielberg’s flick suddenly got the urge to go on a killing spree? Look no further.

About the author

Filmmaker. 3D artist. Procrastination guru. I spend most of my time doing VFX work for my upcoming film Servicios Públicos, a sci-fi dystopia about robots, overpopulated cities and tyrant states. @iampineros

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