Unconventional Christmas Movies

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Christmas is a time for gathering around a warm fireplace with snow falling outside the window and opening presents underneath a great big Pine tree. It is also a great time for watching classic movies about the holidays.

But if you’re not a traditionalist at heart, then I have some alternative films to put on during a cold December night…

Top: Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011).
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Finnish Christmas magic in “Rare Exports: “A Christmas Tale” (2010).

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Here we have an unconventional Christmas film from Finland. This part of the world knows how to make dark seasonal movies. In this one a team of scientists working in a remote part of the country try to unearth a primordial Santa who has been dormant for centuries, only to discover that this version of Old St. Nick isn’t as jolly as the Coca Cola Santa. Again there is so much snow and plenty of gorgeous landscape shots of icy plateaus and herds of reindeer. The film is very creepy and exists on the fringe of the horror genre without getting too gory. So kids can still enjoy it.

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David Fincher’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

So while David Fincher’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” might not on the surface seem like an obvious holiday screening, I’m here to convince you that you are wrong. First of all nothing says Christmas like murder, rape and Gothic punk computer hackers. But more seriously there is a lot of seasonal vibes going on here. First of all it is set in Sweden in the heart of winter so there is snow happening. And I mean a lot of snow. You kind of feel like wearing an arctic weather-proof jacket when viewing this. Everyone just looks so cold all the time. Also by some bizarre marketing strategy the film was released at Christmas and dubbed the “feel bad movie of the year,” which may explain the disappointing box office returns. It’s dark, very dark but then again Christmas doesn’t have to be all Rudolph and Charlie Brown.

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Shane Black goes festive in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (2005).

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Before Robert Downey Jr. got his A-list grove back on he starred in this delightfully dark drama by acclaimed screenwriter Shane Black. Set in LA over the Christmas period, Downey plays a thief who is mistaken for an actor before teaming up with a Private Eye (Val Kilmer) and a struggling actress (Michelle Monaghon) to solve a grizzly murder. As you would expect from a Shane Black film the dialogue is fast and very funny and the action set pieces are well-executed. What we have in the end is a gripping drama that takes us into the dark side of LA with some festive trimmings.

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Catwoman and The Penguin in “Batman Returns” (1992).

Batman Returns

From the Gothic mind of Tim Burton comes one of his best films from the 90s, his Batman sequel “Batman Returns.” The casting in this film is almost as good as the visuals as Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny Devito shine as The Penguin and Catwoman respectively. Gotham City is a transformed into a dark winter wonderland as Batman (Michael Keaton) brawls with goons dressed like insane clowns in the snowy streets. The whole set design in this film is a work of art, from The Penguin’s underground layer to Batman’s Cave, everything has that Burton stamp that makes it that little bit more special.

Photos © respective film studios
Christopher Smail

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Christopher is based in the UK, the former assistant editor of Scene360 magazine. Follow the author @ and view more articles.

December 24, 2013 Movies Special Feature