Tis the season for uncomfortable extended interactions with people with whom DNA is your only thing in common! I celebrated Christmas at home a few weeks early this year, and bravely mashed up the annual influx of bad Christmas movie listicles to plan an ill-conceived movie marathon with my dad… without his permission or consultation. He was happy to spend time with me, and so we filled one fateful Wednesday with the worst of the worst Christmas movies we could find in every genre.
(It should be noted that I was suffering from dairy indigestion because I drank a gallon and a half of milk for my art the night before. Prepare to take a journey.)
SCIENCE FICTION: SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (1964)
I decided to start with some lighter fare. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is a classic bad movie, with all the telltale signs: subpar sets, child stars that sound like they are reciting lines at gunpoint, hacky sci-fi gimmicks, tons and tons of recycled b-roll, and costumes most likely made in someone’s mom’s basement. It’s also the subject of a famous MST3K episode, but we raw-dogged it; I don’t need a fictional robot to tell me what to think about a Christmas-themed Martian movie because I am a grown woman.
It’s a wonderful and rare occurrence for a movie’s title to completely ruin its ending. The first seventy minutes feels like an endless stream of garbage, but the last ten minutes does exactly what the title promises. This movie felt extremely long, and full disclosure, my dad left the room several times. But me? I’m a Journalist.
- Martian children are like regular children, but they’re wearing leotards, and their faces are painted green, and their names are Bomar.
- The inciting incident of this one involves a martian grandpa’s prophesy, which Dad reenacts terribly. While he croaks out the exposition, the grandpa is sitting in front of what appears to be wrapping paper for a space-themed birthday party, and for some reason is the only martian, ever, who has heard of Santa. Because he is old? And wise? Maybe? He spews the words, “We need a Santa Claus on Mars!”
- The grown men in the martian leotards are far more sinister than the children. Full package outlines. We are uncomfortable, but unfortunately, there are a lot of unfortunate sexual undertones to every movie we watch.
- There’s a man in a polar bear suit pretending to be a polar bear.
- Basically, the Martians go to earth to try to kidnap Santa, but instead immediately abduct two scrappy children for reasons unclear and bring them to the North Pole. I’m over scrappy kids! Boring! That, and blonde teenage ingenues! IT’S BEEN DONE! Dad disagrees on the ingenues.
- There’s also a robot we’re supposed to believe is a robot, but is actually an actor in a carefully stacked pile of cardboard boxes.
- One of the martian captains initiates a completely unnecessary conflict by saying that the martians should be allowed to kill the elves and Mrs. Claus. That’s aggressive!
- There are three scenes in this movie with extended sequences of unconvincing laughter after Santa makes a bad joke and it sends a chill through my soul. Dad joins in and I try not to take my own life.
- Once Santa’s workshop on Mars is set up, the writers make an ill-fated attempt to make commentary on modern technology. “Look at me…Santa Claus, pressing buttons. Automation. Technology. Ha!” Very good and intelligent critique.
- There’s a scene where a martian binge-eats and gets fat, and puts the suit on and impersonates Santa. Even though he does not remove his martian helmet, all of his martian friends can’t tell the difference.
- Um, it ends how the title says it ends.
OUR REVIEW: If the ending is in the title, do not make me watch martian penis outlines for an hour and a half. Cruel and unusual, but watch the MST3K episode if you’re down for that.
HORROR: SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)
To be honest, we weren’t completely paying attention during this one. Neither of us have ever been very keen on horror movies. (Most of the time we binge on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse when we are not watching bad Christmas movies under duress.) So the conversation gradually transitioned from why the grandpa in this story is terrifying and psychic only in regards to Santa, to whether it’s appropriate for my dad to add my friends on Facebook if he’s only met them one time.
It’s definitely not appropriate, but I let him do it anyway. Silent Night, Deadly Night is about either toxic masculinity or how a Santa suit brings out the inner demon in a boy, especially if he’s witnessed a murder. This movie sucks, but the first sex scene is good.
- The first major scene of this movie takes place when an adorable child, who looks suspiciously like Danny from The Shining, sees his parents brutally murdered by a seemingly unmotivated, untethered madman dressed like Santa. This, we can all agree, is dope.
- There are nuns in this movie, and Dad and I could agree on one thing about nun tropes in movies: The nun whose hair you can’t see outside her wimple is always an unequivocal bitch. The nun whose sandy locks are peeking out has a heart and just might go against the rules of the nunnery to do… the work of God. Touching.
- There’s one great sex scene in this movie but the mean nun interrupts it and whips them mid-coitus with a belt. Which some might say is even more hot, depending on their taste. Either way, I do not recommend accidentally watching a sex scene with your dad.
- The scene immediately following features the adorable child being spanked by the nun for accidentally seeing her whipping a naked couple while they were fucking. Dad pretended this was sexy via a series of “woo-hoos” and raised a toast of Diet Coke, but it was not sexy, and I refused to engage.
- There’s a sequel to this movie that was made years later, and the idea of watching it sends us into a shared panic attack.
- About a third of the way into the movie, the little boy whose parents were killed by Santa comes of age in an INCREDIBLE montage where he works at a corner store and receives this look of approval from his boss while a vile song called “The Warm Side of the Door” plays. Growing up is a trip.
- Billy gets hot as he ages and has a panic attack during a lukewarm sex scene, the sort of emotional freak out that I hope to give every man with whom I engage in intercourse. The panic attack ends with him in the fetal position repeating, “I’m a good boy.” I ask dad if this is what the night of my conception was like and at first he’s annoyed, but then he says yes.
- In a plot twist of absurdly stupid proportions, Billy is forced to become a Santa Claus even though he’s eighteen and in this world, wearing a Santa suit makes you want to stab everyone you’ve ever met. There’s a lot of gratuitous D-cups in this scene, prompting a fun family discussion about how B-cups haven’t gotten their fair due since the ‘70s, and what gives?
- From here on, Billy pretty much just kills hot women until he tries to kill the mean nun and is gunned down. Nothing particularly compelling, since we never understand why he’s doing this in the first place. Also, like, Dad, do not add my friends on Facebook?
OUR REVIEW: Mean nuns whipping people who are having sex is very funny. Worth the watch.
ROM COM: FOUR CHRISTMASES
To be clear, I love a good rom-com. Maid in Manhattan? I can recite it. The Holiday, another subpar Christmas rom-com where Jude Law and Cameron Diaz have sex the whole time, but not-conventionally-handsome Jack Black barely gets a kiss on the mouth? It gets an annual viewing. When we started watching Four Christmases, Dad and I realized we’d never even heard of this cinematic garbage dump; at least we were familiar with Vaughn’s other horrifying holiday entry, Fred Claus.
This movie stars Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon as a loving (we are told) couple (though, there is no chemistry) who attempt to escape their respective families for the holidays by going on vacation (rude). Instead, they get snowed in and — you guessed it — blah blah something something Four Christmases!
- It is my professional opinion that Vince Vaughn has never and will never convincingly play opposite a woman onscreen, ever. He and Reese Witherspoon appear to barely know each other for the duration of this movie, and he’s managed to tank onscreen chemistry with women he’s actually in love with, like Jennifer Aniston in the equally bad The Breakup. YOU SUCK, VINCE.
- Dad literally will not stop saying that Reese Witherspoon is beautiful and wondering who made her do this movie, and whether she wanted a new house or was in debt, and forced to be in it.
- The title of this movie would lead you to believe that Reese and Vince attend four Christmases, but they absolutely do not. They go to two Christmases, hers and his, two separate times, with something about Reese wanting a baby and Vince doesn’t, but who cares because they don’t seem to even like each other. The more appropriate move would be to name this film Two Christmases, Twice, or better yet, they could have never made it in the first place.
- I gasped out loud when I saw that Kristen Chenoweth had subjected herself to this garbage, prompting Dad to ask me who she is, then calling me a theater nerd.
- Can we be at a point in history when the joke about the female isn’t that she used to be fat or gay? For the love of God. Vince has an extended scene where he playfully tells Reese that he doesn’t care that she was fat and gay then, because at least she’s not fat and gay now. Fuck off, Vince!
- We call them Vince and Reese for the duration of the movie because their characters are that unmemorable.
- Whoever did sound levels in this movie should be in a federal prison because every time a baby cries, it is edited to be insufferably loud.
- It ends at some point? Felt like a blur.
OUR REVIEW: Unacceptable.
CHILDREN’S MOVIE: JACK FROST
By the last movie of the marathon, we were both ready to die, but had also never been more alive. Jack Frost was my most anticipated watch of the marathon because it starts Michael Keaton (oh no) as a bad father who dies (um what) and then is reincarnated (I’m listening) as a hideous CGI snowman (and I’m gone again). Also, it’s made for children. I knew for sure that this would be the movie to raise my dad’s blood pressure the most, and wanted to watch it last when he was most vulnerable. I should win the Pulitzer for being an excellent daughter, but I feel like I’ll be snubbed again this year for Chelsea Clinton or something.
- I accidentally downloaded the Jack Frost made in 1997 first, which is a horror movie with an extended creepy opening. So anyways, the first 10 minutes were confusing and smattered with loud screams of “SHOW ME KEATON!” from both of us.
- The real Jack Frost movie opens on a scene of Michael Keaton playing a human character named Jack Frost who leads the band “The Jack Frost Band,” who play a terrible cover of “Frosty the Snowman” and are immediately signed to a major record label. This is so lazily written that I remove one of my own teeth using only my hand.
- Jack Frost’s kid Charlie (missed opportunity to name him Robert, I think) has a gorgeous bowl cut and the perfect 1998 bully - a spiky-haired kid with a snowboard and no father who says “butt” a lot. Dad immediately predicts that spiky hair kid and Charlie will become friends eventually, and by the end of the movie he’s right. Lots of obnoxious fist pumping from Dad for identifying a simple movie b-plot. I am OVER it.
- Jack Frost’s character takes way too long to die in a movie that the viewer enters knowing he will die in. A half hour in, he finally gets hit by a car (okay, that’s sadistic), and this was after fifteen minutes of my dad and I making bets on whether he’ll make it through another scene or not.
- Dad and I both agree that Jack Frost’s relationship with his wife is gross. First of all, they’re too hot to live in Denver where the movie takes place. Dad also says that if they were really in Colorado, they would have guns (good point). No mom and dad make out on their front lawn as frequently as these horndogs do, and Michael Keaton is always wearing a fedora, and it makes me want to shove my entire fist into my mouth.
- THERE’S A SEX SCENE BETWEEN JACK FROST AND HIS WIFE. NO NIPS, BUT THIS IS A KID’S MOVIE. WHY DID THEY DO THAT!!!!!
- A major plot point in this movie is Jack Frost giving his son Charlie his “favorite harmonica” the night before he dies. Ah, the old chestnut trope of a son inheriting his bad father’s dumbass harmonica. Dad keeps yelling that a harmonica “would not pay for that house.”
- Charlie Frost is a promising child hockey player in this movie, and my dad is a professional hockey reporter. I will spare you the specifics, but a lot of this movie consisted of him yelling about how Hollywood doesn’t understand hockey and how “the goalie should only have one hand on the stick, for the love of God.” Cool Dad, please relax.
- The movie flashes forward to a year later, when Jack Frost finally, for no reason we could identify other than a magical gust of wind, reincarnates as a snowman who is willing to talk to his son, but not his wife — maybe because it’s harder to be a horndog when made of snow? Still seems pretty mean.
- Quoth dad: “That snowman just realized he doesn’t have a dick and he’s mad.”
- Dad is really leaning into the incest jokes on this one. “Charlie’s what, twelve or thirteen now? Is he gonna pick up on Michael Keaton’s husbandly duties or something? Hell yeah.” When I say that’s gross, he gets pissed.
- The snowman is an equally bad dad, except with heat-related slapstick.
- The rules of when a snowman melts and when it doesn’t are baffling. We’re supposed to believe that Jack Frost melts when crossing a parking lot in freezing cold temperatures and inside a freezing cold hockey rink, but doesn’t melt when tucking his son in in front of a roaring fire? I failed biology, but this is garbage.
- Henry Rollins is in this movie??? He doesn’t suck, but who blackmailed him into doing the least punk rock thing he’s ever done in his life besides all those advertisements? Punk is dead.
- This line: “You know that night you came back? It was because I gave you my harmonica.”
- Okay, so Jack Frost finally meets his wife as a snowman in the last two minutes of the movie and momentarily turns into his human and sings his wife the song from the sex scene earlier? Dear God.
- The last line of this movie is “I’ll be listening” and I have no idea why.
OUR REVIEW: We hope that the Jack Frost Band goes back on tour, and that it is emotionally cruel for a dead dad to come back in a spooky reincarnation, only to bail again. That said, 10/10 would watch again.
In summation, Christmas is a corporate holiday comprised only of Hollywood cash grabs and fractured family dynamics. Dad, please do not add my friends on Facebook, and Jamie, do not ever drink that much milk at once to make a point again.