santa

A Very Merry (Scary) Christmas

It’s an age old story.

Everything’s blissfully quiet. You settle down for a long winter snooze after putting on your coziest winter jammies. Then… a clatter atop the roof! You jump out of bed and run to the window. To see Santa and his reindeer above you! And then…

Santa PULLS OUT HIS MACHETE/CHAINSAW/MACHINE GUN COMBINATION AND MURDERS YOU!

Oh… did I forget to mention that before going to sleep you were banging your teenage girlfriend like a kettle drum while your parents were away on business? And that both of you were smoking weed? And drunk? And probably were mean to the mousy girl who manages to be both quiet and a bit disliked, and spunky with a definite will to win?

Yeah, I musta forgot to mention that. Because if I had, you would have seen the Santa-murder thing from a mile away.

Now listen, I’ve already talked about the fact that Santa is a vaguely creepy guy, as well as possibly being a bigot. But what I haven’t talked about is (coincidentally) the very thing you were going to ask Santa this year when you go and sit on his lap*: the intersection between Santa and horror movies.

There are a lot of ’em. The fairly recent Silent Night, about a psycho Santa with a flamethrower. The older schlock-classic Silent Night, Deadly Night, about an abused child who grows up and dresses like Santa so he can murder some nuns (seriously). Silent Night, Zombie Night, about… well, you can probably guess that one.

And this year we have another entry: the horror-comedy Krampus, about Santa’s evil opposite.

All of them have one thing in common: they didn’t do that well in the box office.

Why? A lot of them are well-received by the horror community, many of them making people’s horror “top ten of the year” list. Many develop cult followings over the years.

So why don’t they make big bucks at the b.o.? Why the tiny splash instead of the surging tsunami that will inspire people to dress up as Bloody Santa, the Christmas Killer next year?

I think it boils down to this: most of us still hold some things as sacred.

Wait, don’t jump to conclusions. Lemme ‘splain.

Christmas brings a lot of things to mind: presents, family, friends, parties, and (if you’re religious, as I am) a baby in a manger. But one thing it doesn’t bring immediately to mind is memories. Not even specific ones, but more a vague remembrance of Christmases past, of good times tinged with the sepia tints of happy memory**. We remember, at least subconsciously, the times of our youth, when we didn’t really know or worry about bills, about relationships, about work, about the millions of cares that press out much of our hearts once devoted to joy.

And then a Christmas horror movie comes along and attacks those foundations. And most people don’t want that. Some can’t even handle it.

Horror is, when at its best, subversive and/or moralizing. You only have to look at Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, with its commentary on commercial America; or even the first Saw, which beneath a gory surface told a story of priorities — of the importance of cherishing what we have. But as dark as horror becomes, we shy away when it does violence to our foundations. It is all right to question society, to posit that we are not where we should be.

It is another thing entirely to say, “Where you came from isn’t safe. The memories you base happiness upon is a lie. Santa isn’t really real — because a constant of our mythology and our culture is his everlasting goodness, and that goodness can be perverted.”

And we just don’t like that. Sure, there are horror junkies who will watch anything “horror.”: torture porn, weird movies from Eastern European countries, Justin Bieber videos. Those are the ones who accept the stories right off. But then the movies generally drift into obscurity. Even cult classics tend to become such not because they are effective horror, but exactly the opposite: because they kinda suck. And those cult classics only garner their largest audiences when time has stripped away any horror the movie once had and allowed it to become a joke. Doing a shot every time Santa says, “You can guide my SLAY tonight” right before impaling someone with a reindeer horn.

There are those who will watch. Who can get past the damage the movie seeks to do to underlying assumptions and necessities of our reality.

But, for the rest, the movies just don’t work. Because even in a world grown more and more cynical, less and less sure of anything… it seems some things are still important, some things are still sacrosanct.

Some things are — dare I say? — still sacred.

Merry (scary) Christmas.

* This, by the way, is getting out of hand. It was one thing to do this when you were a kid. But now, as a grown-up, you’re making it weird. And the buttless chaps don’t help.

** If your memories aren’t sepia, then you just aren’t a good person. And no, your color blindness is NOT an excuse.

Posted by mbc@writteninsomnia.com in Life Advice

Santa Claus: Christmas Terror

It’s my favorite time of the year. The wind is blowing, I look absolutely fabulous in a variety of amusing sweaters, and the tiny children who ride past my window on their bicycles have gone into hibernation for the winter. Also, I had most of them killed for riding past my window.

The other thing I like about this time of year is obvious: it’s coming up on Christmas. Now, for those of you who don’t understand why I like Christmas so much, all I can say is that you’ve obviously never had the opportunity to go Christmas caroling with my family. And for those of you who have had that opportunity, all I can say is I’m sorry. And ask you to please re-think the restraining order.

Tempering my enjoyment of the time of year, though, is the fact that I’m away from my family. Not far away, or even away for a super-duper long time. Just far away enough to make me realize how sad I would be if I were farther from them. And how happy I would be to be closer to them. And how much the same I would be if I were exactly the same distance from them as I am right now.

Because Christmas is a time for family. For friends. For presents.

Ah, presents. The reason for the season. I mean, what says Christmas like a bunch of shrieking middle-aged yahoos* body-checking each other like members of the Federal Prison Hockey League** in order to save thirty dollars on an Xbox 360? What says Christmas like folks going to office parties where they will proceed to get completely blasted and act like shmucks in front of the people whose respect they depend on in order to function on a daily basis?

When did Christmas become more about Black Friday than about Silent Night? When did Christmas become more a day to grab-grab-grab than a day to give-give-give?

Of course, there are obvious culprits. People or entities*** who have become easy scapegoats to blame for the commercialization and denigration of “the most wonderful time of the year.” Like Walmart, or the “liberal media,” or Selena Gomez.

But it’s not Walmart’s fault. And it’s not the fault of the “liberal media.” It’s probably at least somewhat the fault of Selena Gomez, but that conspiracy is so deep that I dare not speak more of it, for fear that hordes of Disney Channel Security Minions will appear at my door to drag me away and bury me next to Walt’s cryogenically frozen head.

So whose fault is it (other than Selena Gomez’s)?

Simple: it’s Santa’s fault.

I mean, think of it: we teach our children to wait with baited breath for a giggling fat guy who sneaks into people’s houses while they sleep and rearranges stuff. Don’t get me started on the fact that he clearly suffers from some kind of weird reverse discrimination (“You must be ‘this’ short to work here”), and that he ranks up there with the cruelest of all pet owners (“Yes? ASPCA? Is it a problem if I force my animals to drag my way-heavy toosh to several billion locations on a single night?”).

Excited for Santa? This sounds like the kind of person we should teach them to call 911 about.

But worst of all is the simple fact that Santa teaches us to wait for presents to come. The first Christmas wasn’t about people waiting for a guy with a thing for fur-lined crushed velvet outfits to come along and drop things underneath a tree we killed for the occasion.

The first Christmas was about a group of shepherds, who left their livelihoods behind to take a trip that would improve their lives.

The first Christmas was about a small family making do in a horrible situation, and somehow finding a way to make it all work.

The first Christmas was about a boy who left his father’s home and went to a strange and hostile place where he would be taunted, tortured, and eventually killed… and did it on the off chance that he could make the people there better.

Christmas isn’t about Santa. It isn’t about presents. It isn’t about waiting for the gifts to come. It is and always has been about going out and finding what needs doing, and doing it. About finding beauty, and elevating it. About giving of our selves instead of our stuff.

Christmas is my favorite time of the year. Because it reminds me how far I have to go. But leaves a star behind to light the way.

* Not to be confused with “Yahoo!” Please don’t sue me, internet giant!
** I would totally watch those games.
*** Entities is a funny word. It makes me think of an alien making love to a Sasquatch. Because that’s the way my mind rolls.

Posted by mbc@writteninsomnia.com in Life Advice