Have Yourself a Gory Little Christmas
What are you doing for Christmas tomorrow? I’ll be drinking heroically, eating delicious homemade sweets and watching Fifty Shades of Grey with my best friends, so if you don’t hear from me for the next week or so it’s because I’m fighting off the usual festive roundabout of drunk/hungover/drunk/hungover. While I am generally a cynical old cow, if there’s one thing I do like the festive season for, it’s the excuse to watch copious amounts of horror- after all, what better way to cut through the warm, fatty, cuddly layer of familial happiness than the knowledge that you WILL die and it might well be at the hands of a psychopath with a machete?
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the best pieces of horror television for you to spice up your festive season with. Preferably watch when you’ve eaten too much to bother getting up and hiding behind the sofa.
- Whistle and I’ll Come to You
The 2010 version of this fucking brilliant MR James story is a must-watch for fans of old-fashioned horror given a modern twist. The connection to the original story-which you can read online, for free, and should immediately do -is just clear enough to satiate fans of James’ inimitable work, but Neil Cross (who adapted this version) gives leading man John Hurt plenty to play with in the modern setting, with a properly chilling (and affecting) final act. Following Hurt’s character as he visits a seaside resort only to find himself stalked by a mysterious and unrelenting figure in white, it’s a fascinating exercise in the unseen and the power of anticipation. For pure, unadulterated horror with a heart and soul, hunt down this slow-building tale of terror.
2. The X-Files- How the Ghosts Stole Christmas
DID YOU KNOW that The X-Files is coming back in less than a month? I do, because I accidentally surrounded myself with die-hard fans of the series who will not let me just care about the goofy freak of the week episodes as I’d like. Even still, I’m glad they inflicted this episode on me, because it’s a bunch of Christmassy fun. Mulder and Scully go to investigate an apparently haunted house, and find a couple of spirits- played by Lily Tomlin and Edward Asner-ready to entertain themselves torturing the twosome. It’s grim, gruesome, with a dark sense of humour to boot- perfect for the post-dinner lull when you’ve decided to murder your entire family (because it’s Christmas and you’ve got to make this time SPECIAL even though you see these sods every bloody week of the year and the pressure’s just broken you).
3. Tales From the Darkside-Seasons of Belief
I don’t think anyone’s head will be exploding with surprise when I tell you that I love campy eighties horror, but I don’t think I’ve ever caught the craic regarding how much I love Tales from the Darkside. Like any anthology series it’s patchy as hell, but when they get it right, boy howdy, they usually come up with something memorable. And this Christmas episode- revolving around a horrible creature conjured up by the parents of some Santa-skeptic kids- is gleefully unpleasant, revelling in torturing it’s kiddy co-stars with the properly unsettling monster and subverted festive feel.
4. Supernatural- Roadkill
Yes, I know Supernatural has a Christmas episode and yes, I know this is not it, but the excellent Roadkill has always felt like a darkly festive outing to me. Maybe it’s the snow, maybe it’s the moral of the story, or maybe it’s the fact that I get to admire Tricia Helfer AND Jensen Ackles at the same time (truly, a merry Christmas for Lou), but this is my Christmas pick from the long-running (and long-suffering) horror show. Sam and Dean stumble across Molly after she’s involved in a mysterious car accident that causes her husband to vanish, and the three of them help put a stop to the yearly hauntings that possess that particular strip of road. It’s good and creepy, with a clever little arc that fills me full of festive goodwill/desire to acquire my own deadly knife-finger.
5. The Twilight Zone- Five Characters in Search of an Exit
There are a number of great Twilight Zone Christmas episodes, but this one- inspired by Sartre’s No Exit, for all you beginning to feel the cold grip of festive ennui-is my favourite. Following the story of five people who wake up in a cylinder with no knowledge of where they are or why they’re there (why yes, this DID serve as inspiration for Vincenzo Natali’s excellent movie Cube), it’s a simple, straightforward story with the usual Twilight Zone twist in the tail to keep you sleepless all the way through to new year.