Triple Christmas Scoop Review: Anna and the Apocalypse, Silent Night, Deadly Night, and Die Hard

Happy New Year, everyone! I’m loathe to even express hope for 2021 at this point, so let’s just belatedly talk about the Christmas movies I watched last week instead.

Anna and the Apocalypse

Year: 2017
Director: John McPhail
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Some, but I don’t think any Big Ones
Grade: Vanilla

Ah, the traditional zombie musical holiday movie. I enjoyed Anna and the Apocalypse, although it’s a bit darker than I expected it to be. Ridiculous of me to assume otherwise, I know–horror comedies obviously tend to skew dark, not to mention Clear Foreshadow song “Hollywood Ending”–but I suppose I was thrown by all the dancing and cheer and cast full of generally likable characters? Musical comedies and horror comedies generally have different rules about who and how many people you can murder, and I found myself expecting a story that adhered more to the former than the latter. As such, some of the character deaths here definitely took me by surprise.

My absolute favorite character, though, is Assistant Headmaster Savage, who starts out this movie as a curmudgeonly antagonist–as all vice principals must–before transforming into a glorious mad villain–as all vice principals must. I’ve read a few reviews now that feel this turn is forced or unnecessary, and TBH, they aren’t wrong. But I also don’t care because Savage is so utterly delightful that I don’t give a damn what he’s doing, so long as he keeps talking. Every line is somehow drier and more disgruntled than the last until this dude’s sitting in the dark, ominously explaining that he’s eating his Christmas dinner, and I’m near in tears. Savage, BTW, is played by Paul Kaye, who also played Thoros of Myr in Game of Thrones, and now I’d really like to see a slideshow comparing every GoT actor with their absolute LEAST GoT-like roles.

Anna and the Apocalypse is also one of those movies where the horror might take you by surprise if you just stumbled across it on TV without knowing anything about the story. The first, IDK, 15-20 minutes play as a standard cute high school musical, and then we get “Turning My Life Around,” which changes everything. This scene is epic, delightfully having fun at the vast suspension of disbelief one inherently needs to enjoy musicals. Other favorite songs include “Soldier at War,” “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now,” and “It’s That Time of Year.”

Silent Night, Deadly Night

Year: 1984
Director: Charles E. Sellier Jr.
First Watch or Rewatch: Rewatch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Personal Collection DVD
Spoilers: Yup
Grade: Strawberry

Despite owning this movie, I haven’t seen it in years and was a bit worried Mekaela wouldn’t like it and/or the film wouldn’t hold up, especially since some movies–especially ridiculous ones–are best experienced in a big group of people. These concerns proved groundless: Mek was hilariously indignant on Billy’s behalf, rooting for his inevitable killing spree to begin, and–despite the dreaded grade of Strawberry–I still find Silent Night, Deadly Night pretty solidly entertaining. There are things I’d change, certainly: the attempted sexual assault in the prologue, for instance, or the sheer number of tits on display. (The most egregious moment is when Scream Queen Linnea Quigley pulls on a pair of Daisy Dukes to go outside, but doesn’t bother putting on a bra or shirt? What?) Also, while I love that a kindly old priest gets killed after being mistaken for Evil Santa . . . IDK, maybe don’t make him deaf?

A list of standout moments: any time Billy says “NAUGHTY!” or “PUNISH!” (I’m definitely going to start yelling that at my cats now.) The ending, which sets up for the sequel that I still haven’t seen. (2021 Goals!) That fucking amazing moment when Billy gifts his bloody knife to a little girl. (Wait, this movie has five sequels and none of them are about this kid? JFC, hire me; I will write the shit out of an Evil Girl Santa movie!) Little Billy punching Santa Claus is pretty great, too, and that this toy store sells, like, actual bows and arrows, I guess? I mean, yeah, why not? Some of the death scenes are  fantastic, like, Bully Decapitated on a Sled is just *chef’s kiss,* and the dude who dies when he gets thrown through a window? YES. Partially because he’s impaled on just a ludicrously large piece of glass, but mostly because holy shit, someone in a movie finally dies from going through a window pane! I’m also in love with the blatant changes in film quality that sometimes happen mid-scene. It’s the absolute best.

The gigantic controversy that emerged when this movie came out is still shockingly absurd. I feel sorry for anyone whose career might’ve suffered just because people lost their minds and decided Silent Night, Deadly Night was an attack on Christmas, like, this wasn’t even the first Killer Santa movie, goddamn it. I remain vexed on this film’s behalf, and never mind that the movie is a year older than I am and no one cares anymore. This is nonsense. People should still be ashamed of themselves.

Die Hard

Year: 1988
Director: John McTiernan
First Watch or Rewatch: Rewatch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – HBO Max
Spoilers: Obviously
Grade: Chocolate

Well, I mean. Die Hard is always gonna win for me: I grew up on this one, and the nostalgia factor is just too strong. It’s been my favorite Christmas movie since childhood, and honestly works even better for me as an adult–except that, like most cop movies, it’s kinda 2+ hours of police propaganda. (We need more mavericks like McClane! It’s only pesky rules that stop hardworking cops getting the job done! Thank God Al Powell learned the Will to Kill again after shooting an innocent kid!) Still. Messaging aside, I do love this one. There are just so many little moments I enjoy: all the humming and singing (“Ode to Joy” has honest to God become a Christmas song in my brain), Al Leong’s improvised candy bit (it is low key my favorite joke in the whole movie), Karl and Theo’s bet (which I somehow didn’t notice for years), etc.

The dialogue, too, seems effortlessly funny. All the Big Lines, of course, but also the little asides. The way Alan Rickman says, “I must have missed 60 Minutes.” The obvious amusement in Reginald VelJohnson’s voice when he asks, “Hey, Roy, how you feeling?” How Tony’s actions–wait, his name is TONY–somewhat belie his words when he assures, “I promise I won’t hurt you,” or the way James Shigeta quietly reminds Ellis, “Holly’s husband. Holly’s policeman.” TBH, I just adore Shigeta in this movie and always get a bit bummed when Takagi dies. Hans, too, of course, because let’s be honest: we all want to see the AU version where Hans wins, right? Or at least some deleted scenes with Exasperated Hans listening to John and Powell talk? Basically, I want more of Alan Rickman at every given opportunity. Damn, I still miss him.

Obviously, there’s really not much I can say about Die Hard that hasn’t already been said a billion times over. But I’m here, so: A) I have a lot of Feels/Ideas about characters who build a relationship (of any kind) before actually meeting, so of course, I think it’s awesome that John does this with his closest ally Powell (only one scene together) and Big Bad Hans (only two). B) I like that John is mostly a regular guy who gets caught in a bad situation, rather than the Super Cop he’ll become in subsequent sequels. (He’s  also a bit of a sociopath–evidence HO HO HO–and probably would’ve gotten everyone killed with that C4, but we’ll ignore this for now.) C) A bad guy actually does die from being thrown through glass; however, this moment is somewhat negated when John swings straight through a glass window himself and is basically fine. And D) I love that Kristoff survives because I don’t care what anyone else says; he lives, and it is the BEST.

Finally, I’m mildly obsessed with recasting movies, just for the challenge of it. Lately, Mek and I have taken to recasting movies and TV shows with Korean actors–I always end up casting Choi Won-Young as somebody–and, of course, we’ve already did a genderbent cast for Die Hard a couple years ago. (Scroll down quite a ways.) I mention all this because while watching Die Hard for the 574th time, I was  struck by a strange if charming idea: what if LeVar Burton had been cast as Theo? Not because I dislike Clarence Gilyard Jr. in this, but . . . I don’t know, I’m just very amused by the idea of everyone’s favorite children’s show host/mild-mannered Chief Engineer playing a bad guy (albeit, a comic relief bad guy). He could absolutely do it, and I think it would’ve been fun to see. Which naturally led Mek and I to a new game: recast actors who could somewhat reasonably have played these roles in 1987. We haven’t settled on a full cast yet, but I can tell you that some of the nominees for Karl have seriously cracked me up.

Triple Scoop Reviews: Krampus, Hush, and Phenomena

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I confess, I haven’t been watching very many movies lately, choosing to binge-watch shows like Killing Eve and Shadowhunters instead. (Yeah, I said Shadowhunters. Come at me. I AM IMPERVIOUS TO YOUR SCORN.)

Still, the few movies I have been watching these days have mostly been horror, ranging from the clever to the weird to the very fucking weird. Let’s discuss.

Krampus

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix (DVD)
Spoilers: Not really
Grade: Vanilla

This one is actually pretty hard to rate. I enjoyed it, I think. I’m reasonably certain that I’d like it more and more with each viewing. But tonally, it’s definitely bizarre: part family drama, part inspirational holiday, part holiday horror, and part crack comedy, this is the movie for you if you like some killer gingerbread men and homicidal Christmas angels along with your “what it means to be a family” stories. Honestly, that sounds pretty much exactly like my jam, so I’m trying to figure out what my hesitation is on this one.

Maybe it’s the PG-13 rating. The vast majority of the violence here is of the “you never actually see it” variety, and I’m not 100% sure it works, like, I feel there’s maybe a lack of payoff or balance. At first, we only get glimpses of the horror, and that’s fine, but when we eventually do get to explicitly see the delightfully absurd Christmas monsters, I feel like we should also get some equally explicit, over-the-top gore, too, and that never happens. Not even mild gore, TBH. I don’t know, I’m having a hard time putting my finger on it, exactly. Something just doesn’t quite feel right with the build.

Great cast, though: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Allison Tolman, David Koechner, Conchata Ferrell, etc. And I really enjoyed the ambiguous ending, too, which is not something I say very often. I’m always looking for more alternative holiday classics; we’ll see if this one gets another viewing next year.

Hush

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix
Spoilers: Only mild ones
Grade: Chocolate

This is a really solid horror film. I enjoyed it a lot: it’s original, well-acted, generally well thought-out, like, the staging of certain scenes and moments pan out pretty much perfectly. It’s also a really good length, which can be tricky with this kind of ‘one dude tries to murder one woman in a house’ story. Hush doesn’t outstay its welcome, which is nice.

My primary disappointment with the film is that it doesn’t actually star a deaf actress. Which isn’t a knock to Kate Siegel, who also co-write the script–she’s fantastic, and I like her performance a whole lot. (And, of course, I also loved her in The Haunting of Hill House; she and husband Mike Flanagan have teamed up for some pretty good horror stories, though this one, I think, has a much better ending.) That being said, Maddy is still a deaf lead character, and it would’ve been nice to see that role actually go to a deaf actress. And if you’re gonna argue that Hush needed a hearing actress because of the one scene where Maddy listens to her inner voice, let me just cut that off, because the movie already told us that Maddy’s inner voice sounds like her mother. While I like the scene as it plays in the film, there is absolutely no reason Maddy’s Mom couldn’t have worked for this role as well. (Also, there’s a weird beat at the beginning of the movie where the director uses ominous music while showing you that Maddie is deaf. And while that’s probably just to establish genre and set mood, it has the unfortunate side effect of making her deafness itself seems ominous in the everyday context of chopping onions and shit. I’m not a fan.)

That all being said, I did enjoy Hush quite a bit. It’s a smart, claustrophobic horror flick, and while the kill count is admittedly low, Maddy still makes for an awesome Final Girl.

Phenomena

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix (DVD)
Spoilers: YES, ALL OF THEM
Grade: Strawberry

Well. That was a movie, all right.

Look, I adore the premise of this film. A baby-faced Jennifer Connolly plays the new girl at a Swiss boarding school in a town where, unfortunately, several murders have taken place over the past eight months. (Which is why we do our research before we send our kids off to boarding school, thanks.) Our heroine is special, though: she has psychic dreams, psychic somnambulism, and she can control/communicate with insects. Under the mentorship of consulting entomologist Donald Pleasance, Jennifer tries to track down the killer. I am all on board with that level of weirdness. I want Netflix to remake this into a surreal, binge-worthy TV show immediately.

But wow, this movie’s fucked up and not always in a good way. The killer, it turns out, is a deformed little boy, who’s being protected/helped by his mother, who was raped by a mental patient years ago, and you can just miss me with ALL that bullshit. Donald Pleasance has a chimpanzee BFF who, I shit you not, avenges the entomologist’s murder at the end of the movie when he kills the shit out of Evil Mom with a razor. There is also some poor writing, odd editing choices, and a weirdly intrusive soundtrack with music that often feels completely mismatched with the scene itself. Goblin and Suspiria, this is not.

Mostly, Phenomena just feels like something of a hot mess. A hot maggoty mess. Mekaela, the best gift I’ve ever given you is watching this one on my own. There are so MANY maggots in this movie. You would never have forgiven me.

Genderbent Wednesdays Presents DIE HARD

So, last month. Mekaela and I are doing our annual Christmas viewing of Die Hard, and we begin–not for the first time–talking about what a genderbent remake of the movie might look like. Not so much from a “let’s cast this” perspective (although, yeah, I’m gonna discuss that too), but more along the lines of “how does the story change if all the characters swapped genders?”

And I thought, Hey, Genderbent Wednesdays might be a kinda fun, very occasional feature on the blog. (Not that I’m absolutely committing, considering how Second Chance Tuesdays died a swift and lonely death, but still. I’d like to try it out.) So, here we are. On a Wednesday.

Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker.

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Coming Soon-Ish: Final Girls, Boy Scouts, and Quentin Tarantino

The Final Girls

Okay, so, this movie was basically made for me. It’s like Scream meets Last Action Hero, or The Purple Rose of Cairo. I know some people are tired of the whole meta-horror comedy thing, but what can I say? That shit’s where I live, and I’m actually pretty interested in the whole mother/daughter storyline here. It sort of adds a new angle, and I think it’s awesome when parodies like this have something more going on underneath, something with a little heart. Whether it’ll be effective or not, I couldn’t say, but I’m interested regardless.

My main concern here is that this trailer’s giving away all the best parts for free. (“I want chainsaws and big ass knives, and I want them now.” YES. Excellent, Nina Dobrev.) But hopefully not. I want to see this, and I want it to be good.

The Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse

Unfortunately, I’m a lot less into this particular horror comedy. (And pretty NSFW, by the way.) I want to be excited about it — I mean, come on, it’s Boy Scouts vs Zombies!  — but after that trailer, I’m just like, Okay, so we’ve got one token hot chick badass, plus three stereotypically pathetic nerd boys, and some huge zombie tits. Uh, yay?

Of course, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this movie will surprise me by being totally awesome. But my interest just took a pretty sharp nosedive.

Victor Frankenstein

I’m not sure what tone I expected Victor Frankenstein to have, exactly, but I’ll admit . . . that wasn’t it. Honestly, I could still totally watch this movie — I’m kind of digging James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe’s lighthearted banter — but at this point, I think it’s probably for the best that I keep my expectations low because it’s kind of looking like a hot mess. Although maybe that’s not fair. Maybe I’m simply judging it on some of the weirder monster shit, which immediately reminded me of Van Helsing — NOT one of my favorites.

Also, when McAvoy says, “It’s . . . alive!” I’m like, “What is? The Creature, or Harry Potter’s Stupid Hair?” I mean, look at that mop. It’s completely ridiculous, almost as ridiculous as Daniel Radcliffe’s current actual beard. I say this knowing that I have green/black/blonde/blue hair right now and probably no right to speak to anyone, but . . . no. Just no, honey. You have lovely features, and the razor is your friend.

The Witch

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here (other than, you know, super spooky shit), but I feel like this movie might have come into being by somebody watching The Village and thinking, “Fuck you, Shyamalan. I’m taking this shit and making it EERIE.”

There is just a ton of creepy imagery packed into this trailer, and some of it looks pretty disturbing. I wouldn’t mind a better idea of the actual plot, but I could potentially check this one out.

The Keeping Room

This actually also looks pretty interesting, too. Westerns (like most genres that aren’t romantic comedies or family dramas) rarely have multiple lead female characters, but here there appear to be three, defending themselves and their home against Sam Worthington . . . and yes, while Sam Worthington is almost always an automatic strike against the film these days, well, who knows? Maybe playing a villain will give him a spark of personality.

Either way, I’m kind of into this. I’d love to see more feminist westerns, and some of the cinematography looks absolutely stunning.

And finally . . . The Hateful Eight

Now notice how many women are in this western? Yup. That’d be one. She also doesn’t say a damn thing, either, and I don’t know if that’s because her character’s mute or just isn’t worthy of speaking in this trailer. (I could Google, but, like, effort.) Then again, I did laugh pretty hard at all her waving hello and pantomiming death, so it’s not all bad. (Just . . . it’s possibly not a coincidence that Kill Bill and Death Proof — you know, the ones where the female characters easily outnumber the men — are some of my favorite Tarantino films.)

Still, let’s not even pretend that I’m going to skip Quentin Tarantino’s next movie. Obviously I’m going to watch it. The setup looks like a lot of fun, and there are a ton of actors I really enjoy, although I’m basically bucking myself up now for Walton Goggins’s inevitable demise. (I just love the actor so. Surely, I’ve doomed him by my adoration.)

Could a ticket to The Hateful Eight be a Christmas present to myself? Maybe. Sure beats The Polar Express, anyway.

*shudders*

Worst. Christmas Movie. EVER. If you haven’t seen it, consider yourself lucky. It is the schmaltziest crap of all time. Stay away. STAY AWAY.

Coming Soon-Ish: Tomorrowland, Demon Whales, and Kick Ass Librarians

Tomorrowland

This looks kind of interesting. Heartwarming, too, I assume — because, you know, Disney. But the teaser sparked my curiosity enough to check out the cast, and man. There are some fantastic people here. Other than Britt Robertson and George Clooney, we also have Judy Greer, Hugh Laurie, Keegan Michael Key, and Chris Bauer. I’m concerned that the success of this film could mean movies for every Land of Disney — I personally fear the dread Critter Country movie — but this could eventually be a rental, if I like what I see in longer, more illuminating trailers.

Although I feel it should be said: wouldn’t you try to pick up the pin with your sleeve or something, at least until you got out of juvie? I think I would.

In the Heart of the Sea

And then we have an excellent cast starring in a movie I have absolutely ZERO interest in. Let’s see, we’ve got Cillian Murphy, Chris Hemsworth, Brendan Gleeson, Michelle Fairley, Ben Whishaw, and Donald Sumpter, all being directed by Ron Howard, and yet . . . no, unfortunately, it’s still about a bunch of dudes who get shipwrecked by a giant whale. Pass.

Seriously, there’s this line where they say, “The tragedy of the Essex is the story of men . . . and a demon,” only we’re looking at a giant whale tail with, like, angry alien screaming background noise or something, and I just can’t take that shit seriously as all. I’m not saying a whale can’t fuck your shit up. I’m saying DEMON seems a little excessive. And yes, I know this is the story that inspired Moby Dick, or at least I figured it out by watching the trailer. Still can’t take it very seriously.

Fun fact: when they first mentioned the Essex, I was like, “Hey, I’ve heard of a ship called Essex before, and it obviously wasn’t this. How do I know that name?”

Star Trek: TNG, baby. “Power Play.” Ha.

Top Five

And another one where I care considerably more about the cast than the story, although admittedly, I’d rather watch this than In the Heart of the Sea. (Probably. It’s problematic. As a romantic comedy goes — cause I think we all know that’s where Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson are headed — I don’t think Top Five will do anything I haven’t seen a dozen times before. And the whale movie, at least, could have more exciting action and (hopefully) grisly death scenes. On the other hand, that movie looks like it’s taking itself WAY too seriously. This one isn’t screaming for Oscars and could ultimately be the more enjoyable film.)

Honestly, it’s the rom-com stuff that has me worried. I actually could watch a movie about a comedian who wants to take on more serious roles. It might be kind of nice, even, to see Chris Rock in something that isn’t, oh, Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2, one of the Madagascar movies, etc. Kevin Hart, Whoopi Goldberg, Gabrielle Union, Rosario Dawson, and Tracy Morgan also make up a vey nice supporting cast. I’m just not hugely inspired by this trailer, that’s all.

A Merry Friggin Christmas

Oh, this is sad. It’s always strange to watch actors in their last roles (or one of their last roles, as the case may be), doubly so with Robin Williams. You just don’t quite know how to react. And Robin Williams seems a little different in this movie. Not in a ‘you can tell he was in a dark place’ or some bullshit like that. (I kind of can’t stand people who think they know what’s going on in someone’s life, even if they’ve never met them.) I mean, his role in this particular movie seems less spastic and childlike than others. He’s apparently the conservative, grumpy old man guy, and in a way, that’s kind of funny in and of itself.

Christmas family comedies come out every year, and they usually don’t do much for me, but I’ll admit, Joel McHale and Lauren Graham do pique my curiosity just a bit. (Probably not enough to actually see it, though, not without hearing good things from people whose film opinions I trust.)

And Finally . . . The Librarians 

I’ve only seen one of TNT’s Librarian movies — The Curse of the Judas Chalice — and let me tell you guys: it was hysterical. Intentionally, even. I watched it purely to mock the movie and was delighted to see that it was constantly making fun of itself. With that in mind, I watched the trailer for the new TV show, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to try this one out. The self-aware cheesy humor hasn’t gone anywhere. It seems like the perfect silly show to fill the gap that Warehouse 13 left behind. (Also, Leverage.) And I like many people in the cast, particularly John Larroquette and Christian Kane (who has, praise Jesus, cut his hair).

Admittedly, I’m less excited about Lindy Booth, but I guess I can’t entirely blame Cry_Wolf on her, and it’s not exactly her fault that she played the dumbest character in Dawn of the Dead. I will give her another chance. But I may have to be won over.

“PUNISH!”

Sometimes, I regret not having grown up in the 1950’s and 60’s when impressionable young children could ride their bicycles down to the local theater and see a double feature of cheap grindhouse and bad monster movies. (Everything I know about the 50’s, by the way, I learned in a Stephen King story.)

So I was pretty happy when my theater of choice — the Roxy — started having Cult Film Nights once a week. Last Thursday, I left my comfy couch to meet my friend Lindsey for a showing of Gremlins and Silent Night, Deadly Night.

I had every intention of reviewing both films on this blog, but right now I don’t actually have a lot to say about Gremlins — possibly because I need a second viewing before I make up my mind, or possibly because the insanity that was Silent Night, Deadly Night just obliterated my brain for anything else that came before it.

1984-silent-night-deadly-night-poster1

Oh yes. This was a very special Christmas movie.

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