With the delicious homemade Christmas cookies must come the inedible fruitcake. With the gift of a massive 70-inch plasma TV must come the gift of socks. With the "White Christmas" crooning over the radio must come "The Christmas Shoes."
I already talked about the five most glorious Christmas movies, which means it would only be fair to also mention the five most heinous. After all, it is the season of sharing, and what better to share than movie misery? Therefore, here are five holiday hell spawns that I wouldn't touch with a 39-and-a-half-foot pole.
5. "Jingle All the Way"
Arnold Schwarzenegger can be awesome in the right movies. "Commando," "Total Recall" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" are great movies (OK, "Commando" isn't great, but go with me on this), and Schwarzenegger's natural on-screen charisma and silly self-awareness only made them better.
"Jingle All the Way" is not one of those movies. Not even his goofy Austrian persona can salvage this joyless 1996 Christmas slog, where we are forced to watch a predictable, over-caffeinated tribute to commercialism and materialism. Then you realize that the boy who plays his son is Jake Lloyd, also known as the little wooden child actor who helped ruin the "Star Wars" prequels. (In fairness, it's not like those scripts could've been salvaged by anyone.) Then Sinbad shows up and makes you wonder if you'll ever find anything funny again. It's a remarkably cheerless exercise, as well as a waste of a perfectly entertaining Austrian bodybuilder.
4. "Black Christmas"
The original "Black Christmas" from 1974 is a bleak and creepy Christmas-themed horror flick. The idea of making a grisly horror movie about one of the most cherished days of the year was a bold one, and director Bob Clark (of "A Christmas Story" fame) takes it on perfectly. But since coming up with new ideas is hard, writer/director Glen Morgan decided to remake the creepy classic, remove any sense of nuance or originality whatsoever and throw in ugly, gratuitous scenes of cannibalism, incest, sexual abuse and graphic violence. It's grossly unpleasant – and worse yet, it's not scary. You could get more nightmares from a Rankin/Bass Christmas special.
3. "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians"
Read that title again. Even without seeing a single scrap of footage, you know that "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" seems like a terrible idea. However, this 1964 cult classic isn't even a tongue-in-cheek adventure, like "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" or "FDR: American Badass!" (Look it up!)
No, somehow "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" is a serious tale about a band of Martians who, concerned with their children's obsession with television and general lack of happiness (something they have in common with anyone watching this movie), decide to kidnap Santa Claus. The plot continually adds characters and plot detours, none of which are particularly fun or joyful. This includes a subplot about a devious Martian who wants to kill Santa and the two Earth children they kidnapped – truly a storyline for the whole family. In the end, "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" turns out just as bad as it sounds.
2. "Santa with Muscles"
How bad is "Santa with Muscles?" Even by the standards of star Hulk Hogan's less-than impressive resume ("Mr. Nanny," "3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain"), this 1996 Christmas bomb is easily the low point. Hogan doesn't have a trace of the already sparse charisma he showed in movies like "Suburban Commando." Then again, I can maybe understand his lack of enthusiasm considering the movie's plot, some weird concoction involving Hogan getting amnesia and thinking he's Santa Claus, along with a battle to save a struggling orphanage from an evil Ed Begley Jr.
So let's return to my original question: How bad is "Santa with Muscles?" So bad that Netflix doesn't even recognize its existence. Even if you wanted to rent it (which I don't know why you would but to each their own), Netflix doesn't believe the film exists. Maybe it's better that way.
1. "Santa Claus"
Well, this can't be too bad right? I mean, the title is just "Santa Claus." There's no conquering Martians or reference to bulging biceps. It's probably just a wildly generic Christmas special and nothing to get your tinsel in a bunch.
Oh no. No, it's far worse. It's actually kind of mind-blowing.
The 1959 Christmas spectacular follows Santa as he prepares to head out and deliver his presents. As a result, he starts leeringly playing his magical organ and listing off his child laborers from across the globe who help him in his castle, which is located in space. (Of course!) After the parade of racial stereotypes (including his helpers from Africa, wearing loincloths and holding spears), we then travel to hell, where we discover a red-faced demon named Pitch has been sent to Earth to make kids do evil and destroy Christmas spirit.
That's just the first 15 minutes. I haven't even gotten to the part where Santa goes to Merlin – yes, the famous wizard, who also apparently lives in Santa's space castle – for help in vanquishing the devil. Or Santa's creepy, soulless mechanical reindeer. Or the dance sequence that looks like a holiday-themed deleted scene from "Silent Hill." Even with the presence of Merlin, "Santa Claus" is the least magical Christmas film ever. At least Pitch is scarier than anything in "Black Christmas."
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.