For Jeff Asselin, holiday viewing means indulging in Christmas films with a dark edge.
The filmmaker and Murdoch University Media Production Manager said while Hollywood has been tapping into the bleaker side of the season since Jimmy Stewart’s suicidal everyman in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), modern films such as Bad Santa (2003) have upped the ante.
“Bad Santa is the holiday film I revisit every year. I love it because it revels in undermining the syrupy veneer of Christmas, in particular the overwhelming materialism and consumerism, with its mall retailers out to gouge guilt-wracked parents,” Mr Asselin said.
“At the same time, Billy Bob Thornton’s character shows that alcoholism, misery and crappy jobs don’t disappear over the holiday season, they get intensified.”
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a close second on Mr Asselin’s list.
“National Lampoon perfectly captures what so many people face: horrible family coming over for the day, or worse, the week. It’s a perfect black comedy.”
Mr Asselin said the genre’s popularity could be attributed to its universality.
“A lot of people see Christmas as an obligation, when you get together begrudgingly and face the weight of expectation that everything has to be perfect, but you get the same issues every year with the same personalities,” he said.
“This is great for writers and filmmakers, because you have a claustrophobic setting with a range of conflict-generating characters, including whingers, hypochondriacs, drunks and cheapskates.
“There’s always someone mentioning the napkins aren’t nice enough, an auntie telling you about her chronic skin condition and a couple of uncles hitting the sauce hard at 11am, because it’s a special day.”
Mr Asselin and screenwriter Meg Shields are currently working on their own Christmas black comedy, Full Circle, one of several projects he has in development.
“It’s about a girl who is forced to come to a family reunion at Christmas. Her mum has died, the family is quite dysfunctional and nobody wants to be there. From that high point, basically everything goes wrong,” Mr Asselin said.
Mr Asselin said while he is fascinated by the darker side of the season, he’s not a total Scrooge and plans to watch a few lighter films with his kids this year, including Will Ferrell’s Elf and Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause.
He’ll also use the break to continue editing Pinch, his feature film co-produced with Murdoch University’s Graduate Screen Program.
Jeff Asselin’s suggested dark Christmas viewing:
“Revels in undermining the syrupy veneer of Christmas, in particular the overwhelming materialism and consumerism.”
“Perfectly captures what so many people face: horrible family coming over for the day, or worse, the week.”
“Alan Rickman and his gang take hostages during the office Christmas party. As most people can’t wait to escape this excruciating annual event, it’s clearly a bad situation.”
“Bill Murray being Bill Murray in a modern version of A Christmas Carol with great set pieces and supporting performances by Carol Kane and John Forsythe.”
“Scary for kids as it paints the world in quite an imposing way – whether this was the filmmakers’ intention or not, I’m not sure. Either way, I enjoyed it.”
“Chaos and hijinks in what most people forget is a holiday film.”