"Hey!" I'm going to pretend you're wondering. "What happened to Holiday Horror Countdown Redux #3?" The simple answer is that since I posted it reluctantly the first time, there was little point in doing so again. For those newcomers who insist on being completests about these things, you can read it here. The rest of you in the meantime can enjoy my pick for the Second Most Memorable Moment in Holiday Horror History, which I have chosen not to update, having nothing to add to what I wrote last year.
Several months ago I found myself in the position of having to entertain my niece Hunter. She asked if she could watch a video and, as I looked though my dvd collection for titles she might appreciate, I suggested she watch a couple episodes from the first season of The Muppet Show.
"But I don't like that," she protested.
"Why not?" I asked her.
"Because I haven't seen it before," she answered back.
It's the kind of sentiment that's cute when it's expressed by a six year-old, but the sad reality is that every day the next great book, movie, TV show, record album, et cetera, is rejected by a clueless executive for that exact same reason. A lot of people find it difficult to get past their prejudice for the familiar, with the result that they disdain the innovative for precisely the same reasons such projects are truly worthwhile.
A lot of people are really stupid.
For proof of this one merely has to recount the history of the #2 most memorable moment in Christmas holiday horror history--a scene so ahead of its time that the executives at the studio that made the film tried to convince its director and nigh-powerful producer to cut it out of the movie from the day it was shot to literally a few days before it was to be released. It goes without saying that it's the best scene in the whole picture and that what makes it so great is precisely the quality that made the executives so nervous about its inclusion. It is a moment of profound ambivilance--one that is as funny as it is sad and vice versa.
It is, of course, the scene in Gremlins where Phoebe Cates explains why she doesn't celebrate Christmas.
The greatness of the scene lies in the fact that it is such a wonderful non sequitur--a moment that adds nothing to the plot and which does nothing more than illuminate the psychology of a character who is otherwise a cipher and only in the film to fulfill the necessary cute girl quotiant. Some would call it self-indulgent, but then the best moments in movies usually are.
Yet, in a way, the moment exemplifies exactly the quality that has made Gremlins so unique after all these years--a combination of comedy and horror in which the comedy is often far more savage and frightening than the horror. Some may wonder if the movie even qualifies as a horror film and it could easily be classified as a dark comedy, but in young Miss Cates' confession the truth is revealed--it is a film whose comedy derives from its horror and whose horror comes from its comedy. Gremlins is a film in which the broad humor of slapstick is taken to such an extreme that it becomes deadly and is as a result far funnier than it normally would be. This scene is funny only because it is so incredibly sad. Had it been played for laughs it would have been horrible, but because it is played so sincerely it becomes hilarious, but--and here's the trick that makes it so special--this is by design and not by accident. This incredible juxtaposition of such disparite tones is truly a wonder to behold.
So that leaves us with just one more moment to go in our countdown of the five most memorable moments in Christmas holiday horror history. No hints, but #1 is a doozy and the main reason I decided to undertake this whole project in the first place. Until then, here's a pic from the other scene that earned the future Mrs. Kevin Kline her place in cinema history.
I posted the wrong scene, didn't I?
Oh well, too late to anything about it now....