A few years ago I decided to take a look at the movies I considered to be my all-time favourites and try to figure out what they had in common--what exactly it was about them that I responded to the most. Eventually I concluded that the kinds of films I love are ones that aren't afraid to acknowledge the dreamlike nature of the medium without sacrificing emotional verisimilitude in the process. That's why, for example, I love the films of Wes Anderson, but have never felt much affection for the work of David Lynch. Both are talented auteurs who strive to bring their unique visions to the screen, but for all of Anderson's whimiscal touches, his films are still grounded in an emotional reality I can understand and connect with, while the characters in Lynch's films are completely alien to me and--as a result--much more obviously artificial. All of my favourite filmmakers (Bob Fosse, Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, David Fincher, David Cronenberg, Robert Altman, Milos Forman, P.T. Anderson, Peter Weir to name nine of them off of the top of my head) implicitly understand that great art should invoke empathy and that as long as that is accomplished, they are then free to do whatever the hell they like.
I bring this up because the scene I have chosen to name the #1 most memorable moment in Christmas holiday horror history impresses me as much as it does because it is a dreamy, sweet ending to what has otherwise been a very dark and discomfiting picture. After spending the entire movie watching the gradual mental disintegration of a hopeless individual, we are at the very end allowed to escape from the darkness in an instant of pure fantasy. It doesn't matter that the moment makes no sense and isn't explained (is it a dream or did it really happen?), it simply is and it is wonderful.
The only film written and directed by Lewis Jackson, the movie tells the story of Harry Stadling (Brandon Maggert, a familiar character actor best known these days for his having sired the pale white songstress Fiona Apple) a middle-aged man who works as a low-level manager in a low-rent toy factory. Its the perfect job for the quiet, lonely bachelor, since--unbeknowst to the rest of the world--he harbors a unique fixation for all things Clausian. The roots of his obsession go back to when he was young and he saw his parents engage in some mildly fetishistic foreplay in front of the fireplace while his dad wore the Santa suit he had donned to surprise his two sons earlier that night. Beyond filling his apartment with every Santa artifact he can find, Harry also indulges his passion by sleeping in Santa Claus pajamas, listening to Christmas carols and--more disturbingly--keeping track of the activities of the neighborhood children in books labeled "Naughty" and "Nice".
Having taken care of the nice part of his list, Harry decides it's now time to address the issue of the naughty. To that end he stands outside of a local church after the end of a Christmas Eve mass. There he is ridiculed by a quartet of obnoxious yuppies. He quickly shuts them up when he stabs three of them to death with one of the toy soldiers he made himself. After he escapes from the murder scene, he finds himself the center of attention at a private Christmas party, where he gets to truly enjoy the status that comes from being Father Christmas. After this brief ego-boost, he goes back to his Naughty-punishing mission and goes to the house of a co-worker who has previously taken advantage of him. There he gets a uncomfortable glimpse at reality when he briefly becomes stuck inside the house's chimney and is forced to get inside using a window instead. When he finally gets into the house, he uses the same toy soldier as before to kill his co-worker.
It is at this point, as Harry escapes from his brother while being pursued by the (torch-wielding!) mob that the jaw-dropping moment that ends the film unspools before the audience's disbelieving eyes.
That, my friends, is pure genius.
And thus endeth the House of Glib's countdown of the most memorable moments in Christmas holiday horror history. While I doubt it was at all enlightening, I know I had a good time, which is all that matters to a selfish bastard like me.