Anna Margaret Hollyman hadn’t thought much about Christmas films as a genre until she starred in White Reindeer, a new dark comedy directed by Zach Clark that deals with holiday cheer in ways more sadistic than most viewers may be used to. But what Ms. Hollyman quickly realized, as she prepared for the part, was that most of the Christmas movies she had seen as a kid were, upon closer inspection, much gloomier than she had remembered. “There are these shades of darkness in Christmas films that I’d never noticed before until I was watching them and weighing them against the script of White Reindeer,” Ms. Hollyman said in a recent conversation. Here, the indie veteran takes us through some of those films, which, seen through a different lens, may spur you to reach for something harder than eggnog on Christmas Eve.
Home Alone: “The entire premise of the movie hinges upon child neglect. A boy is forced to fend for himself against two menacing robbers after his family forgets to bring him along to Paris for Christmas! This movie gave my sister nightmares for years.”
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: “This is the ultimate film about being an outsider. Rudolph is banished from the reindeer community simply because of the way he looks. Meanwhile, Hermey, Rudolph’s only elfin friend, is ridiculed in the elf community because he dreams of becoming a dentist. It’s no wonder they both find solace on the Island of Misfit Toys.”
It’s A Wonderful Life: “It’s easy to forget that the entire journey of George Bailey begins after a failed suicide attempt. If Clarence the angel hadn’t shown up, it would’ve been a much different story.”
A Christmas Story: “I never understood why Ralphie didn’t listen to all the adults who warned him that he’d ‘shoot his eye out’ with a BB gun, because that is exactly what he does when he gets one for Christmas. Thank God he was wearing glasses. Additionally, I always feel bad for Mrs. Parker in this movie; her husband has an obsession with a fishnet-covered leg lamp, and a pack of dogs destroy the Christmas dinner she’s been slaving over.”
A Christmas Carol: “The various incarnations of this movie are plenty. But the timeless story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, the curmudgeon, who is taken on a roller coaster ride of darkness by three separate ghosts, always skews morbid. Even in the Muppets version.”