“First came the man: a young wanderer in a fatigue coat and long hair. Then came the legend, as John Rambo sprang from the pages of FIRST BLOOD to take his place in the American cultural landscape. This remarkable novel pits a young Vietnam veteran against a small-town cop who doesn’t know whom he’s dealing with — or how far Rambo will take him into a life-and-death struggle through the woods, hills, and caves of rural Kentucky.
Millions saw the Rambo movies, but those who haven’t read the book that started it all are in for a surprise — a critically acclaimed story of character, action, and compassion.”
FIRST BLOOD: published in 1972 by David Morrell
I’m ashamed to say that I had no idea First Blood was a book before it was made into a movie. Not a single clue. But, I’m glad to finally have this error corrected and was even more glad to have gotten the chance to read this amazing book. Now, there were some definite drastic changes from film to print or print to film more like. And that’s okay. I never expect the movie to be just like the film. There have to be differences, so long as the essence remains intact. For example, I had read Stephen King’s IT before attempting to watch the made-for-TV movie starring Tim Curry. I made it maybe 30 mins into the film before turning it off. TV movie IT was too far removed from the source material to be enjoyable. Whereas, as another example, Hellraiser was based on The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker, and it not only expands the story, it diverges from it regarding Cenobite leadership and other details. However, the difference between why IT as a movie failed and Hellraiser succeeded is that Hellraiser kept the essence of the original source material.
And for the most part, the essence of First Blood, be it Sylvester Stallone or just the imaginative projection from hearing how David Morrell describes John Rambo, is beautifully captured, more so I would say in the book because we are given the characters internal thoughts. The director and Stallone for his part did a great job conveying through action and struggle Rambo’s internal conflicts, but in the book, it becomes, even more, clearer. Did you know that when Rambo arrived in that pinewoods mountain town (called Hope in the movie), he had been kicked out, or “pushed,” as he calls it, at least a dozen times before? That is where the “pushed” thing comes from during the movie that doesn’t make much sense, but in the book it does.
No spoilers here, but the end is veeerrryyy different, and I’m not sure which one I like the most. I feel for Rambo in both scenarios, and I love that end scene monolog he has with his old unit commander in the movie. But in the book…dang…it’s just… I’ve said enough.
As far as veteran issues go, both film and book appealed to me and wrung the gauntlet of emotions. More so in the movie than the book, despite the benefit of reading Rambo’s internal thoughts. The movie seems to focus more on Rambo as a veteran, whereas in the book he’s more often referred to as “The Kid.” The book did, however, add a level of polarity to the conflict between the sheriff, a Korean War veteran, and Rambo, a Vietnam veteran, and how each of them refuses to surrender to the other, way more than what the movie offered. In the movie, the sheriff is more of a chump and doesn’t know what he’s walking into, and just seems to be a dick for no reason. In the book, he is more clearly defined. Especially with what happens during the first hunting party. DAMN is all I can say about that!
Overall, if you’re a fan of the movie, you may want to check out the book. I have few doubts you’ll be disappointed.
My rating: 4/5
Among the horror community, there are certain names that can go unnoticed. New directors and cult indies that simply do not get enough limelight. And there are others in which one ought to know regularly. If there was a quiz, you should know the names of Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, George A. Romero, Alfred Hitchcock, James Whale, Guillermo del Toro, Sam Raimi, and Tobe Hooper as the most easily recognizable of horror directors. Wes Craven gave us (among so much more) Freddy Krueger. Cronenberg gave us Videodrome (among his other visceral work). Romero created an entirely new monster subgenre, zombies. Hitchcock paved the way for most of everyone on this list, starting, I think, with Shadow of a Doubt (1943), but most people probably know him best for Psycho. James Whale, another original pavemaker, gave us Frankenstein. del Toro brought horror into the depths of imagination. Sam Raimi locked us away in the cabin in The Evil Dead. And Tobe Hooper chased us into the sunset with a chainsaw. All these names of known for certain achievements. And in all transparency, even while you’re reading this article, there are probably differing movies you remember or associate with each director best. One director, obviously unnamed in my little list here, if we dug deeper in the cesspool of horror fandom, we’d probably wallow in some pretty nasty disagreement on which of his movies he is best known for. Personally, as a fan of his work, our still yet unnamed director (can you guess?), I’d be amiss not to do a “favorites list” on this the day of his birth. To keep things not too lengthy, this will be limited to my top five favorites (which will NOT be easy) ending on THE movie I think he is best known by. So, hold on to your butts, from least to best, the following are my five favorite movies by none other than John Carpenter.
5. The Fog (1980)
If we’re talking personal favorites, The Fog would certainly go to the top of the pile. But if we’re talking which of Carpenter’s movies he is best known for, well…I have my doubts, even within the horror community, of those who associate Carpenter with The Fog. For starters, The Fog isn’t as over-the-top as some of his later projects. It is simple. Banal. And contained. Yet, in that simplicity, there is a wonderfully fantastic film built on classic gothic themes. A weather-beaten old fisherman tells an ancient tale of betrayal and death to fascinated children as they huddle together by their campfire. An eerie fog envelops Antonio Bay, and from the mist emerge dripping demonic phantoms of a century old shipwreck…seeking revenge.
4. Escape From New York (1981)
Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty. However, much like The Fog, I’m unconvinced how well known Escape from New York is a John Carpenter flick. I think most would be able to tell you Kurt Russell is in it, but other than that…? Regardless, Escape From New York is definitely on my top five list for Carpenter pictures. Here, Carpenter introduces us to some rather complex characters without having to spend too much time on them. Instead, Carpenter focuses on the action as he bravely takes us into the future, a not so far fetched future where crime is out of control and New York City is converted into a maximum security prison. When the President’s plane crashes in old Gotham, the powers that be recruit tough as nails Snake Plissken, a one-eyed former war hero now turned outlaw, into bringing the President, and his cargo (nuke codes), out of this land of confusion.
3. Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Without a doubt, not only do moviegoers in the horror community know and can easily associate Big Trouble in Little China with John Carpenter, but so can those who do not frequent horror movies, and that’s mostly because Big Trouble in Little China is not technically a horror movie. I think it could be labeled mostly as sci-fi fantasy and comedy action. And as ole Jack Burton says, this flick is one of the most quotable of all of Carpenter’s work. The film is an unexpected classic following a tough-talking, wisecracking truck driver named Jack Burton whose life on the road takes a sudden supernatural tailspin when his friend’s fiancee is kidnapped. Speeding to the rescue, Jack finds himself deep beneath San Francisco’s Chinatown, in a murky, creature-filled world ruled by Lo Pan, a 2000-year-old magician who mercilessly presides over an empire of spirits. Dodging demons and facing baffling terrors, Jack battles his way through Lo Pan’s dark domain in a full-throttle, action-riddled ride to rescue the girl.
2. Halloween (1978)
His one movie that sparked a franchise, I’d be really shocked to discover anyone who didn’t know this flick was one of John Carpenter’s. And I swear to all that is holy, if I ever asked someone, “Hey, have you seen Halloween?” And they told me, “Oh, you mean that Rob Zombie movie?” I’d slap them silly. Halloween is a classic to be sure. The score alone is probably more recognizable than the directorial name. And a movie that typically makes it onto everyone’s Halloween holiday movie lineups, a movie that started on a cold Halloween night in 1963 when six year old Michael Myers brutally murdered his 17-year-old sister, Judith. He was sentenced and locked away for 15 years. But on October 30, 1978, during the night before being transferred for a court hearing, a now 21-year-old Michael Myers steals a car and escapes Smith’s Grove. He returns home to his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he searches for his sister.
1. The Thing (1982)
Was there really any surprise The Thing is my number one pick here? Yes, there could be some debate on whether The Thing is an easily associated film of Carpenter’s. And there are two sides to this coin. While I do admit, I have some serious doubts people outside of horror fandom would even recognize the movie title let alone the director, but within the horror fandom world, The Thing has become an inescapable cult classic of behemoth proportions. I do not think I’ve seen another movie that has gardened such a fanbase as The Thing. And for good reason, too. The Thing, besides The Fog, has one of the most simple sets imaginable, the kicker really being how isolated the characters are and how audiences can feel that itch of madness, being cooped up too long, stir crazy, etc. etc. The paranoia drips from the screen. And much like Escape from New York, we’re given rich complex characters without the need of some unnecessary backstory for any of them, even Kurt Russel’s characters MacReady is really only known by his actions. Nearly 35 years later, the practical effects in this movie are still considered high quality. If that doesn’t say something, I don’t know what will. The story is grounded and easy to follow. After the destruction of a Norwegian chopper that buzzes their base, the members of the US team fly to the Norwegian base hoping to find survivors, only to discover them all dead or missing. What they do find among the carnage are the remains of a strange creature burned and haphazardly buried in the ice. The Americans take their find back to their base and deduce that it is not human, not entirely, but an alien life form. Soon, it becomes apparent that the alien lifeform is not dead, and to make matters worse, it can take over and assimilate other life forms, including humans, spreading much like a virus does. Anyone at the base could be inhabited by the Thing, tensions soon escalate.
0. They Live (1988)
I’d be amiss not to include at least one honorable mention. Originally, I really wanted to include Carpenter’s They Live, starring late great Roddy Piper, on this list of top films. Call me lazy, but I didn’t want to spend all morning writing about which of Carpenter’s movies are the best or most recognizable as being his, I’d be here all day if I did that. I gave myself a five movie limit and stuck with it. That said, I think They Live, at least within the horror community, is a really recognizable Carpenter flick, and probably one of his most (sadly) relevant films to date. The action is def. cheesy, and the concept is bizarre, but the message is a real punch to the gut, one that I’m sure many a film student as spent dissecting and discussing.
Did you like what you read here? Consider joining our mailing list and stay up to date on new releases, hot deals, and new articles here on the blog. The above list are my picks for Carpenter flicks, but I want to know what are some of yours? Comment below with your number one or give pick of John Carpenter’s most recognizable movie. Thanks for reading, and as always, do not forget to live, laugh, and scream!
Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of dark fiction. He resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter. He is published with The Sinister Horror Company’s horror anthology The Black Room Manuscripts. His debut novel, Reinheit, is published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein and Apocalypse Meow. His military/paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, both Dwelling and Emerging and Conceiving (coming soon), are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a BA in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he does author interviews and reviews on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can keep up with Thomas and all his strange books by joining his author newsletter, at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.
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Nothing is more alluring for both audiences and writers than dusting off old tropes. This is true. There is no argument against this statement. Resistance is futile. Boom. Done. Let’s pack it away, boys. No? Okay, I guess we could talk a little more about this very general statement I just made. And if I’m going to be talking about housekeeping motifs and tropes, do me the favor and humor me by nodding your head or something and when passersby asks why you’re nodding your head, you tell them about this brilliant piece you’re reading, as I delve into this odd analogy to FX’s dark horror show, The Strain. Let it be known now, while I may make mention of some of the newer seasons, my focus will mostly be with the first season, as it is the best and has one of my top ten TV/movies favorite openings/pilots. The only big let down with the second season is the new kid they got to play Zack Goodweather, as he plays a larger role in the second season, he became downright annoying and I’m secretly hoping something really bad happens to him. If that was the point then bravo to the writers cause I really do loathe that little bastard. Anyway, that’s not really why we’re here, is it? Tropes. That’s the term I used before and that is precisely what I want to talk to you about. Dusting off aged tropes is, in my humble opinion, an excellent method of storytelling. The classics for horror being Dracula, Wolf Man, Mummy, and Frankenstein, etc. etc, and how can we use these today? In this endeavor, The Strain is an excellent example we can learn from.
Before we scourge the graveyard any deeper, here’s a quick synopsis from our favorite source, IMDb:
A mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism ravages the city of New York.
Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause, if you please, for another stunning synopsis from IMDb. Well, they’re not wrong. There is a virus going around, and it certainly creates hosts that act very vampiric. A very fresh take, I think, on the classic vampire trope. No. This isn’t Lestat. These are monsters, as well they should be. And I love this reimaging of the vampire. The Strain uses invokes classic myths, such as The Master, or “patient zero,” as one of the characters refers to him as, in a way of explaining the legend to a couple of non-beliving doctors. Silver and sunlight are also here too. But no longer crosses and garlic, both of which are hardly ever mentioned. So, despite that the fangs are gone and they have a “stinger,” a worm like tentacle, that the vamps use to “latch on” to their prey, it’s still very much in tune with the aged trope. Better, in my opinion. While we all love Bela, the dashing vampire is too tired nowadays, and xenophobia is more rapid and in your face for such subtlety. We need monsters. Vampires are not lonely outsider boyfriends that sparkle. They are killers, and worse. They are a virus, a scourge, a blight. Some films get it right. 30 Days of Night was good. And Let the Right One In was an instant classic.
What really sets The Strain apart is the use of some of the more classic character types that are largely ignored in modern vampire storytelling. Sure, you cannot have a vampire movie without the preverbal “Dracula,” and in The Strain, we get The Master, who is without question truly terrifying and oddly alluring. But besides the “Dracula” character, what else is offered. I’m going to start off with my favorite. Instead of Abraham Van Helsing, we get Abraham Setrakian, an aged, very aged professor now turned pawn shop proprietor. His history within the context of the show is very rich. Setrakain is a Holocaust survivor who was taught by his grandmother regarding certain “creatures of the night.” As a young man, Setrakian believed her stories to be just that, stories. For a young Setrakian, the Holocaust proved to have enough horrors of its own without the need of mythical monsters. However, as it would seem, the concentration camp, Treblinka, in which Setrakian is incurred is besieged by, not just from war and death and human injustice, but also by a physical parasite that moves about during the night. Witnessing the creature with his own eyes, his grandmother’s stories flood back and he works quickly at finding a way to dispatch this monster. He fails at this but survives the encounter and the war. He then dedicates his entire life at tracking down The Master and his creations and riding the world of the Strain.
The Van Helsing motif in Setrakian was very well thought out, taking the old trope and making it more, giving it more life and substance. For me, Abraham really makes the show enjoyable, especially during flashback episodes that show Setrakian’s evolution.
Another interesting twist with tropes is the Renfield motif found in not just one character, but two, each with their own set of motives that feel very parallel to each other. The first is a human named Eldritch Palmer. While Renfield in the film and Bram Stroker book feels both pathetic and sympathetic, Palmer takes that notion to a different level. Due to his disabling sickness, whatever condition he seems to suffer from physically does not hinder the power of his will, his sheer determination to get whatever it is he wants. And what he wants most of all is to live. This desire seduces him in aligning with The Master and helping the Strain spread over New York. We feel bad for him, as we do with Renfield, for the kind of life he must have had, never knowing which breath would be his last, while at the same time we are appalled by his greed for life and uncaringness towards others. The second Renfield character is in the person of Thomas Eichhorst, played wonderfully by Richard Sammel. Eichhorst is, for lack of a better word, the Master’s right-hand man, but in reality, he’s more of a puppet than anything else and is in fact used quite literally as a puppet whenever the Master feels like “speaking” through him. But his character is more alluring for me than Palmer is. Palmer is just pathetic, especially in season 2. An old groveling to maintain his authority. Eichhorst has an interesting history that is connected with Setrakian, making the motivations for their rivalry very believable, and solidifying Eichhorst as a fan favorite baddy.
There are other characters in the show, a lot of hunters and community leaders, most do not necessarily correlate to classic Dracula trope. We could say that Dr. Ephraim Goodweather could be a close match to a Jonathan Harker motif. But Harker wasn’t really a well thought out character in the movie, perhaps more so in the book. There is one character though that needs mention. The part of Kelly Goodweather as a trope for Mina Harker. While the Master’s fascination with her still begs the question, her role is without a doubt very much Mina-like. When she is turned, she is used, more or less, as a tool to find her son, Zack Goodweather, and in turn to stop Eph and the merry band of vampire hunters. The Master’s interest in Kelly seems to only relate to his interest in stopping the good doctor, perhaps using Kelly and keeping her around just to taunt him.
Have you ever heard the statement, “There is nothing new under the sun?” It’s a saying from Hebrew scripture, Ecclesiastes 1:9. I’m often fond of saying it, especially when fellow writers pitch me their book or story idea and ask if it’s too much like another story. I’ve done the same as well, wondering if this “new idea” is too much like something else. Recently I published a short story with Matt Shaw is his release of Bah Humbug! An Anthology of Christmas Horror Stories. My story is called “Happiness U.S.A.,” and is “inspired” by a classic Twilight Zone episode titled “Garrity and the Graves.” The basic concept is a con artist that travels through an old west town and cons the town into thinking he can resurrect the dead. The catch is that the people in this old west town do not want their dearly departed returned to them, and so to put them “back in the grave” they have to pay Garrity more money. This is one of my favorite shows and one of my top favorite episodes. It’s both cheeky and disturbing, as many Twilight Zone episodes are. And I wanted to do my own take on Mr. Garrity and this old west town. But my version, my dusting off of the classic trope/motif was asking myself, what if Garrity wasn’t really a “con” artist per say, what if he could really bring back the dead. What kind of person or being could do something like that? An angel…or devil? So I took that concept and made my town of Happiness a small Texas oil town back in the mid-1970s. And the price the people of Happiness will have to pay will be much steeper than gold or silver.
This feels like a long way around to basically say, it’s okay to resurrect old trope, give them a good dusting, and retell the story in a new and exciting way. The Strain just so happens to be my favorite example and I wanted an excuse to talk about the show. I’ve started in on the novel the show is based on. There are some differences, but the meat and potatoes are pretty much the same. So if you need a recommendation, you’ve got it. Give this show and book a go. You will not be disappointed.
AND if you happen to be curious about that Christmas anthology I mentioned, follow the image below.
And if perhaps I can tempt you with one more book. I’ve got a new novel that released this week. Conceiving (Subdue Book 3). “…an evil [is] biding its time…waiting for them all,” Conceiving can be read as both a standalone or as part of the series. You can find out more about the book here. Or you can check it out on Amazon. Currently, the book is marked down to $0.99, but only for a limited time. Available for both kindle (or kindle apps) and on paperback.
In the spirit of transparency, as a struggling budding author myself, it is terrifyingly easy to become caught up in the humdrum of marketing when the truest pursuit is in the writing. I’m not here to toot my own horn as a storytelling, for in many ways I too fall short. And I’m not here to harp on other writers and their niche or style or goals or any of that crap. I’m here to talk about the lost of honor of storytelling…or if that honor IS lost? The question mark is kind of ambiguous, but when one looks to the flood of new books we see a sort of dilutional hyponatremiahe in the market place. On the other hand, has storytelling kept its honor in the face of saturation? Has storytelling lost its shine, its purpose? Or has it redefined itself? Maybe the answer is obviously both. However, I wonder, even in the evolutionary process, if storytelling has lost sight of depth and meaning and clout to ask uncomfortable questions about society, about ourselves.
Storytelling is an important part in the marketplace of ideas, engaging people emotionally and imaginatively. And the best storytellers are those unabashed to shred some skin, to get up-close and personal to how they feel about the world. This brings me to the origins of horror and camp-fire tales of monsters in the woods and the ole witch on Juniper Hill and so on. I think telling stories is an ingrained attribute in humanity. We have an expressive desire, from paintings of buffalo and deer on cave walls to Otto Dix’s harsh war torn landscape, these are stories come alive, taken from what we see around us. And I’m concerned we’re forgetting how to communicate in that way. And the books that ARE coming out are not being held to that standard. Are we selling products or are we telling stories?
Everyone is on social media nowadays, and I’m not going to rag on that like some old man on a rocking chair sipping whiskey rye and talking about the good ole days. I’m on social media as much as the next nerd. I think its a great way to stay connected while the Information Age flourishes into new generations and new horizons. We have instant access to news around the world and opinions of every shape and form and size. And that’s not the problem. Information; data is good. I think the problem is that we’ve forgotten or never learned how to process all that information, to humanize it, to bring it down a relatable level. And probably even more scary, we’ve forgotten how to listen because we’ve forgotten how to communicate in a way people will WANT to listen. In America alone, within the past several years, we’ve turned politics (our governing systems) into a caricature. The pendulum stances of our two powerhouse political parties have carved a canyon between society, filled with the bones of mutual understanding. Who is to blame? WE ARE! We allow the division to continue, not because we’re not willing to communicate, lots of communication is going on, no, its because we’re not communicating properly, in a way in which both sides would be willing to understand, to be engaged emotionally, spirituality, and humanly. We have sarcastic meme wars instead of emotionally raw book wars.
I honestly believe that the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin did more for the emancipation of slaves than the 600,000 lives lost during the Civil War. And in fact, isn’t that what war boils from, no longer being able to communicate?
Before I clammier down from my soap box, allow we to suggest one of the more important qualities of storytelling: imagination. Without imagination, we’ll lose motivation in forward thinking. What future is there without imagination to see it? Where is passion without imagination? Without imagination, we’ll lose our ability to create hope. And where there is hope there is ultimately an opportunity for transformation and change. Two things that are necessary for us to create a better world for generations to come.
Just some food for thought…
We are well into the Christmas season, past it perhaps if we are to measure the span in which Hobby-Lobby set out this years decorations. Besides seeing Ho ho ho signs and Jolly Saint Nick animatronic statues several months in advance, what really gets me excited about this time of year are the movies. Yes, time with family is also important. Get together parties and work functions, as well. The music is also good, though come mid December you may be ready to rip out your car stereo. Much like Halloween, Christmas movies are my thing during this time of year. However, the big difference between Halloween movies and Christmas movies is that I can watch Halloween movies everyday of every second of the year, whereas Christmas movies only feel appropriate one month of the year, December. So, in a way, Christmas movies have a special reverence. There are only but a few on this list that you could watch outside of Christmas, especially the more action induced flicks. But still, the argument holds. And FYI, most of these movies are currently on Netflix instant streaming! So, without further adieu, here is my top Christmas movie list spectacular!!
1. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992):
Kicking things off right, I want to start with one of my most favorite Christmas movies!! I’ve loved this one since I was a kid, in fact, I’m fairly positive my parents still have the VHS copy somewhere in their basement. What’s not to love? Micheal Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge is fantastic, and Miss. Piggy, Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Rizzo the Rat and the gang are also superb in this classic retelling of Charles Dickson’s short story, “A Christmas Carol.” The comedy is on par and, despite being a children’s movie, the horror-esk aspect remains somewhat intact.
2. Ernest Saves Christmas (1988):
Kids today have somehow lost an appreciation for Ernest P. Worrell style comedy. I know, sad, right? This 1980’s classic comes on the same stock as “Ernest Scared Stupid,” or “Ernest Goes to Camp.” I bet kids nowadays don’t even know the name… Anyways, enough lamenting. This holiday CLASSIC (that’s right you damn kids!) is a heart warming story about Santa passing on the torch (or magic if you will) to the new select Santa. Its a movie about self-discovery, family, doing the right thing, selflessness, and how even rich cooperate CEO’s can get what they want on Christmas, even snow. And as always, the late great Jim Varney is especially on par!
3. Bad Santa (2003):
Changing gears here to the more adult themed Christmas movies, Bad Santa is one of my favorite “raunchy” holiday flicks. Billy Bob Thornton plays such a great deplorable character. And Tony Cox is as usual witty and hilarious. There are a number of late great actors in this movies as well, including both: John Ritter and Bernie Mac. Bad Santa is a fun dark comedy about a pair of poorly teamed con-artists who, once a year, reunite to rob outlet malls on, you guessed it, Christmas Eve. Billy seems like a natural drunk, his performance looked very genuine! This one may be better suited to watch after the kids go to bed and the beers come out.
4. Scrooged (1988):
Yet another take on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” What makes this one highly watchable is because it has the ever supreme Bill Murray as the leading role as Frank Cross (Ebenezer) who apparently in this retelling is a wildly successful television executive with cold ambition. Scruffy voiced Bobcat Goldthwait makes an wild shotgun toting appearance in this classic movie. As well as a full cast of late greats who help Murray re-evaluate his actions and right the wrongs of his past. Another dark comedy, def. worth your time to watch after the kids go to bed!
5. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989):
I couldn’t possible conduct a list of top Christmas movies and not include one of Chevy Chases’ best hits in the National Lampoon archive, could I? No! This family friendly comedy is probably on the shelf of every red-blooded American, right beside those creepy nightmare Elf on the shelf’s….eek! Christmas Vacation is classic story about a family man trying to do everything he can to pull off a perfect Christmas. But in most, if not all, Chevy Chase flicks, nothing ever goes according to plan, yet somehow everything eventually finds it way back to some kind of warmhearted object morality. “Awe, kidnapping and assault is okay, kids. I learned the real meaning of Christmas!”
6. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946):
Moving into the more classic of holiday traditions, this legendary black and white Frank Capra movie has been in the queue of the last three generations, no doubt passed down from great-grandparent to grandparent to parents to the kids of today. How could you not fall in love with this one? It’s a classic suicide tale with George Bailey (played by the late great James Stewart) having wished he had never been born, when an angel is sent to earth to make his wish come true. But soon after, George starts to realize how many lives he has changed and impacted, and how they would be different if not worse off had he never been there. I’ve seen so many renditions of this story, the best are usually in short skits or collection movies like “Beavis and Butt-head do Christmas.” This is most certainly a classic you’ll want to watch with your kids. They might grumble at first, but when they get older and can (hopefully) appreciate the classics, they will appreciate your effort and cherish the movie as it properly should be!
7. Die Hard (1988):
Time for the violence!!! Die Hard is a masterpiece that can be enjoyed year round, but during Christmas it holds a significant meaning for the children of the 1980’s! Bruce Willis proved with this action flick that he could hold his own as one of the great pillars of 1980’s action heroes. Die Hard is a classic story of a New York City policeman by the name of John McClane who just so happens to be visiting his estranged wife and daughters on Christmas Eve in LA, cause everyone knows LA is full of weird-o’s. He joins wifey at a holiday corporate Christmas party where she works. But the festivities are interrupted by a group of hodgepodge terrorists who take over the exclusive high-rise. Not only does Die Hard have one of our nations greatest fictionalized heroes, but also our top fictionalized villains, Hans Gruber, played by the ever talented Alan Rickman.
8. Black Christmas (1974):
And now for the horror!!! Some may be surprised, but Christmas isn’t without its freights! There are plenty of horror themed yuletide mayhem for those with a taste for something a little darker than “A Christmas Carol.” Black Christmas is my pick for horror during the month of December. Its a tale following a group of sorority sisters, who begin to receive anonymous, lascivious phone calls. Initially, the girls egg the caller on, but stop when he responds threateningly. Soon, one goes missing from the sorority house, and a local adolescent girl is found murdered, leading the girls to suspect a serial killer is on the loose and it may just be the killer on the phone! Cue dramatic music (Da-Da-Daaaaa!). Black Christmas, in its own right, is a classic slasher, maybe even borderline exploitation, following the great sorority house murder movies during this era. You can find this gem free on YouTube! Enjoy!
9. And everyone else!!!
As this list has progressed, I’ve noticed just how many great seasonal flicks there are to watch! Its just too numerous to list them all. So, in the object of saving some time, lets go through the honorable mentions waiting in my Christmas Queue:
Lethal Weapon (1987) classic action!
Trading Places (1983) classic racial comedy!
Batman Return (1992) classic awesomeness!
Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) another old school 1970’s horror!
Gremlins (1984) everyone’s favorite don’t feed your pet after midnight movies!
Fred Claus (2007) Hey, no judgments!! I thought it was funny!
The Santa Clause (1994) still no judgments, I saw this when I was a kid, and I still love it!!! And I love Tim Allen!!!
Well, here is my list. What are some of your favorite Christmas movies?
Pacific Rim? Nah. World War Z? Nope. The Conjuring? PSH! If your heading out to the movies this weekend, chances are you might be seeing one of these usual suspects. Me? Not a chance! For us, my lovely bride and I, we went to check out White House Down. Why go see bad boy Tatum instead of awesome giant robots duking it out with Lovecraftian monsters? Because sometimes its nice avoiding the crowd and to just unwind in an easy, non complicated story.
If you happen to be like my wife and I, go check out White House Down. From the two movies coming out this summer regarding bad things happening to the President, White House Down is one of the more light hearted ones. With a PG-13 rating, the film feels like a down played Die Hard movie, with cheesy lines a plenty. The characters are likeable and Jamie Foxx as President Sawyer is the stuff of legend. My only hang up with the cast is Tatum. Nothing major, its just hard taking him seriously. And the political undercurrents are a tad annoying as well, but again, forgiveable.
White House Down is your ticket for a fun action-comedy adventure. If you are looking to avoid the muss and fuss of the crowds that is. Sure, the campy feel good ending should be expected, but hey, its got Jamie Foxx, you’re bound to laugh at some point.
The bottom line? White House Down does a decent job for entertainment. The action is Die Hard level without a ton of blood and broken necks. The comedy is great. And the campy ending mentioned above will make you want to puke. All in all, not a bad movie spending 20 bucks on two tickets to go see.