This time of year constitutes one of my favorite seasons: the transition from Halloween to Christmas. Do not get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving and I sincerely appreciate what it represents. But Halloween and Christmas are two of my top holidays. What draws me is the sense of whimsy that each create – Halloween with its dark, odd spookiness and Christmas with its snowy, perfect delight. They are polar opposites on paper but in reality the two have something that ties them together at heart. And despite each holiday comprising completely different tonal atmospheres, the combination of the two concepts brings intrigue. This idea has been captured on film multiple times, particularly in the horror realm – murderous Santas, slasher elves, and reindeer gone awry. But my favorite combination films (which just so happen to be some of my favorite films of all time) fall within the Science Fiction genre and represent a softer side of the weird and beautiful merger.
GREMLINS tells the story of a young man whose father gives him a Mogwai, a small furry alien-ish creature, as a Christmas present. The owner of a Chinatown antique store refused to sell the Mogwai to the father but the owner's grandson sells it to him anyway – and thus the backdrop for this film. There are three rules to caring for little Gizmo: never expose it to bright light (especially sunlight, which will kill it); never get it wet; and, most importantly, no matter how much it cries or begs, never, ever feed it after midnight. And of course, as great a foreshadowing as could have been created – each of these rules are tested and bring about unfortunate, terrific consequences thereby developing a horror aspect to the story. It's a literal merging of the two holidays but it makes for a very fun story. Plus, how stinking cute is Gizmo?
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS revolves around a mechanical invention who has spent such a long time lonely and isolated only to experience acceptance and once again rejection just in time for Christmas. This film contains an outside-looking-in element that is truly heartbreaking, especially considering the saddest parts of the film are set during a time of year known for feelings of love and peace. Edward is considered this monster, this horror, yet he has such a gentle heart. All he wants is to be loved and his loves only leave him. The beauty of this film (story, set design, character design, score) is overwhelming. Edward's quasi-gruesome features amongst the backdrop of the cookie-cutter town provide a stark contrast that is extremely effective. He is the ghoul in the perfect Christmas-land.
And my favorite film of them all: THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. The title itself proves that it perfectly connects the two holidays. This film tells the story of Jack, the great Pumpkin King and ruler of Halloween Town, who stumbles upon a portal to Christmas Town and then decides that he wants to try his hand at Christmas. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS provides a glance into these holidays and gives us a fresh story regarding them while also touching on elements familiar to everyone. At the heart of the film is a man who feels he is in a rut and tries for something new. Granted, he does not succeed (sorry for the spoilers) but in the end he remembers his love for his own holiday. And in addition, the side story of the doll Sally who longs for Jack to notice her is incredibly touching. Everything about this film succeeds and really embodies the idea of the fusing holidays in my mind.
I know some of you might think these movies do not fall within the SciFi genre – but according to a quote by Philip K. Dick, "[SciFi] must have a fictitious world, a society that does not in fact exist, but is predicate on our known society." And these realms, though in reality inexistent, could potentially come out of the world we know – the world of creatures, aliens, robot men, ghosts, spooks under the bed, etc. Who is to say that what is making noise under our bed isn't something alien or a thing with sharp teeth and eyes glowing red?
In the end, if you haven't seen these films I highly recommend them. They are true delights and really embody this transitional holiday season. I suggest cozying up with a cup of hot cocoa and watching one of them this week to keep you in the holiday mood! What Science Fiction holiday-related movies are your favorites? Any other merged holidays SciFi films you recommend? I'd love to hear your responses!