I am a writer and teacher, out and about in the world but with Nottingham never far from my heart.
Published December 8th 2014
Christmas viewing which bucks the trend
Christmas movies often follow a similar formula: You have a hero who is down on his or her luck; an obstacle or problem which must be overcome, and a cavalcade of festive magic to help our plucky protagonist overcome it; and the plot is usually neatly wrapped up in time for a happy ending sometime before midnight on Christmas Eve.
However, some Christmas movies buck this trend. Sometimes filmmakers decide that they want to burn the rule book and follow their own path, and this can lead to some of the most fascinating – if not necessarily the most family-friendly – pieces of festive cinema.
Here is a list of Christmas-themed movies that fit into this renegade category; just be careful who you choose to watch them with.
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
The Japanese movie genre of anime has produced some beguiling cinematic pieces over the years, not least this gem from 2010. Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara and Yasuhiro Takemoto, and titled Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoshitsu in the original Japanese, this animated feature film follows the characters of the Haruhi Suzumiya anime series as they seek to solve a festive conundrum.
The movie works as a stand-alone piece or as a companion to the series, so whether you're a Haruhi Suzumiya novice or hardened veteran of Nagaru Tanigawa's original novels, there's bound to be something for you. Be warned however, at 163 minutes, this is the longest anime movie in history.
Ok so maybe this one isn't so overlooked, having scooped big prizes at film festivals across Europe and North America, but 101 Reykjavik is just about niche enough to get a mention on this list. Delving into the dark heart of an Icelandic winter, Balthasar Kormakur's compelling film follows 29 year old Hlynur as he negotiates the isolation and the torment of his aimless life.
Miracle on 34th Street, this ain't, but if you're looking for a genuinely enthralling and thought-provoking piece of cinema this Christmas, then the 2000 adaptation of Hallgrimur Helgason's 1996 novel could be just what you're looking for.
Home for Christmas
Known as Hjem Til Jul in Norwegian, Home for Christmas is a black comedy charting the experiences of a group of people on the margins of society. Director Bent Hamer – maybe more famous for his 2005 adaptation of the Charles Bukowski novel Factotum , starring Matt Dillon – takes his characters on a journey towards connection and acceptance, all set against the chilly backdrop of Christmas time in small-town Norway.
Director Bent Hamer
Seen by only a criminally small number of people, Home for Christmas has shocked, delighted and moved audiences in equal measure. Be sure to add it to your viewing list this Christmas.
Less Than Zero
Any adaptation of a Brett Easton Ellis novel is unlikely to be suitable for family viewing, but Less Than Zero must rank alongside Mary Harron's 2000 version of American Psycho at the top of the "movies you don't want to watch with your gran" stakes.
Released in 1987 and featuring early acting turns from Robert Downey Jr and James Spader, Marek Kanievska's Less Than Zero divided opinion on its release. One of the most outspoken critics of the movie was Ellis himself, although his opinion has softened rather in recent years. If you like your Christmas movies served with a heavy dose of laconic teenage angst and set in the heady environs of 1980's Los Angeles, Less Than Zero is for you.
The Day of the Beast
There's surely nothing more festive than a Spanish comedy horror. If you agree with this statement, then The Day of the Beast – or El Dia de la Bestia – should be a staple of your Christmas viewing itinerary.
The plot centres on a priest from the Basque region of northern Spain, who discovers to his horror that the anti-christ is due to be born on Christmas day somewhere in Madrid. He enlists the help of a ragtag bunch of associates who discover that the only way to avert this catastrophe is by communing with the devil himself.
It's bloody, sweary and also rather good fun.
We hope you enjoy these antidotes to the standard, saccharine Christmas viewing fare. Just remember to wait until the kids are in bed before you settle down to enjoy one of the above.