The Seven Days of Christmas: A Christmas Horror Story.

note“On the last day of Christmas (yes I know it’s the 29th),
Your Screen Squinty gave to thee…”note

A Christmas Horror Story.

Well, for those of you who haven’t heard of it before, A Christmas Horror Story; is a Canadian 2015 horror film directed by Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, and Brett Sullivan that is a loosely connected set of stories of various residents of the town of Baily Downs and there horror stories during the holidays: Santa is beset by zombie elves, a family invokes the wrath of Krampus, a group of teenagers get locked in the basement, and scene of a previous murder, beneath there school, and a troubled couple and their son should have paid attention to the no trespassing sign and gotten a plastic tree instead. All the while William Shatner is manning the radio station with Christmas carols and egg nog to spare.

This Frankenstein amalgam is a beast of the bits of good, the “meh,” and the bad sandwiched between a great opening and ending. To deconstruct this holiday horror hoagie, I will break down the various fillings and see if this film is worth taking a bite into.

First off, the good.

The opening of the film was actually really intriguing. It opened with this great little mildly creepy opening score that was surprisingly well composed and moderately epical. The opening scene of a Santa (George Buza) in the reindeer stable turning around and facing the stable doors, covered in wounds, before it flashes onto 12 hours before hand, was actually a very attention grabbing scene. It makes you want to find out what the hell happened to Santa, and what lay beyond that door, and when the ending came, it tied it neatly into into the opening in a way that saved a really cheesy middle ground of the Santa’s arc, and made one go “Well…that part was actually good after all.”

The cinematography was also pretty good, and the mise-en-scene of each scene was well presented for each scene, with a particular nod to Santa’s North Pole, and its creepy nativity scene props in the school arc, and of course, the appropriate amount of elf gore.

The best of the arcs perhaps would have to be the Santa arc. Granted it had its faults, but it was fun in the sheer fact of seeing Santa Buza brutally smashing up undead elf skulls, and the great little twist in the closer as I said really saved it.

The “meh” parts are rather profuse throughout the film: Krampus was okay, but nothing to write home about, and rather underwhelming overall for that story arc, though the fate of teenager was not too bad.

In the basement arc meanwhile, there was some decent build of tension in one scene, and the great use of those nativity props out of focus and in shadow really heightened the tension, though the rest of the story was a bit half-assed, and you’re not surprised or overly interested at all by what is happening to them either.

Now for the bad.

This film, while maintaining separate story arcs only vaguely connected by the setting and some relationships between characters which was more plot convenience, could have benefited by an overarching element that would have really tied them all together, which this film actually did have on hand in the reveal of Buza’s character. All these separate arcs with some different endings using Santa as the over-arching element, and this would have been a really good film, but nope, they went with going for to many different fillings, spilling all over the place.

The characters were also not overly fleshed out enough, and plot elements were introduced suddenly and without proper believably, and an element like the Krampus, in two of the arcs makes no sense unless Santa was in both of them.

The most useless of the arcs was the Christmas tree one. underwhelming, and felt put in there to fill up time better utilized elsewhere. it was beyond half-assed, and more negative zero-assed that was uncomfortable, characters out of nowhere, and not necessary. even the acting was somewhat awkward.

Overall, this is not a necessarily bad film, just a mildly entertaining film with zombie elves, that had a great beginning, a great ending, but the filler in between leaves you mildly confused, bored and frustrated, particularly as there was potential here to have brought this into the, perhaps not fantastic, but at least good film category, which sadly this falls short of, Santa Buza or no Santa Buza.

Film Trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Z3ybMTpqFw

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/screensquinty/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/screensquinty

Advertisements

The Seven Days of Christmas: The Boondocks.

noteOn the 2nd day of Christmas (because that’s how he roles),
Your Screen Squinty gave to thee…”note

The Boondocks, “A Huey Freeman Christmas.”

In this Christmas episode from The Boondocks (2005-2014) first season “A Huey Freeman Christmas” (2005), follows the various different ways that Huey, Jazmine, and Riley interact with the holiday, with Huey’s seizing of the school play being one main focus, and Riley’s violent Santa Stalking being the other.

This was a strongly written episode that satirizes some of the various mentalities surrounding Christmas, such as the mixed origins of the holiday interpreted through the conservative view, the liberal view, the historically accurate view, and the consumerist view. Jazmine in particular, who mixes Santa Claus as Jesus, was actually one of the most enjoyable parts of the episode.

The Santa Stalker through Riley was amusing as hell with his epic attacks with that pellet gun, and then the replacing of Santa with Uncle Ruckus was rather brilliant, culminating in a nice scene between Ruckus and Jasmine…which then caused an equally hilarious back fire as another child’s belief in Santa was renewed as well.

The various story arcs could be argued to perhaps compete for space within the short episode running time, but they do oddly sort of sync with each other into a balanced whole and giving something for everyone to enjoy by balancing out character self-involvement, the ridiculously naive and confused, mildly grotesque, comedy, and violence. The various elements of the arcs worked together to keep one particular element from becoming too much.

All in all, it was exactly the right amount of everything: Satire, violence, ridiculousness, seriousness, and warmth. recommend to anyone looking for a good holiday short with high entertainment value and some commentary.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/screensquinty/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/screensquinty

The Seven Days of Christmas: Garfield.

note“On the 3rd day of Christmas (because that’s how he roles),
Your Screen Squinty gave to thee…”note

A Garfield Christmas Special.

This is a made for TV short animated feature broadcast on CBC in 1987 (and continued to be broadcast until 2000) based off of the original Garfield comics. The story centers on Garfield (Lorenzo Music), Jon (Thom Huge), and Odie (Gregg Berger) visiting Jon’s family farm for Christmas.

This is a short whose strength lies in the characters.

Each character is a certain type that is found in the family farm formula, the aggravated slightly shy brother who stays at home, the mother that takes delight in cooking large sumptuous meals, the crotchety father, and the eccentric grandmother. Jon interacting with his family, and with each other as a family at Christmas, is enjoyable to watch and comes across natural, with a lot of warmth and humour with each other without coming across as sappy.

The strongest of the characters is Grandma (Pat Carroll), who is this amazing athletic extrovert with abs of steel, yet at the same time, in these great quiet moments with Garfield, is a woman who has known love and grief, something felt more keenly during times when family togetherness, or not being alone in general, is so strongly stressed upon. this edition didn’t stray her to far from the wacky grandmother obsessed with  Jon Travolta from the comics, which was nice.

The animation itself was decent for the period, especially for a made for television holiday special, and didn’t veer from the comics noticeably in character design, and the voice actors all did an amazing job, particularly Lorenzo Music as Garfield.

The only thing that could be considered a bit of a nitpick is some of the music, which can distract from the mood of the short from time to time, though the yodeling Christmas song was a fun idea and worked with the theme of the family well enough.

In the end, this special is a nice slice of life bit of comedy and a moment or two of nice quietness, well balanced with some decent voice talent and fun characters.

I would recommend giving it a watch this holiday season with a nice mug of hot cocoa or equivalent.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/screensquinty/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/screensquinty

The Seven Days of Christmas: All In The Family.

note“On the 4th day of Christmas (because that’s how he roles),
Your Screen Squinty gave to thee…”note

All In The Family “The Draft Dodger.”

Thinking back, All In The Family (1971-1979) was a show that gave this amazing balance of situation comedy, satire, and these brilliant moments that were practically silent with seriousness or thoughtfulness. As if the “audience” that canned-laughed during the gags were suddenly canned-silenced, as though witnessing something great in a small moment, and  well into its seventh season, the Christmas special, “Draft Dodger” is an example of this smart blend with the added edition of trying to make it jive with the tone of the holiday season and actually succeeding.

The characters interacting off each other is, of course, one of the typical strengths of the show which is emphasized here, particularly between Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) and Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton). Normally Archie’s relationship with Edith is rather condescending a bulk of the time on the show, but during this episode, while that is still there as well, there is  some great moments of surprising warmth and decency from Archie, given his abrasive self-assurance and anti-politically correct attitude that also says a little something. Near the end, which I won’t give away, Edith herself comes across as quietly the best character in the episode in the way she manages Archie.

There is also a good moment between two of the guest characters that was particularly powerful: David Brewster (Renny Temple), the Meathead’s (son-in-law’s) old high school friend who moved to Canada to escape being drafted into the war (Vietnam in this case), and Pinky Peterson (Eugene Roche), Archie’s old friend who lost his son in the war and was invited by Archie to spend the holidays. You expect right from the beginning there is going to be this awkward moment between the two, but in all actuality Pinky’s reaction to David was surprisingly not awkward at all, which was a nice experience. This in turn, through Pinky, someone that Archie is close to as a friend and whose opinion he admires and identifies with, has through both these characters, experienced one of those discombobulating paradigm shifts that challenge a person’s core beliefs, an element this show is very good at addressing seriously where it is needed, and a core part of Archie as a figure of satire.

At the same time while this serious moment is happening in the final act, they still manage to provide moments of a break from the serious tone for the viewers, and bring it back to the humor without sacrificing the drama.

This is a favorite Christmas Special because it addresses one of the core points of the holiday, which is the ideal of peace, setting aside personal politic sand grudges, and establishing a bridge of mutual dialogue, if sadly only temporary, of acceptance no matter the conflicting views. This episode spoke that theme in a realistic, refreshingly non- saccharine and adult way, that few Christmas specials were ever able to really match with with the same maturity and entertainment value that All In The Family did,
and because of this, I highly recommend giving it a watch.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/screensquinty/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/screensquinty

The Seven Days of Christmas: Pinky and the Brain.

note“On the 5th day of Christmas (because that’s how he roles),
Your Screen Squinty gave to thee…”note

Pinky and the Brain: “A Pinky and the Brain Christmas.”

This was episode 12 from the first season of the spin-off show Pinky and the Brain (1995-98). In this episode everyone’s favorite Orwellian mouse Brain (Maurice LaMarche) and his partner Pinky (Rob Paulsen) set about their nightly hobby of trying to take over the world in one night, this time utilizing the manufacturing power of Santa’s workshop to create and distribute a billion hypnotizing dolls, while the enthusiastic Pinky just wants to deliver his very special letter to Santa.

This is perhaps a personal favorite for anyone who watched the show because it displayed the best of both characters while at the same time providing some great references and a creative premise, but also had some surprisingly sappy, yet workable, dramatic moments as well.
One of the strengths that lie within this episode is their utilization of time given how little they had. Nothing was wasted as each scene evolved into another in a seamless and well paced plot progression without sacrificing any key elements necessary to the story nor anything overstaying its welcome either.

The dynamic of Brain and Pinky during the holiday was well done -though the excellent dialogue between these two is one of the show’s strengths- both represented two strong personalities that many people are likely familiar with around the holidays, such as Brain representing the personality that isn’t overly impressed with the holiday unless it is directly useful or directly affects him, while Pinky meanwhile is that sort of child-like excitable personality that is just so into all the elements of the holiday, its almost a dire necessity. The contrast of their points of view around this is actually rather interesting and funny to watch, and Brain’s reaction to Pinky’s holiday enthusiasm provides some of the best humour in the episode.

The ending of this episode is also rather fascinating, in that as those who have watched the show know, Brain’s plans to take over the world always end in failure and giving the show its Sisyphean-like fervor, but in this episode, something slightly different happens, yet without stepping out of the show’s overarching theme, something that through Brain’s own choices puts to light both Brain as an individual and his relationship with Pinky.

Sure the ending can also be considered sappy in part by today’s standard, but when you keep in mind everything that Brain has striven for suddenly coming to a head with his personal relationship with Pinky, it’s actually a somewhat understandable, though still over the top reaction on his part.

Overall this is an enjoyable, and extremely fun, Christmas special that should be given a watch no matter your age group.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/screensquinty/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/screensquinty

The Seven Days of Christmas: Family Guy.

note“On the 6th day of Christmas (because that’s how he roles),
Your Screen Squinty gave to thee…”note

Family Guy “Road to the North Pole 1 & 2”

In this two-parter from way back in the 9th season of Family Guy, Stewie is pissed when he is blown off by Santa at the Quahog Mall and decides to head to the North Pole, dragging a reluctant Brian along for the ride.

It is only fitting that one of the best Family Guy Christmas episodes center around Stewie and Brian. Despite the decline the show has taken over the years, it is safe to say that most episodes surrounding just these two characters tend to be their strongest. The two have a great dialogue together, which is doubly amusing when you realize that they are voiced by the same voice actor and series creator Seth MacFarlene, and the adventures they get into tend to be highly creative and even touching here and there (as much as the show is able to be anyway).

What impresses in this special is the scope that went into it, the animation team going all out in really giving the world of Family Guy, particularly Quahog, actual size and visual depth, expressed particularly well with some great overhead shots and animated angle shots, and the colour palate just popped.

There were numerous guests such as Drew Barrymore, H. Jon Benjamin, David Boreanaz (whose appearance as a glowing face in the sky was a clever little word play gag on his name) , Carrie Fisher, Karley Scott Collins, and Ron MacFarlene, Seth’s father who did a mildly decent job as the jolly apathetic narrator (and actually does have a surprisingly good voice for the work), with some decent references to other Christmas films without overtaking the overall narrative, even keeping their cutaway gags to a minimum which was appreciated in this type of episode, and also showed that they don’t always need their cutaway crutch (sadly not a sentiment strongly utilized in later seasons).

The strongest element of the show though had to be the music.

Damn the music! I don’t think that anyone who watched the episode will likely forget Santa’s number “Christmas time is Killing Us” composed by Ron Jones, it had that near epic quality that one would find at home in a good musical. It is unsurprising that it was nominated for an Emmy. Bruce McGill voiced Santa (howdy can he really exercise those vocals!) had a strong clear base that just puts the right amount of dark tones in the song and works well with the background singers and Stewie’s lighter tones.

The story itself holds up as well with the humour  mostly decent to eliciting some laughs here and there, though the home invasion scene raised an eyebrow or two. What was more impressive about the story is that at the time of its release the whole anti-Christmas sentiment was really kicking off, if it hadn’t already, and this special very cleverly balances that anti-holiday sentiment, the pro-holiday sentiment, and the don’t give a crap either way sentiment quite well.

Overall, this is a Christmas special I would recommend giving a glance to for the sheer visual, musical, and narrative spectacle that it is and the obvious effort that went into its production.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/screensquinty/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/screensquinty

The Seven Days of Christmas: iZombie.

With only a week until Christmas, for those of my readers who celebrate, I shall be dedicating the remaining week until the big day doing reviews of Christmas themed films and shows with Christmas themed episodes in no particular order.

note“On the 7th day of Christmas (because that’s how he roles),
Your Screen Squinty gave to thee…”note

iZombie’s “Cape Town”.

In the 9th episode of the second season, the plucky zombie crime solver Liz explores her masked hero side when she eats the brain of a murdered vigilante. Meanwhile Major is out doing his reluctant zombie hunting duties, and has a heart to heart conversation with one of his potential victims.

As far as a Christmas episode goes, it wasn’t so much a Christmas themed one. It was more along the lines of a regular episode that just happens to be the equivalent of wearing a festive sweater without any of the commitment.

For what the episode was outside of the decorations though, it wasn’t a bad one. We get some further developments in the tainted utopium with the edition of a possible new character that has been zombified by Liv, which has some vague potential, but might just be tossed in the fade to background closet, only to be unearthed as a plot device later and promptly disposed of.

The strongest positive for the episode though had to be the side arc between Major and Natalie the zombie hooker (as she refers to herself). Their conversation was a nice serious moment that provided a real glimpse into a part of the zombie culture (trust me this show does need to utilize its world building a bit more), and also the perspective of a third party individual essentially explaining to Major (who lets admit isn’t exactly portrayed as the brightest bulb with relationships) the same facts that Liv explained to him, but without the emotional baggage bias attached.

The strongest character was Natalie, who explained her life as a call girl before she was zombified in a refreshingly positive light, rare for a television show, even now, and clearly contrasted her experiences between before and after she became said undead sex worker, a nice clarifying touch. This was a pleasant surprise for such a “take the safe road” type of show.

The only other thing worth mentioning is my favorite unintentionally funny scene in the end.

While I am sure few eyes were left unmoved from the excessive rollage that happened when Liv and Major yet again broke up, this unsurprising moment of drama was actually undermined by the “White Christmas” carol music being sung by classic Como in the background. When Major says: “Your breaking up with me?” there is this delightful moment that takes you out of the drama as he’s saying it as Como cheerfully whistles in the background. It made a rather overused yawner scene rather…well, overused still, but also hilarious.

The episode overall does a few things that go outside of its usual comfort box, which was good, there was some great character moments, some decent dialogue, some other things happen that aren’t bad but not overly wow worthy, and an unintentionally amusing moment, but it still suffers from its own overused cliché in part of the Liv and Major relationship, and didn’t exactly utilize its decoration theme in the plot except as decorations. Just a decent regular episode you can watch any ol’ time.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/screensquinty/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/screensquinty

Screen Squinty’s Top 10 Winter Holiday Themed Web Videos

Hello All! Welcome to another Screen Squinty’s list in which I lay out, in no particular order,some of my favorite interwebs shorts and episodes for the holiday season.

1. The Six Christmas Movies You Live Through. By CollegeHumour.

6

The Six Christmas Movies You Live Through. (screenshot) 2012. Image property of CollegeHumour.

What is great about this holiday short is that it takes some of the popular Christmas special tropes and progresses them throughout this one character’s life.it has a fun relatability for some folks to the progressions of outlook on the holidays throughout one’s aging process with each sequence was well put together with some good attention to detail and a great narrator.

Watch at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=us6u7PAdluE

2.Nostalgia Critic: Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Nostalgia critic/Channel Awesome.

nostalgia

Nostalgia Critic: Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer (Screenshot), 2014. image property of Nostalgia critic/Channel Awesome.

It’s a Christmas special in and of itself as well as an analysis of a really bad one.

Our gun wielding hero tackles this animated feature that was based off of a really schlocky song that still somehow survives its own near death by I roll of the general public each year.

Critic’s approach to it is delightful combination of keen filmatic analysis, one-liners, and his own scholocky beginning with a rather insane and visually colorful morass of insanity at the end in all its glorious red and green flash.

Watch at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0T5GebgQHFE

3. Scary Snowman. by The Scary Snowman.

snowman

Scary Snowman Christmas Prank, Season 2 ep 3 (screenshot) 2011. Image property of The Scary Snowman.

To me, a snowman has always been a symbol for the holiday season, whether it’s happening at Christmas or not, and evil Snowmen have always been a particularly amusing sight to me since a Calvin and Hobbs comic I saw way back in my eye sparkly years, so I have put down this channel with its evil snowman jump scare on unsuspecting public as a collective favorite of shorts for Christmas viewing.

Watch at: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheScarySnowman/featured

4. A Very Hellsing Christmas Special. By TeamFourStar.

allucard

A Very Hellsing Christmas Special (screenshot) 2014. Image property of TeamFourStar.

There is just something about parodying Hellsing using Christmas that really gets me *pats chest* right here you know?

Watch at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsQ61tuU7T8

5. It’s a Sad Christmas Larry. By ExplosimEntertainment/Cyanide and Happiness.

larry

It’s a Sad Christmas Larry  (screenshot) 2013. image property of ExplosimEntertainment/Cyanide and Happiness.

Some of you may be wondering why this one ended up here, especially as it is somewhat depressing in its tone, but that is in part what makes it good.

The Sad Larry segments always hold a special place in my heart because they take the tragic everything that can happen to one person during the holidays and run with it to the point where Larry becomes a sort of pathetic dark humour figure.

Some forms of humour or drama can go to that middle point where comedy and tragedy derive from each other. The fact that it’s Christmas themed just highlights this quality of Sad Larry in particular simply because of the rosy glasses sentiments that is stereotyped for this time of year.

Can be watched: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXI1yHP6urk

6.Christmas Face. by Rhett and Link.

face

Christmas Face (screenshot), 2013. Image property of Rhett and Link.

The fellas from Good Mythical Morning have always had this great chemistry together and their programming always brings a smile to my face. In this Holiday short from their Rhett and Link channel we see the holiday put on their face in a sort of 80’s style musical number.

I loved the creativity with the face make-up, and the expression of the make-up artist was amusing.

Watch at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmoA3MjymKs

7. Smoke My Christmas. Distributed by Goeblins.

hobo

Smoke My Christmas (screenshot), 2010. Image property of Goeblins.

In this animated short, you get a combination of a vaguely Santa Claus-like down on his luck hobo who is given a psychedelic Wonderland fantasy trip for Christmas.

As with everything else that comes out of Goeblins, the team of De Clément Desnos, Jean-David Fabre, Julien Perron, Rémi Salmon, Vincent Verniers present a very well put together and imaginative blackish satire that displays an excellent visual scope of imagery and detail as well as great character designs, particularly on the protagonist.

Watch at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZCfTtPTceE

8. The Ringing of the Bells: Muppet Music Video. by The Muppets.

muppets

The Ringing of the Bells: Muppet Music Video (Screenshot), 2009. Image property of Disney.

There is just something about Disney’s The Muppets singing classic songs, and in this case the really funny trio of Swedish Chef, Beaker, and Animal doing a classic Christmas carol with all the expected results is just worth a watch.

Watch at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysIzPF3BfpQ

9.Simon’s Cat – Christmas Presence (Part 1 & 2!). By Simon’s Cat.

cat

Simon’s Cat – Christmas Presence Part 1 & 2! (Screenshot), 2014. image property of Simon’s Cat.

I always enjoy a good episode from Simon’s Cat, and the Christmas episodes don’t disappoint. Watching the cat interact with the toy Santa decoration was really enjoyable and has a natural slice of life flow to it that somewhat sums up Christmas decorations at times for both animals and humans alike.

Watch at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6OHkuC9vsE

10. Santa Claus: Civil War. by CartoonHooligans.

civil

Santa Claus: Civil War (screenshot), 2015. Image property of CartoonHooligans.

In this short by CartoonHooligans, they combined Santa Claus with the premise and imagery from the trailer for the upcoming Captain America: Civil War movie that is coming out May of 2016.

As usual, CartoonHooligan’s style is a fun, mockepic treat to look at, and the idea of the Santa (personifying Captain America’s role) and the Tony Elf, is both amusing and strangely apropos. The dialogue, with its super serious voice actors that could be pulled right out of an epic superhero movie saying these particular lines, induces a fair amount of chuckling and is the best part of the short.

Watch at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpN93lYH9pg

Well, so there you have it! I hope you enjoyed the list, comment and tell me what your favorite web based Christmas content you enjoy the most!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/screensquinty/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/screensquinty