Better Watch Out: Best, Worst, Most Deranged Holiday Films
BY Jeremy Kinser
December 19 2011 5:00 AM ET
Which holiday film would you say resonates most strongly with LGBT viewers?
In the book I make the case that we’re still waiting for the great queer Christmas movie. I have a fondness for the terrible 1970s drama Some of My Best Friends Are…, which is set in a gay bar on Christmas Eve, but it’s notable only for a level of despair that makes The Boys in the Band look like a Pride parade. There are things I like about 24 Nights and Make the Yuletide Gay, but I think there’s definitely an opening for a talented LGBT filmmaker to make a holiday movie that really knocks our stockings off.
In researching and promoting your book, did you find that gay people have different ideas of favorite holiday films than straight people?
I’m sure there’s a clichéd perception that gay men are more likely to want to watch Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis, but I know plenty of gay dudes and lesbians who happily curl up to Die Hard every December. I think gay viewers probably perceive Danny Kaye’s performance in White Christmas on a whole other level from straight people, though.
There’s practically a sub-genre of Christmas films about evil Santas. Which do you consider the most twisted?
The nuttiest one, I think, would have to be Christmas Evil, which is airing on TCM later this month under its original title, You Better Watch Out. It’s John Waters’s favorite Christmas movie, if that tells you anything, all about a guy who’s been obsessed with Santa his whole life, and after he gets fired from his toy factory, he snaps and thinks he really is Father Christmas, monitoring the neighborhood kids for their niceness and naughtiness and dispatching grown-ups for being bad.
Some of the films in your book, Gremlins and Die Hard, for example, aren’t usually thought of as holiday films. How did you decide to include them?
For a lot of people, however, those movies are very much part of their Christmas traditions, and I think in a lot of ways, both of them either fulfill the expectations of holiday stories — Die Hard is, after all, about an estranged couple getting back together at Christmastime — or specifically subvert them — director Joe Dante said he envisioned Gremlins as a cross between It’s a Wonderful Life and The Birds. I wanted to expand people’s notion of what they considered to be a Christmas movie, but I think if you go back and look at movies like Eyes Wide Shut or Metropolitan or Less Than Zero through that filter, you see that Christmas imagery is present throughout.