Horror Movie Dictionary: Christmas

Horror movies are notorious for being calendar cash-ins. There are movies centred around Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, New Year’s Eve Spring Break, and of course, Christmas. Things have gotten so out of hand, there’s even a Bloody Wednesday.

Since their advent (see what we did there?) there’s seemingly a new Kris Kringle killer film every year.

For the most part, they’re exquisitely awful. Luckily for us though, there are exceptions.

There is the morose, downbeat psycho-slasher Christmas Evil, cited by John Waters as “the greatest Christmas movie ever made,” (take that, It’s a Wonderful Life). The French new waver, À l’intérieur (Inside) is undeniably excellent, and there’s no denying Black Christmas was influential laying down the North American template for stalk ‘n’ slash POV, even if Mario Bava beat it to the punch.

The 2010 Dutch import Saint (Sint) gives us a not-so-jolly St Nick light years removed from cringy fire-engine felt mall Santas, and Night Train Murders is a stylish Video Nasty from the 70s, set in Munich on Christmas Eve.

When it comes to snowy desolate isolating winters, nothing beats Kubrick’s The Shining for capturing the chilly milieu.

And for our money, far and away the best snow death is featured in the Canadian classic, Curtains (For our take on that epic tax shelter flick, check out our Curtains discussion on the Really Awful Movies Podcast).

And speaking of Christmas, if you’ve got a horror movie fan in your life (and really, if you don’t, you probably should)…check out our book, Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons.

It’s the perfect stocking stuffer (or is that, “stalking” stuffer?). But don’t take our word for it (this is just an expression. Take our word for everything else that appears on this site). Rue Morgue Magazine said:

“…what separates Death by Umbrella! from your run-of-the-mill glossary is the amount of heart and appreciation within its pages…Recommended for gorehounds, list-lovers and trivia fiends…”
The very best (and even some of the worst) films have heart and appreciation. We did our best to reflect that in our selections.

Switch Killer

Switch_Killer_posterIn the 90s GLAAD objected to The Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill on the grounds that the character was “a cross dressing, misogynistic serial killer.”

Well, don the fish nets and pumps as here comes Switch Killer (originally titled Transamerican Killer), an incredibly sleazy yet highly effective and affecting exploitation slasher set in Sin City.

Cara Jo Basso is extraordinary as Jamie, a woman abused by and trying to escape from an obsessive idiot who is leaving her threatening voicemails and sending her flowers. And that’s pretty much it plot-wise. Switch Killer’s narrative is as skimpy as the outfits.

Jamie takes refuge at her grandmother’s place, a charming old-timer who’s moved to tears by Bogey in Casablanca. On the side, Jamie takes a job as a stripper, becoming romantically involved with an attractive colleague while explaining away her nightly absence to granny as “a job in the restaurant business.” Because we’re better than that, you’ll get no “job” yuks on this site.

Meanwhile, a very svelte trans/cross dressing killer is stalking Jamie and her fellow pole dancers and spreading panic in Vegas around New Year’s Eve.

Switch_KillerSwitch Killer is a total grindhouse throwback, a film which has more in common with the likes of Maniac and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer than any of its 80s final girl progenitors.

Director Mack Hail is obviously well-versed in what makes the horror genre great.

It’s interesting to see a stripper played so sympathetically, and the use of the uber-sleazy Nevada hub of gambling and prostitution as a horror backdrop makes for some captivating visuals.

For a film that’s this (some would say) nonredeemable in its sordidness, there’s surprisingly not much in the way of gore. Sure, a few dancers are gutted like freshly-caught trout and shoved into oncoming trains, but the tension comes from the build-up and the highly realistic depictions of the strip club scene (don’t ask how we came by this knowledge).

As is often the case, didn’t expect much from the title; Switch Killer delivers in spades, and all for a modest budget.

As for as depictions of the transgendered…well, this ain’t Dallas Buyers Club.

*** (out of 5).