‘Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror On Film And Television’ reviewed

❉ This excellent collection of essays will provide the backbone for your holiday viewing in eleven months’ time.

Here at We Are Cult we take our Christmas viewing very seriously.  While most of you are just struggling back to work we’re already planning what we’re going to be watching for Christmas 2018.

Yes, there’s a place for the familiar folksy festivity of It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street (either version, I’m not choosy.  Both have their merits) and we’re equally at home to Trading Places and Die Hard (because they are Christmas films, whatever other people think), but if Christmas has a single genre that it should be known for it’s horror.  Given that Dickens invented most of the trappings of Christmas, it’s only fair to credit the man with putting horror at the fore as well, which he did (there’s a strong case for A Christmas Carol being a horror story, albeit a child-friendly one, before one even begins to consider his more formal ghost stories), and Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television is an excellent collection of essays and writings which is going to provide the backbone for our holiday viewing in eleven months’ time.

Yuletide Terror is a Canadian book, so it’s entirely fitting that the first entry looks at Black Christmas, Bob Clark’s seminal horror classic.  Still hugely under-rated, Stephen Thrower’s essay does its best to give credit where it’s due; Black Christmas is a great film, one that deserves to be known by every horror fan.  Psycho may have seen the birth of the slasher film, but Black Christmas is the Urtext, a blueprint that almost every slasher would follow.  This is a great piece of writing, one of the best of the book, that’s written in a detailed enough fashion to appeal to the serious student without putting off the casual reader.  (The essay – in fact all of the essays in the book – has a bibliography.  We’re huge fans of the scholarly at We Are Cult, so it’s pleasing that a subject which could be seen as potentially frivolous is treated as anything but.)

Michael Gingold writes extensively on the Silent Night, Deadly Night controversy and Lee Gambin interviews one of the cast in the next two essays.  The first film is the focus, but all of the films are mentioned in this detailed pair of articles and both find new things to say.

Christmas Evil and the Cultural Myth of the Foolkiller is Florent Christol’s beautifully detailed contribution, and another highlight which manages to cover far more than Christmas Evil itself.  Writer/director Lewis Jackson is interviewed by Amanda Reyes in the following essay and finds new things to say about the film.

Interviews with directors are an important feature of Yuletide Terror: Jeff Mandel, director of Elves and Paul Talbot, half of the team behind Campfire Tales are both interviewed extensively.  The book also sees interviews with Fred Dekker (writer of And All Through The House) and Alain Lalanne (of 3615 Code: Pere Noel, a film you’ve never heard of.  Essentially it’s Home Alone, but a couple of years earlier, minus the jokes but with additional terror instead.  In short, exactly the sort of film we’re going to be watching come December).

It’s not all interviews, and the focus of the book isn’t just North America; chapters covering The League of Gentlemen’s Christmas Special, the BBC’s Ghost Stories for Christmas and Robin Redbreast see the British represented, whilst an essay by Amanda Reyes looks at Christmas in the anthology series, starting with The Twilight Zone and moving all the way up to Black Mirror.

Derek Johnston asks the highly pertinent question Why the Ghost Story for Christmas? and the following essay by Leslie Hatton provides another answer by looking in depth at the legacy of A Christmas Carol.  One of the finest essays in the book, the study is exhaustive and informative.

Kim Newman looks at forgotten Hammer Horror Cash on Demand (due to be released on BD in the UK in a limited edition set from Powerhouse Films this February), whetting our appetites in the process.  Petit Pow! Pow! Noël (2005), Franck Khalfoun’s P2 (2007) and The Children (also 2007) are allowed whole chapters to introduce viewers to these obscure films which deserve a wider audience.

It’s not just films which have disappeared from the collective consciousness of viewers; Australia produced a horror anthology series which is ridiculously obscure, but Andrew Nette lifts the lid on The Evil Touch, offering information and insights on a series which sounds very much like an Antipodean Tales of the Unexpected and which I’m now scouring the internet for.  Hosted by Anthony Quayle, The Evil Touch may have offered only one festive episode (the focus for the essay), but the series as a whole sounds like compulsive viewing.

European folklore has a whole essay dedicated to it, as does the figure of Krampus and his recent ubiquity in American seasonal horrors.  Both of these are very strong pieces and worth reading.

The book is rounded off by a genuinely extensive Compendium (more than 150 pages) which details every Christmas horror film or TV episode there is.  If the essays weren’t enough to warrant a place on the bookshelf of any horror buff, this is what makes the book an essential purchase.

❉ ‘Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror On Film And Television’ is out now from Canadian micro-press Spectacular Optical. Click here to order direct from the publisher.

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