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Holiday movies for Scrooges

By Patrick Day, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

When it comes to Christmas, movie fans usually land in one of two camps, best summed up by a movie quote: there’s Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, every one!” from “A Christmas Carol” and there’s John McClane’s “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho” from “Die Hard.”

The “God bless us every one” camp has time and tradition on its side. It’s the Christmas-lovers, the carolers, those lovers of the holiday immortalized in Dickens’ beloved novel and countless films, from “It’s a Wonderful Life” to “Elf.”

But those whose holiday feelings tend toward the misanthropic find a kindred spirit in McClane’s blood-spattered note, scrawled on the chest of a dead terrorist. Finally, the anti-Christmas movie fans had their Tiny Tim and he looked like Bruce Willis.

In the proud spirit of this anti-season, we look back at the least Christmas-y Christmas movies we could find. (Vincent Jannink / EPA)
‘Die Hard’ (1988)

It could be the ultimate anti-Christmas Christmas movie. Bruce Willis’ break-out action debut, in which he manages to single-handedly kill or maim an entire office building of terrorists on Christmas Eve, has become a holiday perennial as beloved as “Miracle on 34th Street.” And it really does have something for everyone. Love the holidays for all the Christmas tunes on the radio? “Die Hard’s” soundtrack features everything from the (then) current (Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis”) to the classic (Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” is used to stirring effect). Prefer to see a man strangled to death in chains and strung from the ceiling? “Die Hard” provides there as well. (20th Century Fox)
‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ (1984)

Even more successful than “Die Hard” in terms of franchise longevity, the original “Silent Night, Deadly Night” appeared in 1984 in the heat of America’s love affair with date-specific slasher flicks – “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween” -- and eventually went on to have four sequels (a remake is also in the works). The story of a toy store Santa whose sexual hang-ups lead him to punish promiscuous teens by yelling “Naughty” and chopping them up with an axe earned wide condemnation from critics and parents groups. (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment)
‘Gremlins’ (1984)

Joe Dante’s anarchic comedy horror thriller is jam-packed with movie in-jokes, including “Forbidden Planet,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and countless more. But the movie about nasty little creatures run amok in a small town is mostly revered among the anti-Christmas crowd for actress Phoebe Cates’ monologue about how she found out there’s no Santa Claus. We won’t relate the entire speech here, just know that it involves a missing father, a decomposed body and a slightly charred Santa Claus suit. (Warner Bros.)
‘Lethal Weapon’ (1987)

More holiday cheer from Joel Silver’s stable of action blockbusters. It was released the year before “Die Hard,” and the Christmas themes are not as overt, but director Richard Donner managed to fit them in where he could. Bet the other Christmas movies don’t feature a topless model listening to “Jingle Bell Rock,” doing coke and jumping from the top of an apartment building. (Warner Bros.)
‘Bad Santa’ (2003)

Not nearly as scandalous as the axe-wielding Santa from “Silent Night, Deadly Night,” Billy Bob Thornton’s conman-turned-department store Santa managed to raise some eyebrows with his foul-mouthed, binge-drinking performance. Ironically, film critic Roger Ebert, who publicly shamed the makers of “Silent Night, Deadly Night” years before, gave this film a glowing review. (Tracy Bennett / Dimension Films)
‘Black Christmas’ (1974)

Though he may be better known for his pro-Christmas “A Christmas Story,” director Bob Clark achieved earlier cult fame in anti-Christmas circles for this flick about a maniac offing a sorority house full of coeds. Originally released with the title “Silent Night, Evil Night,” Clark is credited with pioneering a lot of the horror movie effects that John Carpenter used to great success in “Halloween” four years later. It got remade in 2006. ()
‘Christmas Evil’ (1980)

Predating “Silent Night, Deadly Night” by four years, this little-seen shocker about a deranged man who dresses in a Santa suit and hacks people up somehow escaped the widespread condemnation of “Silent Night, Deadly Night” and has admirers in high places (John Waters is reportedly a big fan). What sets this Santa-hacking-up-people movie from the rest of the pack, however, is its shocker of an ending. Part-whimsy, part-camp, the ending of “Christmas Evil” turns it into the “Being There” of homicidal Santa movies. ()
‘Funny Farm’ (1988)

Chevy Chase starred in the pro-holiday favorite “Christmas Vacation,” but the year before he displayed a more acidic take on the holidays -- as a New York sportswriter who moves to the country to become a novelist and ends up a bitter drunk looking to divorce his wife. Yes, it’s a comedy. But what sets the film apart from most Chase vehicles is the film’s third act, in which he and his wife bribe the eccentric townspeople to reenact Norman Rockwell’s paintings in order to help them sell their house. What follows could be considered one of the least sentimental looks at small town life during the holidays ever put on film. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)