As with the inevitable appearance of Santa Claus at the end of Thanksgiving Day parades, so does conclusion of turkey feast signal the beginning of the Christmas holiday season. For those inclined toward the darker end of the holiday viewing spectrum, this is a banner year, with A Christmas Horror Story and Krampus both stomping across the landscape, joining the select list of holiday season-themed horror favorites.
But one classic almost always gets left off that list. Richard Donner’s Scrooged (1988) is still the darkest, most cynical take on the Dickens Christmas Carol theme, which anyway you look at it is a harrowing ghost story that happens to have a happy ending.
Purists may not see Scrooged as a true horror film, but look at the elements:
Bill Murray is a monomaniacal TV network president who revels in bringing a bloody commando assault on Santa’s North Pole to the airwaves. He fires another exec the day before Christmas Eve and has him tossed to the curb for questioning the show’s sensationalism. The ex-exec (Bobcat Goldthwait) spirals into a drunken depression and ends up firing shotgun blast after shotgun blast at Murray in the Manhattan skyscraper offices of the network on Christmas Eve.
And as to the ghostly visitations bestowed upon the black-hearted Murray – pure horror. His Jacob Marley figure is the former network chief and Murray’s mentor (John Forsythe), dead seven years, whose decadent lifestyle led to a heart attack on the golf course.
His fearsome, dusty, decaying specter doesn’t so much warn Murray about his impending ghostly visitations as taunt him viciously, even dangling him outside his high-rise office window. The ghost’s moldered arm breaks apart with peeling of flesh and crunchy breaking of bones and Murray is sent plummeting, shrieking in horror, toward the ground below. He “wakes up” just prior to impact.
Portents of the visitations to come include an eyeball floating in a highball glass and a waiter fully engulfed in flames. The Ghost of Christmas Present comes in the beguiling form of twinkling fairy godmother Carol Kane, who proceeds to pummel Murray with a toaster, various punches and kicks, and nearly pulls his lower lip off. Her presentation of current horrors concludes with a homeless man (Michael J. Pollard), whom Murray had met at his sainted former girlfriend’s shelter, frozen, alarmingly blue, and quite dead in a service tunnel beneath the city street.
But there’s more. The Ghost of Christmas Future is a looming, terrifying version of the Grim Reaper with twisted, damned souls trapped within his shrouds, and Murray’s moment of final epiphany comes as he smolders within his burning coffin.
Yes, Scrooged is also hilarious and ultimately very touching but it’s the horror that keeps the humor sharp and the sentiment from veering into the maudlin.
READ MORE “WEIRD CHRISTMAS”:
Talking Weird Christmas Customs with Gerry Bowler on After Hours AM/America’s Most Haunted Radio
Werewolves of Yule
Mari Lwyd – The Party Animal Horse Skull of Wales
Krampus – The Rise of the Anti-Claus
Talking Krampus with Novelist Richard Kadrey on After Hours AM/America’s Most Haunted Radio
The Yule Log
The Macabre Adventures of St. Nicholas
Santa Claus and the Magic Mushroom
Midnight Syndicate on After Hours AM/America’s Most Haunted Radio
Midnight Syndicate Brings Spooky Sensibility to CHRISTMAS: A GHOSTLY GATHERING