Friday, December 26, 2014

The Horror Of...Christmastime, A Christmas Carol (1984)

Christmas time is one that has been rich with horror movies for years now, But how can I not be tempted to go back to a classic tale of Christmas? A tale of a dislikeable lead who is given a comeuppance by supernatural forces. A story of a haunting. A story that addresses the real life horrors within an economy and society.

"A Christmas Carol." Dicken's tale is so well trodden over the last century, we've gotten so used to the story that maybe we forget...

...This be a ghost story.

I've already taken a look at some of the more humorous takes on this old story. And those are fun as introductions or a bit of variation. But let's look at one that is more of a sincere take on Scrooge and his London.

1984 offered us a number of Christmas based horror (including Gremlins and Night of the Comet). Among those films was A Christmas Carol.

It was made for TV and shown on CBS. Though it also got a theatrical release in the United Kingdom.

It stars George C. Scott in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge.

"Dickens...You magnificent bastard...I read your book!"

The movie is full of all the classic imagery of the Christmas season...


Getting goose.

And musical merry making.

Everybody dance now!

Thankfully this isn't one of the versions of the story that is a musical. But carols and seasonal songs and music do permeate the movie.  It helps to nicely maintain the season.

Scott makes for a very enjoyable Scrooge. He can be quite intimidating. And his Scrooge feels tough and fierce. He tenacious, stubborn, and staunch in his convictions.

I was interested in one podcast where they considered Christmas movies. A point they had was to wonder whether Scrooge was that bad. It is an interesting idea to look at a characters concept.

Scrooge is a miser with his money. He's grumpy and mean. He wants nothing to do with the world around him. But he pays his bills and taxes. He keeps aware of the world as far as where his money is going, and where it can come from. But he's still trapped in a cold and distant world view he forged by his 20's.

He's not evil. But he fully has embraced the idea that being wealthy is a virtue. He looks down on poverty. He also looks down on people that want to help the poor. They're either fools or con men.

He just wants to amass his wealth, and let everyone else...whatever. Bah!

It's an attitude that continues up to this day. That may seem like a bit of a political point for Christmas. But A Christmas Carol is a statement unto itself. And Dickens was a man that had arguments to make about how society was in his works. Scrooge served that function like many of Dicken's characters did.

Scrooge is satisfied to be blind to how bad society treats those in trouble. Just imprison the poor. Send them away. After all, they are just lazy.

Scrooge's lesson is to be made to walk in his own shoe's of his youth, to remember his own struggles, mistakes, and how many people actually helped him along the way. He's forced to look at how people actually live, struggle, and suffer in his day. And then how his actions and choices affect people and what they will result in. Scrooge is given a chance to see how little his life will measure up to in the end.

George C. Scott does a great job of playing Scrooge as a man of shrewd and cold business. He then reflects Scrooge's complexity. His issues of childhood. His regrets about the past. His obliviousness about the present, and rising awareness of the world. Then his shift to caring and trying to make his recompense.

The movie has many good actors in it, including...

David Warner, as a softhearted Bob Cratchit.

Roger Rees as Scrooge's nephew, Fred.

Edward Woodward, as the Ghost of Christmas Present. A large, gregarious, and cutting force of nature.

Also, Liz Smith. She will go on to reprise her role here as Scrooge's house cleaner in Patrick Stewart's 1999 version of this story.

And, Mark Stickson, as a younger Scrooge. Hey, a Doctor Who alum!

As I said, this movie does a nice job of giving a faithful telling of the story.

Scrooge and Tiny Tim.

The Cratchits.

Scrooge's path to peace.

The movie moves between the tales Christmas thoughts, drama, and melodrama well.

And when it's time for the horror elements it slides nicely in.

"Hey? Am I making A Christmas Carol or one of the Exorcist sequels?"

Marley's appearance is discomforting...

Particularly as he untied the cloth around his head, and his jaw just drops. It's a nice bit.

And when the spirits start arriving, he's shock from his bed with an unnatural burst of wind. (You can make your own joke.)

"Good lord! What did you eat? A blot of mustard? A crumb of cheese?
A fragment of underdone potato?"
It's a Christmas haunting.

The spirit come in each in their own fashion. The light of memory. The grand celebration of the day. And the specter of the future.

And the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come has some amazing visuals.

The spirit has no voice, and they make use of music and the sound of a rusted hinge to evoke it's will. It enhances the already creepy scenes.

And with it, Scrooge must face his mortality.

The pain of loss.

And the reality of how empty his life is proving to be.

(Interestingly, it is claimed that this tombstone was installed in the Shrewsbury cemetery they shot in. And they never removed it. So you can, apparently, still go and visit Scrooge's grave. Apparently. -- I haven't seen any confirmation of this yet.)

And Scrooge moves from contemplating changing, to outright begging for the chance to recommit to humanity.

"Okay. I'm reformed...But I bet I can make Cratchit wet himself one
last time."
Scrooge starts to pay Cratchit a better wage, and makes him more a part of his business, and pledges to help his family. He starts investing in charity to help the poor. And he finally embraces his only family, his nephew.

The movie proves to be a very evocative take on this old tale. It is made up of a wonderful and talented cast. And the artistry made use of in it do a wonderful job of transporting you into the story's world.

And when it comes to it's dark and creepy moments, they really seemto appreciate the unnatural world that Scrooge has been pulled into.

Christmas. Haunting, And, social commentary. What a festive mix.

Definitely worth checking out during this season. Might even be interesting to watch during Christmas in July.

No comments: