Bad Christmas movies like A Christmas Prince can be fun

There are some classic Christmas movies like It's a Wonderful Life. But there are also lots of bad Christmas movies. If you're a unreformed Scrooge and an aficionado of the awful, check some of these out.

Ben Lamb, left and Rose McIver in A Christmas Prince: the Royal Wedding. Picture: Netflix

Ben Lamb, left and Rose McIver in A Christmas Prince: the Royal Wedding. Picture: Netflix

The Netflix TV movie The Christmas Prince has been one of the most ironically popular of recent seasonal offerings, a cliche-ridden, insipid rom-com about a journalist who goes undercover as a palace tutor in Aldovia. The film is eerily sheeny but also looks cheap: it's like a cinematic rhinestone.There have been two sequels (so far), with the self-explanatory subtitles The Royal Wedding and The Royal Baby. What's next - The Royal Mistress? The Royal Divorce?

Decidedly unromantic, the horror movie Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) somehow spawned four sequels. Billy was traumatised as a kid when he saw his parents murdered by a man dressed as Santa Claus. He and his brother Ricky were raised in a strict Catholic orphanage (no comment). As a young adult, Billy is working in a toy store playing Santa when he's triggered to go on a murderous rampage. If you want to kill two bad movies with one stone, you can just watch the first sequel, half of which consists of flashback footage from the first film as teenaged Ricky talks to a shrink before embarking on his own killing spree. What makes this film special - apart from its sheer chutzpah - is Eric Freeman's waaaaaay over the top performance as Ricky. His hilarious homicidal rampage gave rise to the "Garbage day!" meme.

The outrage the original film generated - Santa Claus as a killer! - seemed excessive since the idea was not new. Anyone who saw Tales from the Crypt (1972) would recall the segment And All Through the House, in which Joan Collins murders her husband on Christmas Eve and is then stalked by a psycho dressed as Santa.

The uproar subsided and a surprising number of Santa-as-killer movies followed. One is Santa's Slay (2005), a ridiculous dark comedy/horror hybrid with an unusual take on the origins of Mr Claus. Pro wrestler Bill Goldberg plays him as a homicidal maniac who was conceived by Satan and born of a virgin and killed people every December 25 until, after losing a competition to an angel, had to deliver presents for 1000 years. But now that sentence is over.

Another pro wrestler badly cast in a Christmas movie was Hulk Hogan in the dire 1996 comedy Santa With Muscles. His character is a self-centred millionaire who suffers amnesia after a blow to the head and believes he is the real Santa.

Alex D. Linz in Home Alone 3. Picture: 20th Century Fox

Alex D. Linz in Home Alone 3. Picture: 20th Century Fox

The first two Home Alone movies were OK if you could take Macaulay Culkin as a brat who rigs up improbably elaborate devices for burglars rather than calling the cops. The two further sequels, with different, forgettable, leads, were simply bad cash-ins.

Then there's the cheap matinee fodder that parents could dump their kids at, some of which are more surreal than a David Lynch movie. Most notorious is Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), with its earworm of a theme song. It features the same piece of aerial stock footage seen at the start of (the infinitely superior) Dr Strangelove.

Seriously weird is the dubbed Mexican Santa Claus (1959), where Santa lives up in the clouds with an array of surveillance equipment and groups of singing children as slave labour making his toys. A demon named Pitch is sent by the Devil to corrupt children on Earth. And then it just gets stranger.

But the very worst, weirdest Christmas movie I've seen is Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny.This incredibly shoestring 1972 musical has some of the worst songs you will ever hear and a threadbare plot about Santa's sleigh being stuck on a Florida beach after his reindeer abandon him (after watching him for a while, you won't blame them). He summons a bunch of kids to help and then, mid-film, tells them the story of Thumbelina (some prints have Jack and the Beanstalk). The fairytale is a completely different movie, longer than the framing story, with its own credits, shoehorned in to pad out the running time. As for the Ice Cream Bunny, well, you can discover that for yourself.

Some of these films are on YouTube. Check them out if you dare. And a Merry Christmas to you.

This story Ho, ho ho-rrible Christmas movies so bad they're good first appeared on The Canberra Times.