As Christmas ends and Boxing Day chaos follows, you may wake up looking at what you got from office gift exchanges and extended friend and family Secret Santa’s. If you’re lucky, your Secret Santa got you a Starbucks gift card. More often than not, you probably ended up with something completely random that fit under the agreed-upon price cap. And the 2021 supply shortage means you could end up with some real oddities. But it could always be worse. Just ask the characters in the horror movies listed below. For this Christmas edition of The Chopping Block, we look at seven movies where characters should have considered re-gifting.
Trilogy of Terror (1975)
In the heyday of 1970s and 1980s made-for-television horror movie, Trilogy of Terror immediately set itself apart. Today, it’s actually built up a bit of a cult following. Originally an ABC Movie of the Night, Trilogy of Terror was a horror anthology that saw Karen Black (Burnt Offerings, House of 1000 Corpses) play multiple roles in three segments. Each of the segments was based on Richard Matheson short stories. Like most anthology horror movies, this one’s an uneven affair. But the strength of its final segment, Amelia, and a certain wooden Zuni fetish doll was enough to give a lot of viewers nightmares. Despite obvious budgetary limitations, the segment makes good use of its claustrophobic high-rise apartment setting.
Gremlins is classic horror-comedy and, yes, Christmas movie. Seemingly a family-friend movie, Gremlins was probably a bit too dark and violent for the munchkins. And this Joe Dante-helmed movie starts a familiar trend on this list – hapless dads bribing their kids with dubious gifts. Mogwai’s are great – the 80s probably saw a wave of pets named Gizmo. But let’s face it, they come with too many rules for kids. Not surprisingly, Zach Galligan breaks the rules. Subsequently, chaos ensues. Just about everything about this movie is dark and fun. Stripes is a classic horror movie villain. Just about everything about this movie is dark fun. The kitchen and shopping mall scenes are highlights. By the way, Gremlins 2: The New Batch is an underrated sequel.
Child’s Play (1988)
Give poor Karen Barclay a break. The Good Guy dolls – most likely based on the wildly popular Cabbage Patch Kids – were all the rage. How was she supposed to know that her Good Guy, Chucky, was possessed by the spirit of a dead serial killer? Can you even return merchandise after that happens? When Child’s Play hit theaters in 1988, the slasher was past its prime. Yet in spite of its time – and hackneyed concept – Don Mancini’s creation became a hit with horror fans. Today, Chucky is a slasher icon and the Child’s Play franchise may one of the more interesting trajectories among horror series.
Thir13een Ghosts (2001)
Thir13en Ghosts is one of those movies that polarizes critics and audiences. Not surprisingly, critics ripped it apart, but the William Castle remake won over a lot of fans. Technically, Thir13en Ghosts isn’t a good movie. Nothing after re-watching it nearly 20 years later suggests that it’s acquired some new charm. But never discount the power of nostalgia. Eighties horror fans have a laundry list of of B-movies that have little appeal outside our generation. And if you grew up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Thir13een Ghosts likely has a similar nostalgic appeal. Maybe it’s the amazing ghost make-up effects. Or perhaps the goodwill from Matthew Lillard’s Scream role still counts. Maybe Thir13en Ghosts is, at the very least, a watchable horror movie, but it’s also a warning to not accept gifts from weird deceased relatives you never met.
The Possession (2010)
So what do you do if you’re going through tough divorce that’s hard on your kids? Buy them a possessed Dybbuk box from a local garage sale, of course. Ghost House Pictures has released some great movies over the last few years including Nightbooks, Don’t Breathe, and the Evil Dead remake. But in its early days, Sam Raimi’s production studio struggled to release an actually scary horror movie. And The Possession counts amongst the studio’s early misses. Despite a few decent moments here and there, The Possession recycles so many horror clichés that it more closely approximates a highlight reel than standalone movie.
The Gift (2015)
Pro Tip – If an old high school classmate you picked on shows up on your doorstep with a gift, don’t accept it. In addition to starring in The Gift, Joel Edgerton wrote and directed this chilling psychological chiller. Though Egerton’s ‘Gordo’ is clearly disturbed, The Gift still manages to have you guessing right up to its gut punch of an ending. Just two years shy of his critically successful run on Ozark, Jason Bateman warms up here playing a similarly smarmy character. And the underrated Rebecca Hall (The Night House, Godzilla vs Kong) is once again excellent in a grueling role. Just remember, if someone offers you to ‘let bygones be bygones’, take them up on it.
Wish Upon (2017)
Another take on Richard Matheson’s Monkey’s Paw. Yet another absent dad gifting their child something horrible to win back their love with predictably bad results. Bottom-line, Wish Upon is a completely forgettable PG-13 teen horror movie. In spite of a talented cast and good production values, this insipid PG-13 movie forgot to be, you know, actually scary. That is to say that everything about Wish Upon is perfectly fine for a high school sleepover party. Everyone else will probably just wish they were watching something else. Here’s a fun fact. Director John R. Leonetti’s previous directorial credits include Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, The Butterfly Effect 2, Annabelle, and Wolves at the Door.