The holiday season is often associated with tradition, even down to the movies you watch. Indie holiday movies are normally last on the list. You often rewatch all the classics, but if you’re in the mood for shaking up some traditions, then maybe it’s time to consider some hidden gems from the world of indie films. You may be surprised. Christmas movies are often formulaic. Indie films break the mould and provide something innovative.
2020 has been a tough year for indie filmmakers, as it has been for many of us. With all of us stuck inside and away from our usual traditions, why not get your festive cheer on and support an indie film all in one sitting? Since Raindance is a hub for indie filmmakers and indie film fans alike, we thought we’d share with you five indie films you can enjoy this festive season.
Cup of Cheer
Cup of Cheer was released this year, but has already made quite the splash. Hailing itself as a satire of cheesy Christmas TV movies, it provides a much needed parody of the likes of Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies. In a year that needs laughs more than ever, it’s managed to successfully provide some. It’s been compared favourably to the comedic styling of David Wain and the Zucker brothers. Critic Barry Hertz of the Globe and Mail said “Cup of Cheer combines two leading cinematic school of parodic thought: the throw-everything-at-the-screen Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker model pioneered in such classics as Airplane! and The Naked Gun, and the tongue-in-cheek absurdism of David Wain” and compares it to Wain’s They Came Together and Wet Hot American Summer. The Canadian/UK co-production has topped the Canadian Box Office twice in its theatrical run, but is now available to watch at home.
Cup of Cheer is in the UK on Amazon, Itunes, Sky Store, and Virgin. In the US and Canada, you can watch it for free on Amazon Prime.
Anna and the Apocalypse
Anna and the Apocalypse makes the bold movie of genre-mashing zombies, a musical, and Christmas. Needless to say it’s something that hasn’t been done before. When talking to Crooked Llama, director John McPhail spoke about how they balanced all the genres to make the mashup work. He said, “It was trying to split those three acts up. So, we have the zany teen comedy, the horror-comedy, and the third act could be outright horror, and feeling a concern that we’re going to lose these kids on the way. I thought that would be the best way to do it. It gives each of the genres a place”. The film received plenty of positive responses from critics and audiences alike, with critic Brad Wheeler calling it “Show tunes meets Shaun of the Dead”.
Anna and the Apocalypse is available in the UK on Sky, Amazon, Itunes, and Google.
Better Watch Out
When Better Watch Out was released it was marketed as an R-rated horror take on Home Alone, which is certainly a good pitch for a Christmas-themed horror, but doesn’t actually do justice to how clever and rewatchable this Christmas film really is. Filled with fantastic performances, gruesome action, and bloody twists that constantly reinvent the film throughout its running time, Better Watch Out is as refreshing as a Christmas film can be. The Guardian said of the film “The twists and lurches are interspersed with bouts of boisterous carol-singing,” and it’s that mixture of genuine Christmas spirit and gut-wrenching horror that makes Better Watch Out a modern classic.
Better Watch Out is available in the UK on Sky, Amazon, Google, and YouTube.
Black Christmas (1974)
For those who are a fan of older Christmas flicks, the original Black Christmas movie is a strong holiday horror. Although it received mixed reviews at the time of release, it has since become a highly praised cult classic, and film historians have praised it for being one of the first slasher films. It has since been remade twice, once in 2006, and again in 2019 by Blumhouse.
In the UK, Black Christmas is available to watch on Amazon.
Another off-beat comedy that offers a fresh take on the holiday movie is 2008’s Cooper’s Christmas also known as Cooper’s Camera. This low-budget comedy is viewed through the lens of a second-hand VHS camera that the titular family get for Christmas. It provides a comedic offering to both the found-footage genre and the Christmas canon as we follow the family’s dysfunctional Christmas. A review by Canuxploitation calls it “a frequently funny film that works almost as the Canadian answer to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”.
Cooper’s Christmas is available to watch for free on Amazon Prime in the UK.
That concludes the list of five indie holiday movies to check out. For every film mentioned, there are plenty more indie hidden gems to find. So next time you feel like watching something festive, consider supporting an indie filmmaker and checking out their film. And if you like an indie film, there is more you can do to support it than just watch it. Tell your friends, tweet about it, rate it on IMDB, rotten tomatoes, or letterboxd.
And keep up to date on all things indie, at the Raindance Film Festival and here on the Raindance blog.