When you’re a minimalist vegetarian household with no children and you’re at least 50% Jewish anyway, deciding what to do for Chrimbo can be a tricky thing.
You don’t want to be hostile to Christmas and the facts remain that you like Charles Dickens and Michael Caine and kisses beneath the mistletoe.
But when the entire world seems dedicated to rampant consumerist mania and is shocked–almost offended–when it learns you don’t have anything to say about how you observe the big day, it can be easy to be pushed into unintentional Humbuggery. The festival of light begins to feel like The Purge and your instinct is to board up the windows and hope that the special day will pass you by.
I think this Humbuggery is important to resist. Even if it means coming up with some new traditions.
Two years ago, in a bid to do something a twinkly on Christmas Day, my partner and I went to see The Last Jedi at the Odeon. It turns out there are enough people in the world to whom Christmas isn’t a big deal that some cinemas are open on 25th December. And it was great! The cinema was overflowing with excitable Sikh children with their little topknots; it was a great atmosphere of fun-loving non-Christmas observers.
“Star Wars is my new religion,” I think to myself, settling back into the reclining chair and letting the dependable, iconic opening crawl fill my vision.
Reaching the cinema with no public transport had been a dispiriting exercise though. We’d walked through the rain across an almost-completely deserted cityscape. The no man’s land around the Skypark was especially post-apocalyptic-feeling. We saw the occasional Christmas light display in a high-rise, just like Brendon Gleeson’s flat in 28 Days Later.
The following year (last year) we stayed indoors, in the carbon-neutral warmth of home, and watched John Carpenter’s They Live (1988) with our Brussels Sprouts. This was a good choice. It turns out that old horror movies are our new religion. Star Wars was a red herring all along! And if we can find a really, really good old horror movie that neither of us has seen before, we’ve hit the jackpot. They Live was bliss.
This year, we’ll be watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). I think it will be perfect for Christmas. Leonard Nimoy, Donald Sutherland and Jeff Goldblum practically are family.
All of this makes me wonder what makes a good Christmas film. The telly used to show festive fixtures like Muppet’s Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, but it also used to show The Great Escape, which has become associated with Christmas despite being completely unrelated. What you want, I suppose, is something that gives you a thrill, restores justice, feels nostalgic perhaps, hits your soul at just the right angle, unites everyone in the room. For us, that seems to be old horror movies.
So if, fellow Escapologists, you find yourself similarly ambivalent about this year’s day of the shiny baubles, why not join us in watching this film? Leave a comment here if you end up watching it. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, guys. It’s what’s for Christmas Dinner.