This column has searched high and low to find alternative holiday-themed entertainment for you. It doesn’t take much effort to find heart-warming tales of romance and family reunions at this time of the year. There are approximately 1,000 titles in the TV listings, and the novelty factor added recently is TV movies featuring cute critters. The Nine Kittens of Christmas was a big hit recently. And then you have your elves. Search for “elf movies” and you will find many thousands of results.
Elves (streams Netflix) is not in the category of cutesy. It’s horror and it’s an addictive little series (six episodes of 30 minutes each), more like The Wicker Man than holiday-themed fluff. And if you’ve ever wondered, perversely, what a Scandi-noir take on cheery Christmas fare would look like, this is it.
We should not be surprised by its existence; after all, the whole Christmas elf thing, featuring creatures with pointy ears and pointy hats, has its origins in Scandinavian folklore about forest elves.
Here, the very urban-bourgeois Svane family, mom Charlotte (Lila Nobel) and dad Mads (Peder Thomas Pedersen) and their bratty kids Kasper (Milo Campanale) and Josefine (Sonja Steen), arrive on the fictional island of Aarmand, off Denmark (it’s in Danish with English subtitles) for a very quiet Christmas holiday. Soon, there’s a bump on the road. Literally.
What has their car struck? Well, little Josefine figures it out. Secretly she searches for and finds an injured wee elf. This is a bad idea, since the murderous cabal of forest elves who roam the woods want the baby back.
What unfolds has every familiar turn and twist in the genre of ominously-terse-islanders-versus-nosy-tourists. The locals speak slowly but say little. The visitors are incredibly naive. Teenager Kasper develops a crush on local girl Liv (Vivelill Sogaard Holm) who, after gazing moodily at him for a few episodes, tells him to get the heck off the island because the place is teeming with bloodthirsty critters. Little Josefine sees everything with the eyes of a child and doesn’t understand the forces she has disturbed.
You have been warned. If you stumble upon Elves on Netflix, do not expect sweetness and light. What you get is horror, with a touch of the slasher-movie genre thrown in. It’s no masterpiece, but a distraction that’s a bit daft.
Also airing/streaming this weekend – Christmas Movie Magic (Saturday, Super Channel, 6:30 p.m., Super Channel on-demand, streams via Amazon Prime Video’s Super Channel platform) is a cut above the usual, and one of the rare holiday-themed TV movies to garner rave reviews from critics. Canadian director Robert Vaughn turns what could be treacly love story into a dryly humourous take on the role that Christmas movies play in our lives. He also makes it look stunning, this story about an ambitious journalist, Ali (Holly Deveaux), who is sent to a small town where a fictional Christmas classic, Christmas With You, was filmed. Resentful about doing holiday stories when she wants to work on the news desk, Ali stumbles upon the secret love story at the heart of the famous movie. Ali also meets a nice guy, but that’s not the gist of this production. The film pokes around, with deftness, into what makes classic holiday movies truly great and then, with aplomb, shows us. The movie-within-a-movie, a musical, is just enchanting and done with panache. A real gem, this one. By the way, for all your holiday and romance needs, Super Channel Heart & Home channel is on free preview this month.
Note that there is a marathon of All Creatures Great and Small (Sunday PBS, 9 p.m. ET, two episodes) and that is preceded (on PBS, 8 p.m. ET) by All Creatures Great and Small: Between the Pages, a one-off special that’s a behind-the scenes look at the cast and filming of the latest series based on James Herriot’s beloved book. The show is the feel-good series of the year for many viewers.
Finally, The Great Canadian Holiday Baking Show (Sunday, CBC, CBC Gem, 8 p.m. ET) features four bakers from seasons past returning to The Great Canadian Baking Show Tent to compete for the tasty title, Holiday Star Baker. Don’t forget this season of Succession (Sunday, HBO/Crave 9 p.m. ET) reaches the finale. After that, people will have nothing to talk about.
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