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Seven ho-ho horrific holiday films

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Jingle All the Way (1996) Quite possibly the worst holiday movie of all time, this comedy vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger can be found in the clearance bins of most major department stores. Big Arnie is wildly miscast as the workaholic dad Howard, who leaves it to Christmas Eve to pick up the popular toy Turbo-Man for his young son. Since the toy is sold out almost everywhere, Howard enters into a heated competition with the postal worker Myron (Sinbad) to obtain the last one. Painfully unfunny slapstick and the best evidence that Schwarzenegger really can’t act.

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Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) Just as bad as you’ve heard it was, and maybe worse. Famously made for $20,000, which was cheap even by 1964 standards, the story finds the good people of Mars (who look exactly like regular people, except with green face-paint, green unitards and helmets with antennae affixed) fretting that their children are watching too much Earth television, particularly that show with Santa Claus!. The Martians abduct Santa, and two earth kids for some reason, and take them back to Mars. Low-budget lunacy ensues and the entire thing ends up with Santa and the Martians doing the Twist like there’s no tomorrow. And yep, that’s Pia Zadora as the tiny Martian princess.

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The Ref (1994) Don’t believe the hype about this black comedy directed by Ted Demme. It’s dreadful. On Christmas Eve, bickering suburban couple Lloyd and Caroline, played by Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis, receive an unwelcome house guest in the person of professional thief Gus (Denis Leary), on the run from the cops. Since guests for the couple’s annual holiday party are on the way, and police are swarming the neighbourhood, Gus poses as the pair’s marriage counselor and interacts with the pair’s dimwitted relatives. Spacey is pompous, Davis is shrill and the entire mess ends on a predictably sappy note with the thief in a Santa suit.

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Fred Claus (2007) Looking to lose any respect your might have had for Vince Vaughn? Watch this movie. The once semi-respectable star of Swingers and Old School looks dazed and confused as the older layabout brother of Santa Claus, played by Paul Giamatti. Fred Claus is a repo man who gets caught stealing and lands in jail. Santa pays the bail under the condition his sibling come to the North Pole and make toys, but naturally Fred is hopelessly inept and tries to work his own sleazy angle. In the pantheon of holiday movies, Fred Claus is a chancre sore.

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An American Carol (2008) The Republican party may have lost the U.S. election, but they’ll always have this woeful dig at lefty Hollywood. Kevin Farley (brother of the late Chris Farley) plays left-wing documentarian Michael Malone–an obvious parody of Michael Mooore–whose anti-American stance includes snubbing his own navy-officer nephew, about to deployed to the Persian Gulf. Soon after Malone is haunted by the ghost of the late John F. Kennedy, who tells him to expect three spirits. In short order Malone receives visits from General George S. Patton (Kelsey Grammer), George Washington (Jon Voight) and country-music star Trace Adkins, aka the Angel of Death. The late Gary Coleman and Leslie Nielsen shame themselves as a plantation slave and Osama bin Laden, respectively.

Sam Emerson/Sam Emerson

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The Preacher’s Wife (1996) As an actress, the late Whitney Houston was a terrific singer. In this lifeless remake of a charming 1947 film, Whitney plays the neglected wife Julia, whose husband Reverend Henry (Courtney B. Vance) is struggling to keep his poverty-stricken congregation together. Enter Dudley (Denzel Washington), who informs the pastor that he’s there to save his flock and make everything better. When Christmas rolls around, Henry resists temptation to sell the church while Whitney wails one gospel song after another. It’s a two-hour movie that feels like a week.

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Surviving Christmas (2004) All Ben Affleck wants for Christmas is all copies of this terrible comedy destroyed. The star-director of Argo plays Drew, a wealthy ad exec dumped by his girlfriend and advised by his therapist to relive childhood Christmas memories. When Drew returns to his old family home, he discovers it’s occupied by the miserable couple Tom and Christine (James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara). Drew brokers a deal to pay the couple a boatload of money to pose as his family during the holiday season, which somehow includes a provision for getting jiggy with their daughter (Christina Applegate). Not a likeable person in the bunch.

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