UnChristmassy Things Which Make Me Feel Unaccountably Christmassy
Some things, though, induce that Christmassy feel throughout the year – no matter when they're approached – even though they have nothing at all to do with the festive period.
Of course, the reason lies in association. I first encountered these things at Christmas, so they'll always be associated with the most wonderful time of year. It's the same with many, many things.
However, these things aren't just unChristmassy. They're so far removed from what Christmas is and should be about that they're probably powerfully potent in their ability to make some – I'm sure – feel downtroddenly unfestive.
Here, then, are some decidedly unChristmassy things which make me feel unaccountably Christmassy.
Not the red stuff per se – more the 1997 PC FPS which contains said sangria by the bucket-full – only, the bucket's actually a haemophiliac heart in the middle of a botched transfusion. This game's violent, but not Manhunt violent. It's more Sam Raimi, early-Peter Jackson violent – in that it's so over-the-top vicious as to be ridiculous.
Yes, there are strong satanic overtones, but the tongue's firmly in cheek as you blast your way through pandemonium carnivals, haunted houses, mountains of madness and hospitals using such implements of destruction as voodoo dolls, dynamite and napalm launchers.
Yes, a lot of the levels take place in the snow (or by roaring fires on which chestnuts could comfortably roast), but consider that you can decapitate zombies and use their heads as footballs – and that the eviscerated remains of women tied-under water and left to the mercy of giant piranhas are not uncommon sights – no, it hardly embodies seasonal goodwill.
But it does for me. Sorry.
Mastodon – Blood Mountain
This, the 2006 epic from the hairy, scary genii – is probably generally loathed by the majority of the metal community. As a lot of the vocals are sung rather than screamed (the bastards), it succeeded in attracting a much larger non-metal audience to their enthralling visceral thrills. Like me. Hello!
It's a concept album about a mountaineering jaunt for a crystal skull. It conjures up a foreboding landscape of dark forests, sleeping giants, mortal soil and colonies of Birchmen. And it really does ruddy rock in an almost overwhelmingly technically accomplished way. You can lose yourself in this music – just like our hero does in the landscape on his heroic, none-more-manly quest.
Yes, a lot of Christmas 2006 was spent listening to this on a big pair of headphones as I sat sequestered in the corner.
See? It's not just the brutal content which makes this an unChristmassy Christmassy treat for me. It's also the fact that I made something of an antisocial ne'er-do-well of myself in enjoying it for the first time that cements it's status as a Christmas tradition of questionable festive value.
Day of the Dead
For children, Christmas is very much about the presents. For a lot of adults, it's about the drink. For me, it's mainly about - well, I don't have the space or the time to divulge here exactly what Christmas means to me. Maybe later. Maybe next week.
But a lot of the appeal these days resides in the fact that Christmas presents an ideal opportunity to binge on films. There's always a decent marathon or two broadcast on the terrestrial channels – quality film after quality film – often back-to-back in a merciless “how are we to ever get anything done” solid wall of cinematic magic. Add to this the new DVDs and boxsets with which I and all else are often gifted and it's no wonder that last year I achieved a new record of 14 films watched in the space of three days.
And I enjoyed every single one of them.
They're seldom Christmas films, of course. But that's not the point. They're family films and are thus enjoyed with family. On subsequent viewings I'm therefore reminded of the context in which I first saw them. Christmas! And thus, I feel Christmassy.
But amongst the joy and not unseasonable warmth are a few strands of genuine heart-stopping terror which are more suited to a viewing two months previously. And yet, still I'm reminded of that initial warming festive context. And, like associating chair legs and cockroaches with sexual desire, it ain't right. Ain't natural. Ain't right.
Day of the Dead is such a film. It features possibly the most famous disembowelment in cinematic history – but the bit that really distresses me is the moment where that guy has his head literally pulled off. He screams as it's wrenched away, and in one of the most disturbing moments I've ever witnessed in any film, the pitch of his scream increases as his head is pulled further from his body.
And this atrocity – this bleak, dystopian misanthropic madness – makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
I'm not being funny when I ask – what the hell is wrong with me?