All Monsters Are People (Ep. 187 - Attack of the Killer Tomatoes)

This Week's Guest: Michael Varrati

What would it look like if you celebrated Halloween and Christmas at the same time? My guest this week is Michael Varrati, host of the podcast Dead for Filth, and screenwriter of such films as Grindsploitation 4, From Hell She Rises, and Seven Dorms of Death. But he's also the writer of the Hallmark film Broadcasting Christmas, starring Melissa Joan Hart, as well as A Christmas Reunion and A Christmas in Vermont. Michael's genre-hopping might seem a little weird, but he's not alone in straddling horror and rom-com. The two have more in common than you might expect.

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This Week's Recommendation: Gremlins

Thanks again to Michael for joining me. Since we recorded our chat a few days ago, I've been thinking a lot about the overlap of horror and Christmas -- how they're both such foundational genres, going back over 120 years. The first horror film was probably Le Manoir du Diable, made in 1896; that was followed two years later by the first Christmas movie, entitled simply Santa Claus.

And so the seeds were planted for the film that is my recommendation for this week: 1984's Gremlins. Not only is it a difficult cultural artifact to describe, it's sometimes difficult to convince people that it actually exists because it sounds like a parody -- which, in fact, it is.

A mysterious adorable creature is accidentally unleashed in a small suburb right before Christmas. At first everyone is enchanted by the cute furry monster, but then things get out of control as it multiples, and its various duplicates become increasingly wicked in response to the wickedness of the human around them. 

It is really hard to classify this movie, so let's not even try. It's a completely deadpan delivery of both horror and holiday tropes -- it's not unheard of for naughty characters to get coal in their stocking, but in Gremlins they're launched to their death on sabotaged stairmasters. 

I can't think of a better blend of the two genres, and I wonder if it's in part down to camp. Both scary movies and Christmas films thrive in trope and excess. It's only natural that they'd get along as well as they do.

Stuff We Talked About