Monday, October 22, 2012

Twilight of the Immortals: Why 'Fred Claus' Is the Most (Unintentionally) Creepy And Awesome Christmas Movie Ever Made

Merry Early Christmas everyone, and also Happy Early Hanukkah, and whatever it is people are supposed to feel on Early Kwanzaa.

I love the Christmas season. It's that wonderful time of year when people can pretend to be decent for more than five fucking minutes, except for those few cynics, who now get colorful nicknames like Scrooge and Grinch, instead of just being miserable bastards like the rest of the year. It's that amazing few months or so when banks close several times in succession, so that people like me who work for them get to stay home and masturbate, and whether you're worshiping the baby Jesus, some nameless pagan deity, the greatness of capitalism, or just the deliciousness of ham, there are about as many Christmas traditions as there are people who celebrate. At the end of the day, it's all about family, and because strangely enough cold weather doesn't change the fact that we hate each other and need an excuse to ignore one another, our traditions often involve the ceremonial Christmas movie.

For my family, the movie we watched every Christmas was A Christmas Story. Of course, this was back when it was an obscure movie, before everybody else realized how great it was and they started playing it twenty-four hours a day. After that we got sick of it, and we haven't really gotten together for Christmas a lot since then. Huh, I never really thought of it that way. Fuck you America; you took my Christmas. Anyway, Hollywood caught on to this trend a long time ago, and every year they seem to trot out a new slew of Christmas movies, hoping that at least one of them will catch on and become the next Christmas classic. Most fail miserably and are quickly forgotten, but I would argue that there's at least one film, released in 2007, that was perhaps unfairly overlooked. This film is Fred Claus.

Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that Fred Claus is a great movie or even a good movie. On its face, it's the typical schmaltzy family garbage made even more annoying by Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers) at his worst and Paul Giamatti (Sideways) wasting his talent in a fat suit. What I'm saying is that if you look a little deeper, Fred Claus, through its poorly thought out premise, creates a dark and twisted alternate universe that results in what is no doubt a completely accidental creepily awesome masterpiece.

See, most movies revolving around Santa Claus, at least in the last few decades, try to make at least some attempt to address his magical nature and explain how he exists in the real world, providing a back-story that is sometimes as simple as "It's Magic Bitch" and sometimes as complicated as a superhero's secret origin. Maybe Santa was given immortality by a council of sentient elemental forces, or chosen by the Ancient One, oldest and wisest of the Elves. Or maybe what we know as Santa Claus is something akin to a viral curse or reverse vampirism, transferring from the corpse of the last Santa to his murderer. Either way, there has to be some logical reason why this jolly fat man can live forever and do all the amazing things that he does, and the way Fred Claus deals with this issue is at the crux of how insane this movie is.

In the world of Fred Claus, as stated by the narrator early in the film, whenever a person becomes a saint, he, his spouse, and his entire family become "frozen in time," essentially immortal (though it is never specified whether this means that they cannot be killed or merely will never age or die of natural causes). Now think about that for a second. If it was just the one person who became immortal, that would be one thing, but then this movie wouldn't work, as Fred would have died in the Middle Ages. Making the entire family immortal allows for the two siblings to interact in the modern era, but it also brings up a whole host of horrifying problems. The thing about families is that they grow. I can't count the number of people in my extended family, and I barely talk to most of them. And the immortality extends backwards as well as forwards, freezing his parents and presumably everyone in his bloodline currently alive at the time of sainthood. Presumably, some if not most of these people will be having new children of their own at some point, most likely more than the average person considering they have all of time to do so, and we have to assume that when they reach a certain age, these children and by extension their additions to the family through marriage will be immortal too. After only a few generations, you'd essentially have an army of immortals connected to anyone ever declared a saint. Our planet could simply not sustain this exponential increase in the world's population.

And for that matter, aren't there more saints than just Saint Nicholas? In this fictional universe, does this rule mean that Joan of Arc and her extended family of religious warrior zealots is still walking around somewhere? What about the unofficial saints, like Santa Muerte, otherwise known as the Mexican walking skeleton Saint Death, or Saint Guinefort, the French saint who also happens to be a dog? You probably don't have to worry about the skeleton saint having children, what with her lack of a reproductive system, but the average size of a litter of dogs is six puppies, and they have no moral qualms about having multiple litters with multiple partners in their typically short lifespans. Now imagine if all the dogs in that equation were immortal. Dogs would soon become the dominant species on the planet, all because one French dog did some good shit back in the 13th century. And don't even get me started on Saint Foutin. And what happens when an immortal decides to get a divorce? Does the spouse and her side of the family lose their immortality? And if so, do they just age normally, or do they rot and crumble into dust as the ravages of time finally catch up with them? Or what about Cephalephors, saints who were beheaded when they were alive and now carry their heads in their hands. Hey, wait, in order to become a saint, you have to die first, right? So does that mean that all of these saints stalking the centuries, including dear sweet St. Nick, are actually zombies!? I think the answer is most definitely yes.

And this notion that sainthood bestows immortality and magical abilities is made even more complicated when you realize that being a saint is not just a question of being a really good person, but rather a very specific designation handed down by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. While not to cast any undo aspersions on the real life Catholic Church, the Vatican of the Fred Claus-iverse is almost certainly nefarious, with more dark secrets hidden in its ancient walls than a Dan Brown novel. Think about it, the Catholic Church has actual fucking magic powers. Not only do they have the ability to render normal humans into demi-gods, but they have the mystical technology of sleighs, reindeer-powered vehicles that can apparently travel faster than the speed of light, not to mention a giant snow globe that can spy on every child in the world and determine their ultimate moral worth (based on a moral system, I might add, that apparently does not make any allowances for the harsh lives of orphans). Does anybody believe that they are just using this stuff to make a list of naughty and nice kids and deliver presents one day out of the year? Open your eyes people. You only have to look at the elves to realize how devious this all is. If you've seen the movie (and if you haven't, I can't imagine how esoteric this all is for you), you'd know that the elves all have the bodies of small children, but the faces and minds of adults, though with a joyous innocence of youth. Why ever would the Catholic Church wish to use their great and secret magical powers to bio-engineer an entire slave race of beings with the minds (and therefore legal status) of adults, but the supple bodies and naivete of a small child. It boggles the mind.

But apart from child rape, what interest would the Catholic Church have with Santa's operation? Well, If you watch the movie, it becomes very clear early on that Santa's village has evidently become the latest battleground in the endless war between Heaven and Hell. Keven Spacey (American Beauty) plays the main antagonist in the film, who introduces himself as Clyde Northcutt, an efficiency expert sent by an organization that apparently governs fantasy characters like Santa and the Easter Bunny, that wants to review the workshop's record. Ignoring for the moment that this is a thing that exists, Spacey's character is obviously Satan, having taken human form to infiltrate this institution and destroy Christmas and the religion that spawned it in the process. Now I know what you're thinking, every role Kevin Spacey plays comes off as the devil in human form (Se7en, Usual Suspects, Swimming with Sharks, Horrible Bosses), but here, I don't think its just a coincidence. Listen to this monologue he gives to Fred at close to the midpoint of the film:

"You ever see a tree that grows in the shadow of another tree? It's all puny and misshapen cause it's just bending and twisting trying so desperately to get some sunlight? If somebody just cut off a few feet of that big tree, that little tree could have grown up strong. But no, that's not the way life works right? I mean they all love that big tree, right? They're all proud of that one. They hate the crap out of the little one next to it. The little tree that refuses to grow right. And you know what, till somebody comes along and cuts down that big tree, that little tree is never gonna get any light. Any light."

Tell me that isn't the voice of the Morning Star, using an arboreal metaphor to relate his frustration at being forsaken by God and his other angels. Granted, the end of the film reveals that Northcutt is not in fact the Prince of Lies, but rather a bitter old man who didn't get the present he wanted as a kid because he was on the naughty list, but this was no doubt an alternate ending tacked on to the film when test audiences found his original reveal to be the devil in the third act to be too extreme and disturbing.

Oh but it gets even worse. Not a lot of people realize this when they think about Santa Claus living at the North Pole, but there's actually no land at the North Pole. Antarctica is at the South Pole; the North Pole is right smack dab in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. The closest thing to a land mass is a series of ice floes that aren't big enough to build a workshop on, let alone a city around it. And yet, apparently there is a land mass there, an entire continent that isn't on any map or in any geography text book. I would submit that it would take the collusion of nearly every government in the world to maintain a conspiracy of this magnitude, which means that not only does such a cabal exist, but it is evidently in cahoots with the Catholic Church in its efforts to wage war against Satan! And what's more, the only nation ever to try and settle on those ice floes according to our official history was the Soviet Union. But how would they have done this if these ice floes were in fact a missing continent? Maybe they were just lying, or maybe their entire existence was the lie, and the Soviet Union, and by extension the entire Cold War, was just a way to cover up the existence of this most secret of locations. To think what the military industrial complex would do with a secret manufacturing base powered by magic that only operates under its intended purpose one month out of the year, complete with the worlds most sophisticated global surveillance device known to man or elf!

And who exactly is this board that governs fantasy characters, and by extension exists to manipulate the lives of children, the next generation of world citizens, for years to come? I can only go back to the immortals once again. In my experience, when there exists a large population of immortal magical beings, they will eventually engage in one of two enterprises. They will either join together into a secret society, amassing great wealth over the centuries to covertly control world events, or they will do battle in an ancient war until there can be only one survivor. Perhaps these gods among us are using our own children as pawns in their ageless game of chess, or as unwitting soldiers and cannon fodder in their bitter conflict. Or maybe these two scenarios aren't mutually exclusive and for once it is a combination of both, with factions of immortals squaring off against each other for control of the world's fate, each allied with one side or the other in the greater cosmic game of salvation vs. damnation.

Yes, Fred Claus presages the apocalypse as foretold in Revelations. One hopes it is only just a movie, and not the mad prophecies of an ancient mystic, transcribed and converted into script form. And if you have any more doubt about the world shattering cacophony of evil that is this film, know this - it ends with a rap remix of "Here Comes Santa Claus," performed by Ludacris. Maybe it was all on purpose after all. Maybe this is not so much a movie, as a warning. If there was ever a movie to watch every Christmas, if only to remind us of the dangers we may yet face in the Christmases to come, I would submit that it is this one.

Also Kathy Bates is pretty funny in it.

Thank you for listening, and Happy Holidays ya'll.
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