On the First Transfiguration of Christmas: Jack Frost (1997) & The Gingerdead Man (2005)

At some point in time, there was the idea to bring unhinged main characters who get turned into Christmas objects and in their new forms, begin their homicidal rage anew. I feel like on some level, this is directly influenced by the Chucky movies and what I call dark carnival concept of childhood; this is a genre of storytelling within horror (and is probably called something else in actual horror studies). Most things fit into that scenario: possessed dolls, killer clowns, homicidal confections–in real life, there are normal, non-killer things you would find at any carnival, but in these movies, they are alive and have dark/evil intentions. It’s a way for adults to be brought into nostalgic horror. The dark carnival thumbs its nose at our warm, fuzzy memories to expose childhood as a sometimes demented concept (ex: clowns are a little weird) or to take something we love and view it through the horror lens. Such usage of the dark carnival involves a punny use of language and generally a weird voice to go with it. Jack Frost and The Gingerdead Man inhabit subsects of the dark carnival within winter carnivals with a cross into legendary/fairy tale characters.

Jack Frost

We have creep-ass-murder Elvis from Wish who hacked up and Sweeney Todd-ed the local population, told as the worst bedtime story for a child ever. He escapes his transportation to his execution but not before a genetic lab’s gunk got all over Jack Frost (his real name) who then melted into the snow and was reborn as a snowman. Because that’s a thing that happens. Frost haunts the sheriff who arrested him with his threats against him/his town/his family in Snowmonton. Not only is he a killer snowman, can he freeze, melt, and refreeze himself so he can break into virtually any space. Included kills are the beheading of the neighborhood bully, murder via ornaments, axe shoved down a throat, reversed over a man in a car, throwing icicles, and a rape scene that had no purpose being there (nor did it make a ton of sense how she died). Y’know, Christmas. Jack Frost met his demise through several hairdryers and fire except not fully since there was still chemical residue of him, so he bit some faces off (as you do in that situation), possessed a man, and met a truer end with anti-freeze + burial once he was juice. Sure. This one went on for a little longer than necessary as they tried to figure out how to kill him, but I had a good time.

The Gingerdead Man

This movie isn’t exactly a Christmas movie, but it’s not not one, either. Gary Busey plays a murderer, Millard Findlemeyer, as an unhinged man having a bad day, finally snapping. He murders several people and shoots a frightened teenage girl, who survives and sends him to his execution with her testimony. His ashes were then sent to his mother, who turned him into an undead cookie. She even wears a cape to drop off his special mix (theatrical); the girl who survived from earlier, Sarah, is trying to keep the family bakery afloat after her brother/dad being murdered and her mother being very drunk/randomly shooting things. A bigger chain has offered to buy them out, but Sarah feels she’s letting everyone down if she takes it. Enter the Gingerdead Man after blood gets into the gingerbread mix and he fully forms after being baked in the oven; I feel the direction was “it’s Chucky but in a cookie–a killer as confection” with way too many baking-related puns to count. As far as concepts go, it was almost insane enough to work, but didn’t really kill enough people to be considered a slasher (he killed one person but tried valiantly to kill everybody). He also had a gun at one point there’s no way his non-fingered cookie hands would have been able to operate. His ultimate demise, much like Jack Frost, was possession of another person (because he was eaten) then heat.

Conclusion

Jack Frost is better produced than the Gingerdead Man, which lacks severe focus in a literal way with the camera work. Still, I find dark carnival concepts to be fun; slashers, after all, have definitely infiltrated the Christmas market. It’s all pure camp, but horror is often camp-y and more fun conceptually than other genres (I think this is due to it being an imaginative playground-if you can think it, it can be done in horror). The Gingerdead Man had more going for it with its puppeteering work since it was produced eight years after Jack Frost, but Jack Frost had more fully-formed ideas. I enjoyed watching The Gingerdead Man a little more, though I had questions. Mostly about Findlemeyer’s mother, who I feel was the real star. This lady figured out how to use ashes to bake her son into an evil cookie–she needs her own movie about that process. There was also a theme about overcoming fear so that when confronted with a threat, we don’t freeze and do nothing. Inaction helps no one in these types of movies. Only through thinking quick on your feet do you survive, but I might be thinking too deeply about these totally insane-but-fun horror movies. Merry Whatever.

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