JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Directed by: Jeremiah Chechik
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, John Randolph, Diane Ladd

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 1989 Christmas comedy is directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik and the third instalment in National Lampoon’s Vacation film series. The film stars Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid, Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki.

With Christmas only weeks away, proud family man Clark Griswold (Chase) is determined to host the perfect family Christmas. It doesn’t take long to convince supportive wife Ellen (D’Angelo) and children Audrey (Lewis) and Rusty (Galecki) that he will have his work cut out with his vision far from reality.

Welcoming the family after a few slight hiccups, including finding a Christmas tree and getting the decorations to work, the Griswolds are united for a good-old-fashioned family Christmas. With bickering in-laws and clashes over who sleeps where things are going as expected.

But when Clark is under pressure to receive his annual Christmas bonus to fund the family swimming pool, and also welcome the surprise of his redneck cousin-in-law Eddie (Quaid) and family, the perfect Christmas soon starts to unravel in a series of chaotic, mad-cap and dangerous events that will test them all in sticking it out together…

From obtaining a Christmas tree out in the wilderness, to wiring up the thousands of decorative lights to the house and scheduling in the Christmas dinner all around the expectant delivery of his annual work Christmas bonus, events all seem to take an upside downturn and it just makes the family more determined than ever to soldier through and really make this Christmas the greatest ever!

Set around the Griswold home, this could be the greatest Christmas film ever. No need for fantastical special effects, sweeping magical stories or epic adventures; this is a film we all can relate to and provides all of the warm humour and comedy from situations we have experienced in setting up for the Christmas season, which is why it works so well. The Griswold’s are a likeable bunch and they invite you in from the start to share the holiday with them and experience every annoyance, irk and frustration we too have had over the years.

Working in the film’s favour as always is the straight delivery of some classic lines from the actors as they create the most memorable American family since the Walton’s, and they work together so well with a great festive script to seal the deal.

This is my perfect Christmas film for all the right reasons and with crackling comedy and a feel-good festive message running throughout, this is one you can’t help but love to re-watch every year and be thankful your Christmas holiday isn’t as disastrous as the Griswold’s.

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JUMPSCARECUT: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Year: 1996
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Harvey Keitel, George Clooney, Juliette Lewis, Quentin Tarantino, Salma Hayek, Danny Trejo

Written by Elena Morgan

Criminal brothers Seth and Richie Gecko (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino) and their hostages, a faithless preacher (Harvey Keitel) and his two children, are on the run to the border. They stop at a popular bar, not aware that it’s run by vampires, and soon they are unlikely allies as they fight to survive the night.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez with a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ is an interesting film. The first hour is like a crime thriller and then when the motley crew encounters the vampires, it turns on its head and becomes a horror film. Both Rodriguez’s and Tarantino’s fingerprints are all over this film. Danny Trejo and Salma Hayek, two actors who appear in a fair few Rodriguez films, both make appearances and the script is full of fast-talking characters courtesy of Tarantino, and there’s plenty of bloodshed courtesy of both of them.

Clooney is equal parts cool and dangerous as Seth, while Tarantino’s Richie is a loose cannon, and his infatuation with women is not only alarming for the audience, but it’s something that causes problems for Seth. Personally, I couldn’t stand Richie. His attitude towards women was awful, leering at the preacher’s presumably teenage daughter, and based on odd lines from Seth, it seemed like he was prone to attacking/killing women. He comes across a lot younger than he is, like he needs Seth guidance or else he acts out, which then makes his actions even more disturbing.

The makeup and combination of practical effects and CGI on the vampires is fantastic. They are horrible, disgusting looking creatures and the mix of make up and computer effects when a person transforms into a vampire is unsettling. They look more like demons than the “classic” and almost sophisticated vampires you think of.

The showdown with the vampires is fun, gruesome and exciting. The innovative ways the gang make the typical vampire killing devices like holy water, crosses and stakes, is a lot of fun. As is when everyone decides unanimously that while it’s unbelievable, they are indeed dealing with vampires. It’s an interesting twist that instead of being in denial about what they’re seeing and experiencing, they just get on with it and get on with trying to survive any way they know how.

I kind of wish I’d gone into ‘From Dusk Till Dawn‘ not knowing this crime film turns into a horror film with vampires, as I was just waiting for the vampires to appear and was surprised by how long that took. But as the genre shift seems to be the films unique selling point, the reveal is in the trailer and on the DVD case, that’s unlikely ever to happen. But I’d be interested to hear from anyone who went into this film completely blind.

From Dusk Till Dawn is an interesting blend of crime and horror, it’s unpredictable, gory and George Clooney has probably never been cooler as he is here as Seth Gecko.

ELENA’S RATING:

3-5