Scrooged 1988 offers a darkly comedic and heart-warming twist on A Christmas Carol, infusing it with a Tim Burton-esque horror, writes RACHAEL ELIZABETH
DIRECTOR: Richard Donner
CAST: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, Michael J. Pollard, Alfre Woodard
Review of Scrooged 1988
Christmas is just around the corner, and while many of us excitedly anticipate its arrival, it’s sometimes hard to believe it has arrived so quickly. The weather is cold and frosty (some might say frightful) and the fire certainly does look delightful!
As we settle down with a hot chocolate and lay out our presents, wrapping paper, scissors and Sellotape, what better to keep us company than a traditional Christmas film!
If you, like myself, enjoy the darker side of life, you may be after a Christmas film with a bit more of an edge – if you’d like to watch a film that will make you laugh out loud, but simultaneously bring a light-hearted horror feel, then I highly recommend “Scrooged”.
Scrooged is a 1988 adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol, but with a Tim Burton-esque twist; this particular remake of the classic story is heartwarming, hilarious and a little bit lewd, and even includes some brilliant 80’s style gore!
Instead of Ebenezer Scrooge, as in the original story, Scrooged follows the story of Frank Cross (Bill Murray) as a mean-spirited, impatient, and down-right greedy TV executive, whose only interest is scoring good ratings on Christmas Eve – until the visitation of three ghosts which take Frank on a wild ride, leaving him with a simple but difficult choice: to change his narcissistic ways, or end up deceased with no-one left to care.
The opening scene of Scrooged is not quite like any other run-of-the-mill Christmas film, with a dark and dramatic tone that takes you to the North Pole to see Santa’s workshop in full swing, with elves dashing here, there, and everywhere to get all the toys made up in time for Christmas. Suddenly, the grotto is hit by incoming gunfire. The elves then grab automatic weapons and a firefight ensues, until 80s acting star Lee Majors bursts in, declaring he will protect Santa from being kidnapped – at which point we learn that what we’ve just seen is an advert from the IBC TV company.
In the boardroom, we see Frank Cross, the IBC CEO, berating his employees for producing an advert that “sucks”, before threatening to kill them all. When an employee named Elliot Loudermilk tries to defend the advert, Cross has him fired. We later see Frank celebrating in his office, bragging that it “only took 4 minutes and 40 seconds” until Elliot was out of the building with his desk cleared.
Throughout the film, we repeatedly bump into Elliot, and watch his slow deterioration from recently fired employee to down and out drunk. Unsurprisingly, he isn’t the only employee that Frank treats badly; we also see him mistreating his assistant in several ways, such as forcing her to work late instead of taking her mute son to the doctor, and denying her the Christmas bonus he promised her.
The beginning of the film presents the narrative in line with the traditional ‘Christmas Carol’ story, showing a rude and cynical boss treating his staff like lesser beings, and being consumed with greed – but when the plot gets going, it goes off with a bang…
Three Ghosts and a Zombie
We see Frank in his office nursing a whisky from his drinks cabinet, before the walls begin to shake and his office door is ripped from its hinges. Through the dust cloud, a zombie appears – the zombie is Frank’s old boss, and former best friend Lew Haywood.
Terrified and armed with a handgun from his desk, Frank shoots at the zombie as it helps itself to the drinks cabinet, providing a highly comical and cartoonish waterspout from his torso as he gulps his drink. Lews then proceeds to tell Frank how he had better start changing his ways, or he will be doomed to a life of misery and death.
Lew informs him that three ghosts will appear to him, the first at noon tomorrow; Frank’s sarcastic remarks land him within the vice grip of zombie Lews as he warps him through the office window by his neck and dangles him many stories high. In his fright, Frank attempts to grab Lew’s arm, but chunks of flesh pull from his bones and slowly the rotting bone in his arm snaps and breaks clean off, plummeting Frank to the street below…
“A heart attack later, I’m a worm feast” – Zombie Lew Haywood
Throughout the film, we see Frank as an angry, bitter man who hates everyone and everything other than success, numbers and money – at one point he even celebrates the news of an old woman who dies of a heart attack after watching one of his gruesome commercials, as this will help bring the ratings even higher.
However, we begin to see him soften as he is dragged, somewhat violently into his past, present and future by the three spectres: the first a dangerous cab driver, the second a heavy-handed fairy, and the third, a giant reaper. Frank is forced to re-live his upbringing with an uncaring and cold Father, losing the love of his life, and eventually witnessing his own funeral.
Christmas meets Beetlejuice
Scrooged is easily one of the best dark comedy-style Christmas films out there, and although the foreshadowing can border on obvious at times, the film manages to retain the charm and storytelling of the classic by Charles Dickens, while also taking us to a whole new world where Christmas meets Beetlejuice.
Bill Murray brings to the role his familiar comedic charm, but the film isn’t just for the laughs – it also holds quite a few heartwarming and genuinely upsetting scenes that will more than likely have you choke back a few tears.
If you are tired of seeing the same Christmas films put out again and again with only minor alterations to the story, or filled with the same boring CGI effects, then Scrooged is surely the film for you.
It is dark, lewd, and funny, but also incredibly heartwarming – the effects are reminiscent of Night of Living Dead, but give a real guttural vision which will make you both gag and giggle.
Scrooged is surely a fantastic work of art, and I have no doubts that if you decide to watch it this Christmas, it is sure to become a regular on your list of seasonal films.
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