A great delight of the Christmas season is being scared shitless in a cozy way, especially when it’s unexpected. Halloween gets the scary street cred, but Christmas is the real season of potential spookiness. The days are absurdly short, as if night has overpowered light. We reflect on the past—those we’ve known, loved, lost, in this emotional mishmash of cosmic and temporal planes. We’re often raw, vulnerable, and, let’s be honest, in our cups; in other words, we’re easy pickings for the things that give us the creeps.
I’ve always dug that some of the scariest works of art and entertainment were directed at children. Not because I want children to be traumatized; rather, I think they have a capacity for wonder that adults often don’t, and it can be as though the child is in on the haunting, which makes for an enjoyable form of possession.
There’s no better example in the Christmas-cartoon canon than a rendering of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that first aired fifty years ago, in 1971. I don’t know many people familiar with it—even Carol buffs, or lovers of the 1951 live-action version of the novella called Scrooge. The latter is a straight-up horror film, and one ripe for our age with its themes of depression, self-medication, disconnection, and lies about living one’s so-called “best life.”