In anticipation of the Christmas holidays, Fulcrum Features Editor Kyle Darbyson asked us to recommend our favourite dark holiday songs, movies, books and TV shows. My contribution to the list was the Billy Bob Thornton Christmas classic, Bad Santa.

This twisted take on Miracle on 34th Street takes the “under-achiever bonds with lonely child” trope in a much darker direction.

Billy Bob Thornton’s titular mall Santa is a depressed alcoholic using his seasonal employment to plot a Christmas Eve heist. After attracting the attentions of a troubled child eager to offer Santa Claus a free place to stay, our protagonist receives an unlikely chance of redemption.

Bad Santa is raunchy, bleak, and blackly comedic – the type of film where the protagonist achieves moral clarity from beating up a group of pre-teens. The characters are deeply flawed and the plot takes dark turns, culminating in a botched heist and a bloody police chase. (It was produced by the Coen Brothers, which should tell you all you need to know).

Not exactly in the Christmas spirit? Maybe. But beneath Bad Santa’s grim surface, you might just find a message of hope.

Originally published in The Fulcrum Holiday Issue as part of Dark, Twisted Holiday Entertainment Wish List; December 10th, 2015.