The king of camp and the ubiquitous lover of trash, John Waters is one of the most influential cult directors of all time, bringing the likes of films such as Hairspray, Cry-Baby and Pink Flamingos into existence. Embracing bad taste, surrealism and comedy, his films are often laced with a bizarre sense of fantastical fun, helping to bring the actor and drag queen Divine into the mainstream consciousness thanks to multiple collaborations.
A purveyor of art cinema as well as a keen bookworm, Waters has often discussed his inspirations and icons, telling Robert K. Elder in an interview that one of his most life-changing films was Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz. Speaking about the classic film starring the young Judy Garland, Water’s stated, “I was always drawn to forbidden subject matter in the very, very beginning. The Wizard of Oz opened me up because it was one of the first movies I ever saw. It opened me up to villainy, to screenwriting, to costumes. And great dialogue. I think the witch has great, great dialogue”.
A great lover of surrealism, John Waters notes the likes of Leos Carax, Quentin Dupieux and Rainer Werner Fassbinder as some of his greatest inspirations. Though Waters has not made a film since A Dirty Shame in 2004, he remains an important figure in the world of independent cinema, even revealing his ten favourite films of 2021 in December, including Annette, Summer of Soul and Red Rocket.
When it comes to Christmas, John Waters is equally subversive, opting for the obscure horror film, Christmas Evil as his favourite festive film of all time. Telling the story of a psychotic man, Harry Stadling, who believes he is Santa Claus, Christmas Evil descends into chaos as Stadling begins to descend chimneys and invade the houses of the community to the dislike of parents and the thrill of children.
As Waters told Criterion, “There’s only one movie to ever watch at Christmas, it’s called Christmas Evil and it’s directed by Lewis Jackson and it’s about a man that’s obsessed with being Santa Claus”. Describing the film, the director outlines the plot, noting how Stadling creates a naughty and nice list and begins to spy on the local children. “He breaks into people’s houses on Christmas Eve and wedges his fat ass down the chimney to deliver presents,” Waters explains, before adding, “the parents freak out and try to kill him but the kids save him and at the end he takes off on his sleigh”.
So if you’re looking for something a little different than Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life this holiday season, look no further than Christmas Evil, coming with a personal recommendation from John Waters himself. As the cult icon concludes, “It’s a really heartwarming Christmas horror movie that I recommend for the whole family to really be appalled by on Christmas eve”.