Jarrod Fairclough – With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, I recently sat down to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol. It’s a classic – Michael Caine turns in an Oscar worthy performance as Scrooge, Steve Whitmire does a great job in his first major appearance as Kermit the Frog, and The Ghost of Christmas Present cements himself as one of, if not THE best, one-off characters in the franchise.
But, I can’t help but shake the feeling that this well beloved Christmas classic might actually fall under a different genre – I put it to you that The Muppet Christmas Carol is, by definition, a horror film. From wikipedia; A horror film is one that seeks to elicit fear in its audience for entertainment purposes. And doesn’t this film do exactly that? Dedicated readers to the site may recall that this isn’t my first time speculating this, but I’ve decided that now it’s time I prove my point.
So, to help illustrate it, I’ve chosen 5 of the most well trodden Horror movie tropes and I’ll show you now just how scary The Muppet Christmas Carol is.
Trope 1 – Mortality
Though not just a horror movie trope, mortality can be a scary thing for many people, and this film hinges on it. Scrooge is petrified of a doomed afterlife – literally described in ‘Marley and Marley’ as a horror story written by his crime. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come takes Scrooge to a graveyard only to reveal that Scrooge will die by next Christmas if he doesn’t change his ways, which terrifies him to the point of near breakdown. Mortality is well used in horror – people are scared of the murderer because they don’t want to die. Scrooge has to face his mortality head on, as do characters in Scream or Get Out or It. Ergo – The Muppet Christmas Carol is a horror movie.
Trope 2 – Creepy Children
Children can be inherently terrifying, because seeing them with no innocence shakes us to the core. That’s what kids are – small, kind of dumb about life, and innocent. So when those creepy Shining twins, or Damien from The Omen, or the terrifying ‘They’re Here’ girl from Poltergiest use their sweet innocent voices to say unchildish things, it’s extremely unsettling. Of course, all of you know exactly who I’m referring to when I mentioned creepy children in Christmas Carol – The Ghost of Christmas Past. The young Victorian girl, floating in her white dress and bonnet, explaining in her childlike high voice to Scrooge that she is here to take him on a journey – NO THANKS. Also, this Muppet has the added issue of kind of looking a little too real, in that she isn’t cartoony like other Muppets. It dips in to Uncanny Valley territory, and becomes uneasy to watch. Ergo – The Muppet Christmas Carol is a horror movie.
Trope 3 – Mind Games
A large part of horror films is when the antagonist uses mind games to scare and manipulate their victim. The Saw franchise does this almost exclusively. The Silence Of The Lambs has Hannibal Lecter mess with Clarice, and though he doesn’t kill her, he does want want her mind tortured for the rest of her life. The Muppet Christmas Carol has a few of these types of moments; the first being when Scrooge’s door knocker morphs into Jacob Marley (Statler), which proceeds to shout ‘SCROOGE’ in a deep, haunted voice. There’s no real reason Jacob did this, he and his brother Robert (Waldorf) appear a little later on in the night. It was just done to scare Scrooge and make him doubt his senses. Another example is The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come taking Scrooge to all the people happy about his death, without yet revealing that it was him that has died. This severely upsets Scrooge, with him pleading to know if it actually IS him the pigs and weird spider thing is talking about, or if it’s some poor like-minded soul. It’s just The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come playing with his food before eating it. Ergo – The Muppet Christmas Carol is a horror movie.
Trope 4 – Silence
Silence can be used to tremendous effect in a horror movie. A Quiet Place is a movie that would work almost just as well with the volume completely off. In other films, murderers sneak around the house, the silence in the room building anticipation for that jump scare we all know is coming. And, like mind games, silence makes you think. We look again to The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, who doesn’t say a single word in his entire appearance. The Grim Reaper type character just looks, or he points, or he walks. That’s all. So when he’s scaring Scrooge and showing him a future where the man has died, his silence speaks volumes, as it causes Scrooge to think about his actions, think about his life, and think about how he needs to change. And it works! If The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come was to openly chat with Scrooge, the whole last part of the film would have a much different effect. Silence changes Scrooge. Ergo – The Muppet Christmas Carol is a horror movie.
Trope 5 – The Supernatural
Perhaps the most used horror movie trope in The Muppet Christmas Carol is the supernatural. The film has 5 ghosts in it, ranging from jovial (The Ghost of Christmas Present) to weirdly unsettlling (The Marley’s) to definitely unsettling (The Ghost of Christmas Past) to downright spooky (The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come). The characters are able to bend worlds and travel the space time continuim, like Freddy Krueger invading dreams in Nightmare On Elm Street. The Marley Brothers come from the afterlife to share their pain and suffering as they impart a message of doom. Seriously – those guys shouting ‘the chains!’, real suffering coming from The Muppets is extremely unnerving, and gives the audience a weird feeling, as horror movies are wont to do. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is made to look like The Grim Reaper, the literal bringer of death in mythology. Even Gonzo, playing Charles Dickens, is omniscient, perceiving all things in a supernatural, hoity-toity-god-like-smarty-pants way. Ergo – The Muppet Christmas Carol is a horror movie.
And so I take this moment to sincerely apologize, as it has not been my intention to ruin your favorite Christmas movie. Instead, I have given you your new favorite Halloween film, as without a doubt I have proven that The Muppet Christmas Carol has many more Horror film tropes than Christmas film ones. It’s my hope for you that during this holiday period you find peace and joy with your family and friends in a safe way, and that you aren’t too spooked by transforming door knockers or creepy floating children.