There is a reason why Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol has been said so many times over the years. It’s a classic story about redemption and the power of the Christmas season, but many people forget that the book wasn’t written like the merry, festive Christmas tale that they now associate it with.
When Dickens wrote the novel, he had no intention of writing a wellness vacation classic. He wrote it like a supernatural horror story, and the book has some really creepy prose that hasn’t translated to screen as well as often as it should. There have been several movie adaptations and reinterpretations of Dickens’ story over the years, but which ones manage to capture the darkness of Christmas and the haunting imagery he initially sought to scare people off?
6 Scrooged (1987)
While not a direct adaptation of the original story, Richard Donner’s dark comedy, Shaved, deserves a mention for its refreshing and alternative interpretation of Dickens’ book. Starring Bill Murray as the chairman of the television network, Frank Cross, the film captures much of the same story as the original tale, while also giving it a more comedic twist and making it unique enough to stand out.
Bill Murray is funny as always with his typical Murrayisms, and he uses them effectively to instill a more modern sense of cynicism than the typical Ebenezer Scrooge portrayal. Despite all of its comedy, the film counterbalances it with rather grim imagery: a rotting corpse, a man on fire, another man frozen to death, Murray’s vision of being cremated in his lifetime, and more. This is one of the best movies directed by Richard Donner and a perfect film for anyone looking for a different take on a classic vacation story.
5 A Christmas Carol / Scrooge (1951)
In one of Scrooge’s most recognizable and best performances of all time, Alastair Sim headlines this 1951 adaptation in the role he was born to play. From the start, with the initial musical cue in the opening credits, it looks a lot more like an old-fashioned horror movie of the time than any other typical type. Christmas song movie. With the film also being shot in black and white, the cinematography also helps to keep the scary vibe on screen.
While it might not be exactly one of the most faithful adaptations, its music, cinematography, and Sim’s acting (along with the rest of the cast), manage to capture the wit and menacing tone of the news better than any other live action movie. or a television special has never attempted to do so.
4 A Christmas Carol by Chuck Jones (1971)
With Alastair Sim reprising his role as Scrooge, produced by Chuck Jones and directed by Who wants Roger Rabbit skinAnimation director Richard Williams, this half-hour short film lasts just long enough to provide its viewers with enough nightmare fuel for the entire Christmas season. Its animation is impressive, but it also creates an extremely uncomfortable sense of dread and dread.
Surprisingly, however, the animation and detail in its images aren’t the only two scariest elements. The sound effects, especially during the Jacob Marley stage, and the absence of a musical score for the majority of the performance time are very effective in creating a really tense atmosphere. The fact that this type of animation was even allowed to air on television in the early 1970s is nothing short of surprising.
3 A Christmas Carol (1984)
While Alastair Sim set the gold standard for an actor portraying Ebenezer Scrooge, when it comes to the ideal casting in the 1980s, there’s no better than George C. Scott. Fans of the story will certainly be in awe of Scott’s precise performance (despite his poor attempt at an English accent), but fans of the horror genre will also have their own reasons for investing heavily in this particular version.
From its music to its lighting and cinematography, it practically turns into a horror movie during the climax with Ghost of Christmas Future, and even more so with the reveal of Ignorance and Want. It also contains perhaps one of the spookiest live performances of Jacob Marley that has never been brought to the screen. Being a made-for-television film, it is obvious that the production was set on a lower budget, but if they had received more money and were not stuck with the limits of network television. Who knows how darker and spookier it could have been?
2 A Disney Christmas Carol (2009)
While it is not widely regarded as one of the best films directed by Robert Zemeckis, A Disney Christmas Carol is widely regarded as one of the most faithful adaptations of the original work. Much of the 19th century dialogue and language is taken directly from the pages of Dickens’ novel and captures the same sense of supernatural strangeness and ominous foreboding.
Of course, Zemeckis polishes the story up a bit, adding light and comedic elements to some of the darker scenes so as not to alienate any of the younger viewers. Fortunately, however, that doesn’t take too much away from the overall obscurity of its version, with the ghosts of Christmas past and present being just as intimidating as they are inviting, and the Ghost of Christmas Future is one of the most nightmarish interpretations ever. There is also a certain poetry in the fact that Jim Carrey plays not only Scrooge, but also the Three Ghosts. It certainly makes him one of the best actors he’s ever played.
1 A Christmas Carol by FX (2019)
One of the more recent adaptations of the tale, Peaky blinders creator Steven Knight probably creates the darkest, most intense version A Christmas Carol in this 2019 miniseries. Steven Knight may seem like an unusual choice to tackle such a classic and beloved tale, especially given the content and structure of a show like Peaky blinders. While he understands the gist of the story and the characters well, he takes some notable creative liberties.
Scrooge has always been a despicable character, but Knight’s two writings, combined with Guy Pearce’s acting, make him so much more villainous and evil Scrooge than the rest. What make its viewers wonder if this version of the character even deserves a redemption. With added story elements that include extremely dark and mature themes, there’s no real Christmas spirit to be found in this adaptation. Even with the ending, he didn’t capture the same warm, redemptive feeling of the holiday season as the others.
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