Dark Angel… of Bethlehem
So, when the season rolls around, it's hard for me to get excited about the umpteen televised showings of Christmas Vacation, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, or A Christmas Story. Especially A Christmas Story. I hate that movie. I hate the people who like it even more.
Having never personally experienced a winter anything like the ones presented in those perennial portraits of the holiday, I simply just can't relate. While I do love the seasonal horror staples such as Gremlins & Silent Night, Deadly Night, there just aren't too many other films synonymous with the season that I generally give a great deal of thought to.
It is probably because of this seasonal deprivation that when presented with the opportunity to write a piece on Yuletide viewing, my mind instantly went to the 1990 sci-fi actioner, I Come In Peace. For those unfamiliar with the film (shame on you), Houston cop Dolph Lundgren teams with FBI agent Brian Benben to track down an alien drug dealer who lands on Earth and steals a stash of heroin, which he uses to inject into his human victims. While his prey are dancin' with Mr. Brownstone, he then punctures their brains with a large siphoning needle and extracts their doped up endorphin, which will be synthesized into a drug back on his home planet. Festive stuff, right?
The movie starts with a man, one of those business types, listening to a CD of Christmas music as he drives in his car. The CD starts to skip and is then violently ejected from the player. Reinserting the CD, he momentarily takes his eyes off of the road. This causes him to not see the bus crossing the intersection in front of him. He yanks the wheel, swerving to miss the bus, and the slick road causes him to lose control of the car. He plows into a Christmas tree sales lot before finally coming to a stop. Setting the film's seasonal tone early, he steps from the car and exalts a frustrated "Merry Fuckin' Christmas!". Just like the trees sold in this lot, he will soon be dead, although I doubt that he will be left to decay on the curbside while waiting to be picked up on the next scheduled trash day.
The opening credits roll and we are informed that the film's music was composed by Jan Hammer. Hammer is best known for his landmark seasonal sounds on Miami Vice, a show widely remembered for its frigid setting. And just like Florida, when one thinks of winter wonderlands, we immediately think of Texas. The rain-soaked Houston streets help sell the feeling of the season. Seriously, the only time snow is shown in the entire movie is when bags of it are being stolen from a police evidence room. Now, THAT I'm kind of familiar with.
Just kidding!!! It's actually heroin. "Snow" would be cocaine, silly rabbit! We have plenty of that in Florida. Didn't you watch Miami Vice?
The first time that any holiday decorations are shown, it's in a setting synonymous with the season: a liquor store. One that is being robbed. Tis the season of giving, after all. The next use of holiday symbolism comes soon after at the office of a low-rent bail bondsman, another Christmas tradition in Florida. The man sits next to a foot-tall fake tree. He's watching It's A Wonderful Life while drinking egg nog that has been spiked with cheap brandy, the red glow from the lights illuminating the stylish wood paneling of the office. He demonstrates his own Christmas spirit when he cusses at a dog barking outside. He too is drugged and killed. The man, not the dog. Then again, it's a 25-year-old movie. That dog is long dead by now.
At the bar, Lundgren interrogates a pool hustler/street rat, played by Michael J Pollard. As you may remember, Pollard also co-starred in another Christmas classic, Scrooged, in which he also played a holiday homeless person. His character in that film DID receive a present; a watch. He also received the gift of hypothermia. No re-gifting on that one.
On a side note, Benben was the star on the HBO series Dream On. This show was largely responsible for my pre-pubescent eyes being exposed to countless naked women on a weekly basis. For this, I've always kinda thought of Benben as my own special kind of Santa. Thank you for delivering some of my favorite presents ever.
There isn't much else in the line of seasonal imagery on display for the remainder of the film. There are a few random decorations hanging on lamp posts in the backgrounds and a few, almost subliminal, stockings and such hanging from shelves or displayed at cash registers. As with the other decorations or symbols presented through the film, most of them are quickly destroyed in one of the multitudinous explosions that fill the movie's runtime.
Since the true meaning of the season is togetherness, friendship is finally found between our 2 polar-opposite human heroes. Sure, it's at the expense of another man who is shot and killed, his body left to prune in a plaza fountain, but hey, it's Christmas. It's all about that U.N.I.T.Y. (Who you callin' a bitch, Santa Claus?)
- Dustin Fallon