For work, I devised an alternate Christmas viewing canon, full of weird shit like Tim & Eric's Awesome Show Great Job! Chrimbus Special, The Anna Nicole Show holiday special (Cousin Shelly for life!), The Monster's Christmas and Silent Night, Deadly Night, Part 2. I love all of these and look forward to watching them every year. One new addition to my perennial favorites is George King's Ten Thousand Points of Light. It's 30 minutes of tacky Christmas insanity (which is the best kind of Christmas insanity, in my experience), as it documents the final years that this family in suburban Atlanta named the Townsends crammed lights and Christmas shit in every corner of their house and then let people walk through it.
It's shot on VHS and better for it, as the blurred picture gives it a home-move vibe and gives you the strange sensation of remembering something you never experienced (weirdly, when B. of STFU, Parents introduced this to me, I initially felt like I'd heard of it before, but in actuality had not).
Anyway, here's the trailer.
I highly suggest you get on this this now, but I plead my case further after the jump.
There is also a strong Elvis Presley presence in the mix:
(That's a blanket that stays on that bed year round.)
Attempting to explain the marrying of Christmas and Elvis, the Townsend matriarch (who was really responsible for putting all of this stuff up, despite being the oldest person in a family so big, the film practically never stops introducing new members, and also despite her suffering from some kind of unspecified ailment) Margaret says...
"It seems that Christmas and Elvis goes together...Why? I don't know. I just really don't know. 'Course, you know nothing take the place of Christ. Christ was born on Christmas day. But Elvis was a good man, and he was always good to everybody."
Right, so it's that kind of movie. Outlandish talk runs in the family. Margaret's son, Raymond, says of the family concluding its house tours, "C'est la vie, sayanora, ay-sta luego, kung fu and chop suey, baby, this is it!"
He also yells at people that he knows are innocent of a minor infraction committed in his home -- as these spectators wait to enter his palace of synthetic Christmas wonder, he screams at them that someone opened a jewelry box. "I don't know who it was. It wasn't any of you people, because you hadn't been in yet. But if I catch 'em, they're going to jail!" In his rant, he implores his imminent guests to "let's keep it in the spirit of Christmas, please!" Moments later, we learn that Raymond keeps his family protected by keeping a gun on him as people traipse through his house.
Keeping it in the spirit of Christmas, indeed. It's just like when the wise man brought the baby Jesus ammunition.
Speaking of the baby Jesus...
...he's made of marshmallow.
The "spirit of Christmas" barking that precedes the gun reveal is but one of the brilliant juxtapositions struck by King. Others include Raymond talking about unspecified "undesirables" that visited his house recently while we watch a nun pass through...
Another one? When Raymond's daughter Gloria (who is a HOOT and steals the show) talks about her marital problems and finding letters that suggest that her husband was cheating but in the end "it was this 15-year-old [!!!] girl's fantasy," it leads immediately into a section on the house's "fantasy room." Why's it called the fantasy room?
Margaret giggles, Gloria sighs and says she doesn't know (despite leading people through the fantasy room several times a night every night -- HOW COULD SHE NOT KNOW?!?) and one of the guests helpfully offers because it's her grandmother's fantasy, as it's covered in Elvis memorabilia. Gloria eventually relents: "And I guess it's because the way the lights are set up, because Elvis being in here, and because he's a sexy, good-looking man. That's in the family's opinion, you know."
In general, the family seems irritated at having to explain themselves and their electric bill and all of the things that guests ask about over and over again. You'd think that they'd integrate such explanations into their tours since these questions keep popping up, but no. They'd just rather complain. Margaret did, though, create a FAQ poster:
It's virtually illegible, thus ensuring that as long as curious people are coming through their house, the Townsends will always have something to complain about.
This, by the way, is Gloria:
Oops, I probably should have put in a spoiler alert!
She is a self-described "flirt" (I love that she says it like "flort") but also kind of a tragic figure who's being dicked around by this guy (her husband...sometimes) who keeps divorcing her and taking her ring and can't be with her and support their child because "his darn car is $400 a month." Also before filming Gloria had a "mild heart attack." Her story is sad and perfect because embarrassing shit that your family members say that you wouldn't want strangers to hear although they very well could given the strong possibility of video camera presence is what the holidays are all about.
The guests are also uniformly excellent. That nun above?
She keeps Elvis pins under her habit.
The kid on the right has the best sweatshirt I've ever seen:
Several outside interviews find people gushing about "Southern hospitality" and Santa Claus toilet seats, but this woman is my absolute favorite:
"I walked in and my contacts clouded over. They just completely clouded over. I had to take 'em out and wash 'em and put 'em back in so I could see again."
Motifs include Margaret's seeming inability to do anything without a cigarette hanging out of her mouth...
...an almost detrimental obsession with TV (Raymond runs down their average day, which is sun-up-to-sun-down viewing including The People's Court, Divorce Court, Bonanza, The Andy Griffin Show, a little bit of Jeopardy! and not Santa Barbara, which they merely listen to because they don't like it), and Margaret's obsession with junky gadgets.
(Yeah, I called Teddy Ruxpin junky, so what? He ran on fucking analog tape.)
I really hope that all of this sells the movie because it's such an ahead-of-its time treat (while being utterly, gloriously of its time). But if these bits of hilarity don't convince you that you need to see it, perhaps the constant threat of house fire will?
Holiday tension! Christmas suspense!
(Note: I also interviewed Ten Thousand Points director George King about this movie, and I found his perspective on the cultivating of a cult movie, as well as walking the line of celebrating and exposing out the eccentricity of one's documentary subjects fascinating. I love this movie!!!)