Not Quite Horror: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)


Not Quite Horror contains reviews of films not traditionally considered horror films. By analyzing them as horror films (identifying the monster, discussing the shared worry for the audience and the main characters, and understanding the depth of horror available to the viewer), who knows? There’s more than one way to watch a movie.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

The Monster: Meaninglessness. The characters of the animated special drift from one holiday activity to another without connecting to anything truly meaningful. Charlie Brown’s frustration grows. He challenges his classmates to feel more deeply by presenting them with a scrawny tree, but they cannot see the holiday spirit within.

The Horror: Heroic Linus Van Pelt seems to be only one of Charlie Brown’s friends to recognize their holiday pageantry has lost connection to the cultural traditions of the season. Without his recitation of Bible verse, the entire holiday – and, by extension, the entire holiday special – would have been nothing more than distracting amusement.

The Shared Fate: Charles Schulz worried about meaninglessness, too. Without his voice, who will speak up?

Christmas is not the only victim of meaninglessness. Who will speak for the dead when Halloween’s mouth is stuffed full of candy and distracted by naked flesh? Who will remember American history when the Fourth of July is drunk and distracted by ‘splosions?

No tradition is perfect, but history grounds reality with something more substantive than flashing lights and a regular routine. Charlie and Linus rallied to keep their lives real, but seem too silent now.

— I am indebted to Noel Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror for his ideas on defining horror, as well as John Skipp and Craig Spector’s article “Death’s Rich Pageantry, or Skipp & Spector’s Handy-Dandy Splatterpunk Guide to the Horrors of Non-horror Film” in Cut! Horror Writers on Horror Film for a similar idea.–

–Axel Kohagen