On the surface, Christmas films are all sweetness and light: candy-coloured odes to the festive season, where love conquers all, home is where the heart is and family is the best present of all. Except obviously that's all total bull, because most Christmas films are shot in sweltering July heat with child actors working for minimum wage.
In fact, some of your favourite Christmas movies are hiding dark secrets they'd rather you didn't know about. Porn! Torture! Criminal negligence! Ho, ho and indeed, ho...
The Santa Clause (1994)
Disney had to break their policy of never hiring ex-cons for their 1994 Christmas comedy, given that actor Tim Allen was jailed in 1978 for cocaine possession, but Allen's sordid past wasn't the cause of 'The Santa Clause''s darkest secret. At one point in the movie, Allen's character mutters the insult "1-800-SPANK-ME!", apparently unaware that the phone number was an active sex line. The Mouse House was inundated with complaints from irate parents whose children had racked up huge phone bills calling the naughty chat line, which we're guessing wasn't exactly extolling the virtues of how to discipline unruly kids.
A Christmas Story (1983)
You might have seen the adorable star of 'A Christmas Story', Peter Billingsley, appearing all grown up in movies like 'Iron Man' and 'Elf' – he even directed Vince Vaughn comedy 'Couples Retreat'. But his screen buddy Flick, aka Scotty Schwartz, wasn't so lucky as to befriend Jon Favreau and hobnob with the Hollywood elite. Schwartz found it tricky to find work as an adult so decided to work in the the adult industry. Yes, Flick from 'A Christmas Story' has starred in movies such as 'Dirty Bob's Excellent Adventures' (volumes 35 and 36), 'The Wrong Snatch' and 'Booby Trap'. His most famous scene in 'A Christmas Story' saw him get his tongue stuck to a pole, but now it's his pole that's... well, you get the idea.
It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
You may have seen the uproar generated by the recent announcement of a belated sequel to 'It's A Wonderful Life', and rightly so – a modern day follow-up to Frank Capra's feelgood holiday classic is tantamount to cinematic blasphemy. However, did you know they already made a sequel? Well, a spin-off at any rate.
'Clarence', directed by Eric Till, was shown on US TV in 1989, and followed George Bailey's guardian angel as he helped out another lost soul. Starring Robert Carradine in the title role (yes, the frat president from 'Revenge Of The Nerds'), Clarence is the black sheep of the 'It's A Wonderful Life' family and most likely the reason the movie's rightsholders would rather die than greenlight an official sequel.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Jim Carrey paid the price for the success of Ron Howard's Dr Seuss adaptation in the form of a prosthesis so suffocating it almost drove him insane. It took him two and a half hours to get into costume every morning (for 92 days straight) and the facial prosthetics and contact lenses caused Carrey so much distress he had to take torture-resistance lessons from a Navy SEAL. If that's not a dark enough secret for you, how about the fact that the movie's little cutie pie Cindy Lou Who grew up to be goth rocker Taylor Momsen, frontwoman of popular beat combo The Pretty Reckless and a musician with a penchant for performing topless? It's enough to make Jim Carrey completely lose his mind.
Home Alone (1990)
Even though it appears to be a festive, twinkly-eyed paean to 'boys being boys', 'Home Alone' is basically a movie about two psychopaths attempting to murder a sociopathic child following a criminal case of parental negligence. We shudder to think what 'Wet Bandits' Harry and Marv would do if they ever actually got hold of pesky little Kevin ("Burn his head with a blowtorch!" "Smash his head with an iron!"), but it's equally scary when you realise the pair of hapless burglars should have been killed several times over by their miniature tormentor. The fact that Kevin's parents greet him with an insultingly insufficient "Merry Christmas!" when they return home – and not, say, a torrent of tearful apologies – is the clincher: everyone in this movie should be jailed for life without parole.
Check out the hilarious "honest trailer" for 'Home Alone', below.