The following article was originally posted on the Shit Movie Fest website back in 2015 as part of their then-annual Shitmas contributor series. The idea for that series was stolen by my ol’ friend Doc from Camera Viscera for his Drive-In Double Feature series, and then stolen by me for my Halloween Horrors series.
As I’m far too lazy to write a new article for the Christmas season, I might as well just repost the piece on this site, which allows me to take a moment to show some love to both of those sites in the process. Man, I’ve been at this game a long time now.
Dark Angel… of Bethlehem
‘Tis the season. ‘Tis the season for children playing in the snow. The time of year for building snowmen, having snowball fights with your siblings and cousins, or making snow angels in the yard. Stockings are hung from the fireplace with care, as chestnuts roast on open flames below. Carolers walk from house to house, singing the traditional songs that we all know. However, I’ve lived in Florida my entire life. I know fuck all about any of this bullshit.
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 or 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. (Updated: Don’t talk to me about Krampus. I ain’t feeling that shit either.)
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 (aka Dark Angel.) For those unfamiliar with the film… shame on you! Houston cop Dolph Lundgren teams up with FBI agent Brian Benben to track down an alien drug lord, who steals a stash of heroin, with which to inject his human victims. While his prey are “dancin’ with Mr. Brownstone”, the alien then punctures their brains with a large needle and extracts their doped-up endorphins, 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 that is 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 Fucking 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.
As was the case on that first Christmas all those years ago, a mysterious being soon descends from the heavens to help save the human race. However, while mankind was presented with a supposed lord and savior on that starry night long ago, the best we get here is (future) college basketball commentator Jay Bilas as an alien cop, hot on the drug dealer’s trail. No, Bilas can’t walk on water or heal the sick, but I’m pretty sure that Jesus never had 692 career rebounds. Sandals aren’t exactly the best footwear for hoops.
The opening credits roll, and we are informed that the film was scored by Jan Hammer. Hammer is probably best known for his landmark seasonal sounds on “Miami Vice“, a show widely remembered for its frigid setting. 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 “snow” 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 spirit of Christmas manifests itself a few more times throughout the film… only to be repeatedly bludgeoned like a baby seal. Holiday music is also used in a scene featuring a homeless person, which just serves to remind us that not everyone will be receiving a gift on Christmas. Well, not unless you count the “gift” of hunger.
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 for 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 that is barking outside. He too is then drugged and killed. The man, not the dog. Then again, it’s a 25-year old movie. That dog is long dead by now.
The next scene features yet another holiday tradition: boobs. Our heroes head to a nearby strip club. Now, I don’t care what anyone here says, but a strip club is a pretty depressing way to spend your Christmas. I know. I’ve done it at least twice. Generally, the people spending Christmas at a strip club have long since buried their Christmas spirit. You can almost see the traces of what used to be a “soul” behind those dead eyes. And that’s just the strippers themselves.
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 gift; a watch. He also received the gift of hypothermia. No re-gifting on that one.
On a side note, Benben was the star of 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 kind of thought of Benben as my own special kind of Santa. Thank you, sir, 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 up on lampposts in the background, and a few, almost subliminal, stockings and such hanging from shelves or displayed at cash registers. As with the other decorations and/or symbols presented throughout the film, most of them are quickly destroyed in one of the multitudinous explosions that fill the film’s runtime.
Since the true meaning of the season is “togetherness”, friendship is finally found between our two 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?)
Hahah. I remember seeing this one in the theatres! Nothing says X-mas like a Dolph Lundgren alien flick. Great review.
Benben had his career scuttled by George Lucas’s Radioland Murders. Nothing like a bomb to kill a theatrical career before it starts.
Hey, that’s right—I used to run a blog!
Hey, thanks for reminding me of this mindless alien action yuletide fest! It’s past Xmas, but Dark Angel is conveniently available on Tubi, so I may just reacquaint myself with it anyway. I hear you about the winter holidays — I’m out here in the middle of the Mojave desert, where it’s equally hard work trying to get into the spirit… 🙂