Nothing says Christmas like a good bear rape.
In the grueling, gory rated-R film—poised to spread some bleak and barren cheer with its Christmas Day release—the Oscar hopeful does, however, get mauled by a grizzly in a scene so harrowing, disturbing, and violent that Rolling Stone groaningly issued a PSA addressed to “movie pussies,” warning them to steer clear. (Let’s just leave the obtuse sexism and lunacy of that sentiment right here.)
DiCaprio spends the movie with his bear-claw slashed throat barely stitched together, threatening to burst at any moment, unable to speak. He gets in knife fights, gun fights, aforementioned bear fights, and a bloody fistfight with Tom Hardy that you’ll watch mostly from between your fingers. Then there’s the epic opening battle between the pre-Civil War bear trappers and the local Montana Native Americans, an endless aria of impalings, beheadings, guts bursting, and carcasses piling.
Oh, yeah, and The Revenant isn’t even the bloodiest film that will be released on Christmas Day.
With diminishing box-office returns for traditional holiday and Christmas-themed films and family-friendly offerings opting for fruitful Thanksgiving weekend bows instead, studios and theaters seem to be retreating in the exact opposite direction with its new releases this Christmas.
In what is shaping up to be the most violent Christmas ever at the box office, the other most anticipated holiday film is Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. Those preferring that their Yuletide gore be festooned with crackling dialogue can forgo Leo’s silent sojourn through the Montana wilderness for this Western with a Tarantino twist.
Kurt Russell’s foul-talking bounty hunter and his captive, a downright feral Jennifer Jason Leigh, spend a blizzard night stranded in a haberdashery with Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, and Walton Goggins. What starts as a mind-game thriller eventually explodes in classic Tarantino fashion.
To be clear, the thing that is exploding is blood. Everywhere. In all kinds of sickening, twisted, hilarious, and occasionally touching ways.
Hey, red is a popular Christmas color, of the sanguine shade, especially this year.
Perhaps Hollywood is taking this so-called War on Christmas too literally, with the holiday flooded with films marked by revenge, savagery, and graphic violence in place of more traditional themes like—I don’t know—peace on earth, comfort and joy, and glad tidings.
Slay bells ring, amiright?
Beyond the ultra-buzzy The Revenant and The Hateful Eight, seven more films will be released on Christmas.
For starters, there’s the rags-to-riches story about the inventor of the Miracle Mop, the woefully disappointing Joy starring Jennifer Lawrence and arriving on Christmas like a lump of coal.
There’s the remake of Point Break, about surfing heisters. (Seasonal!) Will Smith plays a Nigerian doctor uncovering the truth about the brain damage suffered by NFL players. (Feel-good!) 45 Years is about the dissolution of a marriage, and The Big Short chronicles the housing bubble collapse. (Heartbreak and greed. Happy holidays!)
Even the one vaguely kid-friendly film, the silly-looking Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg comedy Daddy’s Home, is PG-13. In fact, all of these are rated either PG-13 or R. Not one is a “family film.”
For that, parents and their kids will have to settle for week two of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. (We must’ve really been real naughty this year to deserve that.) Oh, and in the event that you’re among the dozen or so Americans who haven’t yet seen it, there’s this little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, too.
And, more glaringly, not one of the films is about the holidays.
With TV, music, and just about every pop-culture offering branding itself with the holidays, to the point that Christmas cheer is just about inescapable, isn’t it confusing that the biggest entertainment moneymaker of all, the film industry, is eschewing Christmas-themed programming pretty much entirely? You could even go so far as to say this year’s offerings are almost anti-Christmas.
But perhaps steering clear of Santa and his minions is smart counter-programming amid the glut of holiday fare. Our box-office dollars seem to speak to that.
Christmas films rained at the cineplex like a blizzard in the ’90s and early ’00s and box-office hauls piled up like snowbanks. How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Polar Express, Elf, The Santa Clause, and The Santa Clause 2—the Top 5 highest grossing Christmas films of all time—were among the biggest moneymakers of any film in the years they were released.
But look at the grosses of movies about the holidays, as provided by Box Office Mojo, and you’ll see that only four of the films in the Top 20 were made in the last decade. The Best Man Holiday is the only movie from the last five years to be on that list. The last time a film about Christmas made over $100 million? Jim Carrey’s remake of A Christmas Carol, which came out six years ago.
To compare, 12 of the Top 20 grossing films of all time (of any genre) were made in the last decade. In the age of event movies and branded films, it’s even more peculiar that cash cow holiday movies have been so scarce.
Sure, Christmas-themed releases often hit theaters much earlier in the season than Dec. 25. But it’s worth noting that neither this year nor last year featured a wholesome holiday release, at least not on a large scale or that was timed for the season.
Happy Christmas, a largely improvised indie dramedy starring Anna Kendrick, was released in July 2014 and made a grand total of $30,000. Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, marketed to the evangelical set, maxed out at $2.7 million last year.
This year, the two “big” holiday releases were Krampus and The Night Before. The former was about a horned demon that punishes children who misbehave on Christmas, based on Austro-Bavarian Alpine folklore. The latter was an R-rated comedy in which Seth Rogen goes on a Christmas Eve cocaine binge. Fa la la la la, indeed.
The Christmas counter-programming has been going on for years now, ramping up as awards contenders sweatily attempt to land in theaters under the wire in order to qualify for consideration.
Last year, Christmas weekend’s new releases included Unbroken, Into the Woods, American Sniper, Selma, Big Eyes, and the Kim Jong Un assassin comedy The Interview. (The Hobbit, Night at the Museum, and Annie were the subpar alternatives for moviegoers hoping for quality family time.)
In 2013, when the second Hobbit film, Frozen, and Anchorman 2 dominated the holiday box office, The Wolf of Wall Street was the big new Christmas release.
So, as Santa makes his list and checks it twice, it appears we can count on at least one new holiday tradition: Leonardo DiCaprio doing naughty things.