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The Quick 10: 10 Not-So-Cheery Holiday Movies

Just because it's the holiday season doesn't mean I have to stop watching horror movies. And if you feel the same way, I've got a few recommendations for you. OK, my first one doesn't really count as "horror," exactly, but it's still Christmas with a creepy twist. And if you know of any that I should add to my Netflix queue, let me know in the comments!

1. The Nightmare Before Christmas. We're big Nightmare fans in my house; our Christmas tree is well on its way to being almost exclusively a The Nightmare Before Christmas Tree.

2. Silent Night, Deadly Night. Here's the plot: little kid sees his parents murdered by a guy dressed up like Ol' Saint Nick. So he grows up with a serious aversion to Santa, as you might imagine. He works at a toy store and somehow gets talked into playing Santa Claus, which makes him think he has the power to punish people. So he goes around lopping off the heads of "naughty people" with axes, impaling them with deer antlers and strangling them with Christmas lights. It's good, clean fun for the whole family!

black3. Black Christmas. Despite the cult classic status of this film and my fondness for horror movies, I've never seen this. The original was released in 1974 and the remake came out in 2006 "“ both revolve around a group of sorority sisters being systematically picked off by a madman. A bit of trivia for you "“ Bob Clark, the guy who directed the original, went on to direct A Christmas Story just nine years later. Quite a departure from his previous films: Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, Deathdream, Murder by Decree, Porky's, and Porky's II.

4. Jack Frost. Michael Keaton transforms into a snowman and it's hideous. Nevermind, wrong Jack Frost. This one came out two years before the Michael Keaton movie.

Oh, man, the best movies always involve genetic mutation. Serial killer Jack Frost is on his way to his execution when the truck he is in collides with a truck carrying some sort of mysterious genetic material. Somehow, between the snow on the ground and the genetic material, he is transformed into a snowman and runs around town wreaking havoc.

silent5. Silent Night, Bloody Night. I take back what I said in the last bullet. All of the best movies involve mental institutions and/or creepy old houses that have been inherited by people who have no idea about the house's background. So, this guy inherits a house that apparently doubled as a mental hospital, and when he tries to sell it, some people get very upset. What's interesting about this movie, though, is all of the Andy Warhol cohorts that are in it. Mary Woronov stars (I love her, mostly because of her turn as Dr. Vadar in Rock "˜n' Roll High School Forever), but there are also bit parts played by Candy Darling, Ondine, Lewis Love, Kristen Steen and Tally Brown.

6. Christmas Evil. A little boy obsessed with the Christmas Spirit grows up and gets really angry when people refuse to believe in Santa and the spirit of the season. So, you know, he kills them. Makes total sense. Doesn't he realize that murder will land him on the Naughty List? Confusingly, this movie also goes by the titles You Better Watch Out and Terror in Toyland.

7. Santa Claws. Fittingly, a B-movie actress is stalked by a crazy fan. The holiday tie-in comes from the fact that the guy likes to dress up in a Santa Claus outfit to kill "“ his victims are people he feels are taking advantage of his leading lady.

8. Don't Open Till Christmas. Maybe the killer in this movie has seen all of those other movies where the Santas are evil "“ he mows down anyone dressed up like Kris Kringle. I don't blame him; I think guys dressed up in Santa costumes are kind of creepy.

9. To All a Good Night. This is really going to surprise you, but a bunch of sorority girls and their boyfriends are stalked and killed by a dude in a Santa suit. I think I need to write a Christmas horror movie screenplay that doesn't involve sorority girls, murderous guys dressed in red or mutant snowmen. I'm not sure what that leaves, though. A killer team of elves? Rudolph ala Cujo? Or there's always this...

10. Gingerdead Man. I can sum this up in five words (assuming you say "equals"): Gary Busey = killer cookie. Yeah. It's pretty awful, but it's also only an hour long. Also, I think this trailer pretty much covers the whole thing:

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Food
Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine
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iStock

You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.

Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.

The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”

The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.

With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’s in bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.

To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:

[h/t Refinery 29]

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Pop Culture
The Strange Hidden Link Between Silent Hill and Kindergarten Cop
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Universal Pictures

by Ryan Lambie

At first glance, Kindergarten Cop and Silent Hill don't seem to have much in common—aside from both being products of the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade came Kindergarten Cop, the hit comedy directed by Ivan Reitman and starring larger-than-life action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the decade’s end came Silent Hill, Konami’s best-selling survival horror game that sent shivers down PlayStation owners’ spines.

As pop culture artifacts go, they’re as different as oil and water. Yet eagle-eyed players may have noticed a strange hidden link between the video game and the goofy family comedy.

In Silent Hill, you control Harry Mason, a father hunting for his daughter Cheryl in the eerily deserted town of the title. Needless to say, the things Mason uncovers are strange and very, very gruesome. Early on in the game, Harry stumbles on a school—Midwich Elementary School, to be precise—which might spark a hint of déjà vu as soon as you approach its stone steps. The building’s double doors and distinctive archway appear to have been taken directly from Kindergarten Cop’s Astoria Elementary School.

Could it be a coincidence?

Well, further clues can be found as you venture inside. As well as encountering creepy gray children and other horrors, you’ll notice that its walls are decorated with numerous posters. Some of those posters—including a particularly distinctive one with a dog on it—also decorated the halls of the school in Kindergarten Cop.

Do a bit more hunting, and you’ll eventually find a medicine cabinet clearly modeled on one glimpsed in the movie. Most creepily of all, you’ll even encounter a yellow school bus that looks remarkably similar to the one in the film (though this one has clearly seen better days).

Silent Hill's references to the movie are subtle—certainly subtle enough for them to pass the majority of players by—but far too numerous to be a coincidence. When word of the link between game and film began to emerge in 2012, some even joked that Konami’s Silent Hill was a sequel to Kindergarten Cop. So what’s really going on?

When Silent Hill was in early development back in 1996, director Keiichiro Toyama set out to make a game that was infused with influences from some of his favorite American films and TV shows. “What I am a fan of is occult stuff and UFO stories and so on; that and I had watched a lot of David Lynch films," he told Polygon in 2013. "So it was really a matter of me taking what was on my shelves and taking the more horror-oriented aspects of what I found.”

A scene from 'Silent Hill'
Divine Tokyoska, Flickr

In an interview with IGN much further back, in 2001, a member of Silent Hill’s staff also stated, “We draw our influences from all over—fiction, movies, manga, new and old.”

So while Kindergarten Cop is perhaps the most outlandish movie reference in Silent Hill, it’s by no means the only one. Cafe5to2, another prominent location in the game, is taken straight from Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

Elsewhere, you might spot a newspaper headline which references The Silence Of The Lambs (“Bill Skins Fifth”). Look carefully, and you'll also find nods to such films as The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and 12 Monkeys.

Similarly, the town’s streets are all named after respected sci-fi and horror novelists, with Robert Bloch, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson among the most obvious. Oh, and Midwich, the name of the school? That’s taken from the classic 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, twice adapted for the screen as The Village Of The Damned in 1960 and 1995.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Kindergarten Cop'
Universal Pictures

The reference to Kindergarten Cop could, therefore, have been a sly joke on the part of Silent Hill’s creators—because what could be stranger than modeling something in a horror game on a family-friendly comedy? But there could be an even more innocent explanation: that Kindergarten Cop spends so long inside an ordinary American school simply gave Toyama and his team plenty of material to reference when building their game.

Whatever the reasons, the Kindergarten Cop reference ranks highly among the most strange and unexpected film connections in the history of the video game medium. Incidentally, the original movie's exteriors used a real school, John Jacob Astor Elementary in Astoria, Oregon. According to a 1991 article in People Magazine, the school's 400 fourth grade students were paid $35 per day to appear in Kindergarten Cop as extras.

It’s worth pointing out that the school is far less scary a place than the video game location it unwittingly inspired, and to the best of our knowledge, doesn't have an undercover cop named John Kimble serving as a teacher there, either.

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