I have a theory about holiday movies.
People get more depressed in this season, so it follows they should see "feel-good" pictures, right?
See, I think you should gravitate to the most depressing movies because then, when you come out, you think, "Hey, my life's not so crummy!"
So, I have wonderful news. There are movies out there that will make you feel horrible, and by "horrible" I mean "great."
Take "The Mist." It's based on a Stephen King book; it's about people trapped in a supermarket while all these thingies wait to swoop in and disembowel them.
It's clunky material, but director Frank Darabont ("The Shawshank Redemption") drills for fresh nerves. All along you think you know what's coming; all along what comes is worse than you can dream.
It's the feel-bad movie of the millennium: hideous carnage plus heartbreak, the mist a miasma of up-to-the-minute anxieties: technology amok, a disintegrating ecosystem, religious mania, the end of the family. It will leave you a wreck, but stronger for it.
Josh Brolin as a likable trailer-park loser finds a suitcase with millions and gets hunted by a psycho Terminator played by Javier Bardem, who uses the kind of air tank used to blast the brains out of cows. His freaky stare in the foreplay before his killings is to die for.
By the time you get to two movies about normal misery, they'll feel like larks.
"The Savages" is director Tamara Jenkins's bleakly funny - or is it funnily bleak? - look at aging misfit siblings, played by the marvelous Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, never more soulful. They team up to take care of their father, played by Philip Bosco, who's only intermittently lucid. He abandoned them - screwed up their childhoods - but they feel a sense of duty. Too bad they can't have it out with someone who ain't there.
"Starting Out in the Evening" stars Frank Langella as a forgotten novelist contacted by a vivaciously pretty graduate student played by Lauren Ambrose. She wants to spur his rediscovery - and maybe something else.
People who talk like writers, a May-December romance: It might have been insufferable. It isn't, though. It's haunting. Langella stares out from a body too lumbering for his nimble brain and has never been more expressive.
Facetiousness aside, there is a kind of comfort in dredging up our worst fears in these scary times and confronting them before they begin to fester. So, here's to a holiday season in which your greatest woes are on the big screen.