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15 Terrible Presents in TV and Film

I’ve received my fair share of unwanted gifts during the holiday season, but none of them could be considered lethal, unlike the majority of gifts presented in The A.V. Club’s 15 Terrible Presents in TV and Film.

1. The Mogwai, Gremlins (1984)

Animal-rights organizations, pet stores, and adoption centers have spent years trying to get across the message that a pet is a huge responsibility which should be chosen by the owner, not by someone looking for a quickie present.

Another thing that’s a huge responsibility? Ownership of a sentient being. Especially a sentient being which—if the owner doesn’t follow a few weird, arbitrary rules—will spontaneously spawn a horde of vicious, intelligent killer reptile-people.

Seriously, we all love Joe Dante’s hilariously anarchic horror-comedy Gremlins. But what the hell was going through Hoyt Axton’s head when he decided that the perfect last-second Christmas gift for his teenage son Zach Galligan was a monster-spawning creature from an unknown species?

By the end of the movie, romantic interest Phoebe Cates isn’t the only one with deep-seated holiday-related trauma.

2. Chucky, Child’s Play (1988)

Being a single mom isn’t easy, and when the best job you can get is behind the perfume counter at a department store, it’s hard enough to put food on the table, let alone give your annoying, precocious son the overpriced animatronic doll he’s been yapping about. So you have to cut corners, which in Child’s Play means buying the doll from the scary-looking homeless dude in the alley.

And if that isn’t enough, the freckle-faced hunk of plastic happens to be possessed by the vengeful spirit of Charles Lee Ray, a felled serial killer who has scores to settle with guys with names like Eddie Caputo. The good news: Little Andy has a “friend to the end.” The bad news: The end may be coming sooner than Andy and his mother probably hoped.

3. A television, All That Heaven Allows (1955)

In the Eisenhower-era suburbia of Douglas Sirk’s classic melodrama, a widowed housewife of advancing age is expected to live out the remainder of her days alone, perhaps accompanied by a good book. So it would be scandalous enough when attractive widow Jane Wyman seeks another man’s company, but when that man turns out to be Rock Hudson, a gardener well below her social station, the vicious hive of high society starts buzzing. Even Wyman’s two grown children object in their own selfish ways to her newfound happiness, and subtly seek avenues to end their mother’s relationship.

When they buy her a TV set for Christmas, they’re trying to force her to settle into quiet, respectable solitude, and it’s the most devastating moment in the film: As the wrapping comes off the present, Sirk frames Wyman’s reflection within the screen—a woman boxed in for eternity by this unwanted, infernal machine.

Check out the rest of the Terrible Presents in TV and Film list at The A.V. Club.