How ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ Became the Darkest Christmas Movie of All Time

Numerous heartwarming movies are set at Christmastime. There’s also a glut of Christmas horror films like Gremlins, Krampus, and Black Christmas. Yet, the darkest Christmas movie ever made isn’t even a horror film. It’s Stanley Kubrick‘s Eyes Wide Shut. Here’s the details behind this divisive masterpiece.

A mask from Eyes Wide Shut | Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The twisted plot of ‘Eyes Wide Shut’

Eyes Wide Shut does not begin like it’s a disturbing movie. The film centers on a married couple, Bill Harford (played by Tom Cruise) and his wife Alice (played by Nicole Kidman). They go to a Christmas party where the other party guests flirt with them.

When they go home, the couple begins to get intimate. Alice then reveals to Bill she once had a fantasy about being with a different man. She says she’s not satisfied with her marriage at all.

Bill storms out of their house and into the streets of New York to deal with his pain. He almost procures the services of a prostitute before deciding he shouldn’t. He goes to a bar, where a piano player gives him the password to a masked orgy at a country house.

There, he is horrified to learn ritualistic sexual abuse is carried out by the upper escalations of society. He’s not willing to partake in it and wants to leave. Can he escape the dangerous ritual surrounding him with his life?

Why is ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ a Christmas movie?

Masks from Eyes Wide Shut | LatinContent Editorial

Like many Kubrick films, Eyes Wide Shut has inspired too many interpretations to count. One aspect of the film that has inspired much academic speculation is its Yuletide setting. After all, it’s very striking for a Christmas movie to have such a dark (and sexual) storyline. Christmas trees and Christmas lights can be seen throughout the film.

Some see the film’s setting as an ironic juxtaposition. Others feel Christmas trees and lights are simply used in the film for aesthetic effect. The film’s setting could also be seen as a mockery of the holiday, as Christianity is disrespected in other Kubrick films like A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket.

How the world reacted to the film

The film is rather oblique, and this quality may have contributed to the mixed reviews it received upon initial release. Critics were mostly baffled by the film. Others dismissed it as a bunch of good-looking scenes with no real purpose.

Audiences were not kind to the film either. Eyes Wide Shut was sold as an erotic film. Part of its appeal was the idea it would feature scenes of intimacy between Cruise and Kidman, who barely interact in the film.

In India, the reaction to the film was especially negative, reports United Press International. Hindus were upset verses from one of their sacred scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita, were recited during the orgy. This caused the film to be banned in the country.

The clapperboard used for Eyes Wide Shit | ARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images

However, critical reception to Eyes Wide Shut has softened in recent years. A number of critics interpreted the film as an allegory about relationships or societal abuses. Others see it as one of the finest cinematic encapsulations of a nightmare.

Eyes Wide Shut could mean a lot of things. This is precisely why it’s lived on when so many more straightforward films have been forgotten. And for fans of the bizarre, it has become a dark Christmas favorite.

How to get help: In the U.S.,call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.