From funny to freaky: Five Canadian films and TV shows to watch over the holidays

Viking; Three Pines; Sort Of; Crimes of the Future; Slash/Back

One of the most cherished modern traditions of the December holiday break is the opportunity to gather with those closest to you…and binge-watch television.

With so much great programming at our fingertips, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, but here are five Canadian TV series and films worth fitting into your plans this holiday season.

1. “Viking”

As the first manned trip to Mars gets underway, a ragtag group of faux astronauts are recruited for a two-and-a-half-year parallel mission on Earth. The goal is to study their every move in hopes of heading off any conflicts between the real astronauts in orbit. Quebec director Stephane Lafleur uses that framing as the launch pad for a deadpan comedy about human relationships and the roles we play.

WHY SHOULD YOU WATCH: Seeing the five crew members in the simulation squabble over one exceeding the mandated number of sugar cubes in his coffee is one of many moments where the film’s script shines.

WHERE TO WATCH: Available to rent on Apple and some TV providers.

2. “Three Pines”

Alfred Molina brings police inspector Armand Gamache to life in an episodic mystery series based on the books by Canadian author Louise Penny. In the close-knit fictional town of Three Pines, Que. tensions are simmering just beneath the surface. Outside Gamache’s office, protesters are criticizing the lack of action around missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. And when a number of suspicious murders begin to unfold in the region, Gamache must face a community that’s harbouring more secrets than any of them let on.

WHY SHOULD YOU WATCH: Filmed in picturesque Quebec locales, each mystery plays out over two episodes making them a small time investment. “Three Pines” also stars acclaimed Indigenous actors in prominent roles, including Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Tantoo Cardinal.

WHERE TO WATCH: Streaming on Prime Video

3. “Sort Of”

Life can throw up many roadblocks and for Sabi, a gender-fluid South Asian Torontonian, things are pretty complicated at the onset of this CBC dramedy. Both their career and love life are stalled. All signs point to leaving Canada with their bestie for a new life in Berlin. But a sudden turn of events forces them to reckon with questions they’ve been putting off for years. Co-written by and starring Bilal Baig, “Sort Of” was recently renewed for a third season.

WHY SHOULD YOU WATCH: With heaps of critical praise, three Canadian Screen Awards and a Peabody on its shelf, “Sort Of” already has a reputation as the most buzzworthy homegrown series this side of “Schitt’s Creek.”

WHERE TO WATCH: Streaming free with ads on CBC Gem

4. “Crimes of the Future”

David Cronenberg returns to his obsession with the flesh in a sci-fi dystopian drama where much of humankind has evolved to no longer feel pain. That’s created an almost erotic interest in body mutilation among the public, which performance artist Saul Tenser, played by Viggo Mortensen, aims to capitalize on. With a condition that causes his body to constantly grow new organs, he conducts avant-garde performances where he surgically removes them before a live audience. His fame draws attention from other groups planning to exploit his popularity.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: While the Toronto director’s bleakest works aren’t for everyone, “Crimes of the Future” allows its familiar cast, including Kristen Stewart and Scott Speedman, an opportunity to muck around with Cronenberg’s trademark dark humour.

WHERE TO WATCH: Available on Crave’s streaming and TV platforms and for rent.

5. “Slash/Back”

When a group of Inuit teenage girls suspect aliens have invaded their Nunavut town, they band together to protect their community. But the stakes are raised when it becomes clear their foes are body snatchers who can arrive in the form of familiar faces. Nyla Innuksuk’s feature directorial debut claims to be the first film shot in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, a picturesque isolated village that gives the sci-fi/horror film its visual punch.

WHY SHOULD YOU WATCH: Think equal parts John Carpenter’s “The Thing” and “Stranger Things” with a low-budget B-movie spirit and some truly unsettling monsters.

WHERE TO WATCH: Available on Crave’s streaming and TV platforms and for rent.

banner image: Canadian Press/HO, Les Films Opale