Christmas Horror Movies We Love
10/8/2020 • 4 min read
Christmas is a time of cheer, but it also provides a great setting for horror. It’s cold outside, family tensions get high, a large man sneaks down your chimney while you sleep. Getting presents can be fun, but it’s no wonder many filmmakers use the holiday as a backdrop for scares.
If you want to combine October chills and holiday spirit, here are ten Christmas horror movies we love.
KRAMPUS quickly became a modern holiday horror standard by putting a normal family through a host of Christmas horrors. Along with the titular anti-Santa (who is plenty scary), vicious gingerbread men, an evil Jack-in-the-box, and monster toys all terrorize characters played by a cast including Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, and Allison Tolman for losing their Christmas spirit. Have a happy holiday, or else!
It starts with a gift. When Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) gets a Mogwai — a furry Yoda-like creature — from his dad (Hoyt Axton), it seems like the cutest pet ever. But that one kind gesture, combined with a bit of misunderstanding, spawns an army of vicious, killer Gremlins, ruining Christmas for the town of Kingston Falls and giving poor Dick Miller a case of PTSD that won’t get resolved until GREMLINS 2.
Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
Christmas is fun, but it isn’t perfect. For instance, it could have more zombies. And what the heck, let’s throw in a bunch of original musical numbers in there as well. Such an unexpected mixture of genres makes the charming ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE a modern Christmas horror blast that is all but impossible to dislike.
The Lodge (2019)
Fun’s over. THE LODGE combines the cold, the awkward family dynamics, and the bratty kids of Christmas, then dials the result up to eleven to create a chilly blast of claustrophobic psychological horror that viewers are unlikely to forget.
Black Christmas (1974)
A Christmas horror classic and also one of the first-ever "slasher" films, BLACK CHRISTMAS focuses on a sorority house filled with college students who get killed one-by-one in horrific fashion. If they had gone home to visit their families during Christmas instead, none of this would have happened. Lesson learned.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
What? Not scary enough to be horror, you say? Tell that to any child who watches this masterpiece of stop-motion animation and grotesque character design. Don’t let the songs distract you; this is entry-level horror for the younger set and a delightful Christmas story all at the same time.
Jack Frost (1997)
Yes, the story of a serial killer who manages to become a killer snowman is silly. But it’s also a really good time! Jack Frost’s eye-rolling quips and inventive kills did not win the film any Academy Awards, unfortunately, but it did ensure people would keep discovering this wild gem for generations. (It is often confused with the equally odd movie called JACK FROST, released a year later, with Michael Keaton as a musician who is reborn as a snowman through the power of his magic harmonica.)
Rare Exports (2010)
What if instead of being a jolly fat man who brings children presents, Santa Claus were actually a demon who tortures children who misbehave? And also has an army of not-quite-clothed old men elves? That’s the idea behind the Finnish RARE EXPORTS, which takes a unique approach to Christmas horror that we haven't ever forgotten.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Christmas had a rough go of it in 1984. First GREMLINS sank their teeth into the holiday, and then horror really came knocking. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT has been controversial since the day it came out. And it earns that horror badge of honor. Ugly, mean-spirited, and super violent, the film is not for those with a faint heart, and definitely not for those who’d like to keep their Christmas spirit untarnished.
Dial Code Santa Claus (1989)
This French gem (called 3615 CODE PÈRE NOËL at home and also known as DEADLY GAMES, HIDE AND FREAK, and GAME OVER) mixes Christmas horror with HOME ALONE-style shenanigans as a killer Santa goes up against a kid obsessed with action movies. This child prodigy has a fair number of traps and tricks up his sleeve when Santa tries to slide down the chimney. Think bows and arrows instead of milk and cookies.
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Images courtesy of Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., Oscilloscope, TriStar Pictures, NEON, Orion Pictures, Disney, A-Pix Entertainment, and Vinegar Syndrome.