Ti’s the Season to be jolly! Sleigh-bells are ringing and carolers are singing. Cookies are baking and lovers are ice-skating. Cherub-esque children are dreaming of Santa with stockings all strung up with care on the mantel. Charlie Brown and Frosty dance on TV as colored lights blink on the tinsel-laced tree. Yule log in the fire, chestnuts on a stick—it’s enough to make a hardcore horror fan sick!
While others are watching It’s a Wonderful Life, these films can make Christmas one hell of a night!
Director: Joe Dante
Writer: Chris Columbus
Stars: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton |
The reptilian and mischievous Gremlins of Gremlins epitomize the naughty kids of the Holiday Season; clearly, they don’t give a damn about pleasing fat old Santa Claus! While good boys and girls mind their p’s and q’s around the Christmas tree, this rowdy bunch raises hell with reckless abandon: They eat junk food, drink beer, stay up late, vandalize the neighborhood, and terrorize the town-folk—all the while laughing maniacally. Perfect for anyone with the urge to rip down every bit of holiday décor and blow shit up.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Director: Henry Selick
Writers: Tim Burton (based on: a story and characters by), Michael McDowell (adaptation), 1 more credit »
Stars: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara |
Does it depress you that Halloween only comes once a year? Do you wish the Christmas season was more about being scary than being merry? Would you like to see a wicked twist on those Claymation holiday specials from the 70’s and 80’s? Then this is the movie for you! True, The Nightmare Before Christmas isn’t a screamer, but it’s an excellent alternative to traditional, sappy, maudlin Holiday fare. Those who enjoy the darker aesthetics of life will find this film a joy.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
Director: Jalmari Helander
Writers: Jalmari Helander, Jalmari Helander (based on the original idea by), 3 more credits »
Stars: Jorma Tommila, Peeter Jakobi, Onni Tommila |
Rare Exports would make a delightfully subversive Holiday triple-feature if shown alongside Gremlins and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Kids and parents alike will squeal with pleasure as traditional Christmas entertainment gets a spine-tingling makeover. This one presents a sinister Santa Claus, one who enjoys punishing the naughty even more than rewarding the well behaved. While there are some disturbing themes and subtexts, Rare Export is surprisingly heart-warming—even to a jaded old gore-hound like me.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Director: Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Writers: Paul Caimi (story), Michael Hickey
Stars: Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero |
Nothing like seeing Santa Clause murder your parents to give you a serious Christmas complex. Such is the fate of poor Billy Chapman whose mom and dad were slaughtered by a man dressed as Old Saint Nick on Christmas Eve. Coming of age in an oppressive orphanage, manipulated by humorless nuns with a penchant for punishment, only made things worse. But when, as a young-adult, Billy is forced to don a Santa costume for his job at a toy store, you can literally see his mind go “Snap!” Suddenly, Billy becomes what he most feared: A bloody, vindictive subversion of Father Christmas. Time for some ho-ho-horror!
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Writers: Alexandre Aja (story), Grégory Levasseur (story),3 more credits »
Stars: Rachel Nichols, Wes Bentley, Simon Reynolds |
Planning on working late this Christmas Eve? P2 will have you thinking twice about taking the day off! When a young businesswoman burns the midnight oil a bit too late, she finds herself easy prey for a mentally unstable parking attendant in the underground lot beneath her office building. This is not the Christmas Eve party she expected. Fans of bare-bones cat-and-mouse suspense will be quite entertained.
The Children (2008)
Director: Tom Shankland
Writers: Paul Andrew Williams (story), Tom Shankland
Stars: Eva Birthistle, Stephen Campbell Moore, Jeremy Sheffield |
When families gather for Christmas, children bring light and joy to all, right? Not this time. A mysterious illness puts the youngsters off kilter, eventually transforming them into sadistic killers. The Children delivers extreme brutality without revealing too much, allowing our own minds to fill in some very disturbing blanks. Is this an isolated event or the beginning of something larger and all together more terrifying? The ending, while understated, is extremely shocking; this one is most certainly not for the squeamish.
Child’s Play (1988)
Director: Tom Holland
Writers: Don Mancini (story), Don Mancini (screenplay), 2 more credits »
Stars: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent |
Child’s Play would make a great morality tale for greedy children who want nothing but the trendiest of toys for Christmas—and parents looking for a hot knock-off on the cheap. It was released at a time when My Buddy/Big Sister, The Cabbage Patch Kids, and the talking-animatronic Teddy Ruxpin were all the rage. Chucky, along with Talkie Tina from the original Twilight Zone series and The Clown from Poltergeist, are responsible for giving an entire generation an irrational fear of dolls.
Dead End (2003)
Directors: Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Fabrice Canepa
Writers: Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Fabrice Canepa
Stars: Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Mick Cain |
Traveling on Christmas Eve can be a nightmare; for the family in Dead End, a trip to grandmother’s house becomes a maddening descent into perpetual darkness. A near miss on a snowy highway send the crew down an unfamiliar back-road where they’re stalked by a variety of ghostly visions and a mysterious black car. And you thought traveling with your family was stressful!
Wind Chill (2007)
Director: Gregory Jacobs
Writers: Joe Gangemi, Steven Katz
Stars: Emily Blunt, Ashton Holmes, Martin Donovan |
This one will rattle all you college women scouring ride-share boards for a lift home this Christmas. Wind Chill offers advice on quite a few potential perils that could befall a susceptible coed: Make sure the stranger you’re getting into the car with isn’t actually the guy who’s been stalking you. Stay off of snowy roads and never ever take the “scenic” route. Do your best to avoid haunted stretches of roadway. Finally, and most importantly: Don’t get into a conversation about Friedrich Nietzsche’s theory of Eternal Recurrence because you’ll surely end up in a time-loop paradox. Seems pretty basic, right?
Director: Richard Donner
Writers: Mitch Glazer, Michael O’Donoghue, 1 more credit »
Stars: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe |
Okay, Scrooged isn’t technically a horror movie, but of all the versions of A Christmas Carol out there, this one is most likely to please horror fans. Bill Murray’s reinvention of Ebenezer Scrooge (named Frank “Lumpy” Cross) is hysterical and the entire film drips with nearly-back comedy. While a happy ending can’t be avoided in this case, Scrooged mixes holiday cheesiness with pop cultural satire in a manner certain to give your Christmas spirit a devious twist.
Director: David Brooks
Writer: Chris Sparling (screenplay)
Stars: Alice Eve, Josh Peck, Brian Geraghty |
ATM kicks off at an office Christmas party; while these events are notorious for inspiring ill-advised couplings, David’s desire to ask out his coworker Emily becomes something much more dangerous. Things look good when Emily agrees to let David give her a ride home—until cock-blocker Corey invites himself along. A random stop at an enclosed ATM booth puts the trio at the mercy of a hooded murderer, and definitely ruins David’s chances for getting some Christmas booty. Fans of single-setting horror movies will appreciate the amount of terror the filmmakers cram into one little room.
Director: Kim Chapiron
Writers: Christian Chapiron, Kim Chapiron
Stars: Vincent Cassel, Olivier Barthelemy, Roxane Mesquida |
The French horror movie Sheitan features perhaps the most unsettling Christmas feast ever filmed. A group of casual friends share a lavish meal at a remote country estate where they are hosted by the boisterous and enigmatic groundskeeper, Joseph (played with chilling brilliance by Vincent Cassel). Over the course of dinner, Christmas merriment leads to talk of incest, murder, and bizarre Pagan rituals. The disturbing plot-elements in Sheitan are juxtaposed against scenes of sexual energy run amuck, creating addition levels of tension and suspense. It’s an evening no one will soon forget—if anyone lives to tell the tale.
Did I miss your favorite Christmas-time horror movie? Let me know in the comments section!
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You should have left ‘P2’ off th list and replace it with Black Christmas (1974)
Ooh, a few of these I haven’t even heard of!
I’d add two to the list. Like Organized Ka0z, I think the original Black Christmas definitely merits a spot. And, although only one segment is Christmas-themed, I’d like to see Tales from the Crypt (1972) on there, for its fantastic killer Santa segment.