All current life advice points to balance — between work and life, within your finances, in your diet. So it makes sense we’d be pulled towards the dark, grim, and violent during the holidays. We need something to counteract the sweetness of candy canes and the glow of Christmas lights, something to drown out all that slap happy holiday cheer and joy, if only to keep ourselves sane.
Here are 9 of the best Christmas horror movies on offer, movies that bring mayhem and murder to the yearly Yuletide celebration. Cue up one of the entrants on our list, then make yourself a cup of cocoa, dim the lights on the tree, and prepare to get scared, disturbed, and rattled during this most wonderful time of the year.
Black Christmas (1974)
“The caller is in the house. The calls are coming from the house.”
It’s basic horror movie logic: Get inside the house, lock the doors, and you’ll be safe. But everyone knows, the house is never safe, and nowhere is that more true than in Black Christmas. About a group of sorority sisters staying on campus during Christmas break, this 1974 classic is the twisty, scary primogenitor of the slasher genre, giving rise to the stalking, unknowable killer who uses anything handy and pointy to pick off his prey as he zeroes in on the Final Girl.
“The most important rule, the rule you can never forget, no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never feed him after midnight.”
If you were alive in the 80s, Gremlins was required viewing. While you might remember it for the cuteness of Gizmo and Stripe (or, depending on your preferences, the hotness of Phoebe Cates), watch it again to be impressed by the rather violent deaths brought about by a troupe of evil creatures, along with a splattery kitchen scene of puppet gore set to the tune of “Do You Hear What I Hear.”
“It’s Christmas. Nothing bad is going to happen on Christmas!”
If Santa Claus is jolly and giving, Krampus is… not. Based on a folklore figure that predates Christmas itself, Krampus tells the tale of a family who begrudgingly (yet quite hilariously) come together because the season dictates, only to be menaced and hunted by a demonic, horned and hoofed creature. An excellent blend of horror and humor, Krampus is the sharp and dark antidote to the marshmallow sweetness of the holidays.
A Christmas Horror Story (2015)
“The atmosphere here in Bailey Downs is truly grim this holiday season.”
With William Shatner on the radio, a horde of zombie elves, Krampus bringing the punishment, high school murders, and demonic possession, A Christmas Horror Story is the overloaded Christmas dinner plate that you can’t help but gorge yourself on. It’s an anthology film with four different stories connected by their small town setting — and considerable gore — making for a fun, zany scarefest tailored to the season.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
When the ads and posters for this film came out in the 80s, people took to the streets to protest — leading it to be pulled from theaters about a week after its release. Parents worried that seeing Santa Clause as a murdering, rampaging killer would give kids some upsetting associations, and they were probably right. Silent Night, Deadly Night follows a guy with a troubled past who snaps while wearing a Santa suit. Blood, carnage, impaling, and “punishment” ensue.
Better Watch Out (2017)
“Don’t stay up and watch horror movies. It’ll give you nightmares again.”
Take the timeworn, babysitter-in-peril set up, add some Home Alone contraptions and the movie-savvy cleverness of Scream, then give it all an energetic stir. The result is a fresh take on the home-invasion horror genre that swerves quickly from what you expect to what you really don’t, and then swerves some more. Properly sinister, gory, and scary — with a dose very dark humor — Better Watch Out dishes out unpredictable holiday horror.
Dead End (2003)
“Who are these people in the woods?”
Here’s for anyone who has lived through the real life horror of an extended Christmastime road trip with members of their own family — though hopefully none of those trips ended as nightmarishly fatal as this one. When a family drives to grandma’s for the holidays, they find themselves lost along a dark and endless forest road where horrors real and psychological pick off the family members one by one. With a small cast and low budget, this strange and dreamlike film serves up family dysfunction with a side of surreal creepiness.
Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
“Stop your pretending / there’s no such thing as a Hollywood ending”
You’re already a fan of genre mashing. You like your tinsel and mistletoe with a side of terror. Here’s a chance to toss more genres into the mix, namely zombies, musicals, and coming-of-age teen comedies. When a small Scottish town is hit with a zombie plague, a group of high school kids do what they must to survive, which naturally includes blood-and-viscera-drenched zombie gore. But there’s also singing, dancing, and wry teen humor to accompany the undead invasion.
Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)
“Would you like to see my maniac card from the asylum? They give you one when you escape.”
Enjoy some old-school, bizarre horror with this 1970s gem. Dark, creepy, and super low budget, Silent Night, Bloody Night involves a creepy old house-turned-insane asylum that’s now empty and up for sale. While you and I know to avoid such places, no one in the film knows this. In the house and around the town, an intricate story plays out, spilling buckets of blood in the process. Perfect for those who know that Christmas goes with corniness just as nicely as it goes with carnage.
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