Sure, you can settle in and watch Love Actually, or relive your childhood with Home Alone, but wouldn’t you rather have a little blood and gore to go with your eggnog? While Halloween is the go-to holiday for horror fans, there are still plenty who find the dark and spooky in the Christmas season. I mean, Santa is pretty creepy. ‘Tis the season for these 10 Christmas-themed horror movies.
The myth of the Krampus, a half-goat half-demon who punished bad children during the Christmas season, has been around for centuries but didn’t get a starring role until 2015 with the film Krampus. The comedy-horror centers on one extended family that has lost their roots: the parents fight, the dad spends all his time at work, the sister only wants to spend time with her boyfriend, the uncle’s a brute, the great aunt’s a drunk, the cousins are bullies. When their negetivity and lack of Christmas spirit finally wears down young Max, he gives up on Santa and Christmas miracles and leaves them vulnerable to a Krampus attack. While the titular figure doesn’t fully appear until the end, his Christmas-themed minions like evil gingerbread cookies and sentient toys do some damage.
A Christmas Horror Story
Krampus had another brush with the big screen in 2015 in the Canadian horror anthology A Christmas Story. There are four main holiday-themed stories: a ghostly posession in a high scool; changelings in the woods near a Christmas tree farm; a family being hunted by Krampus; Santa fighting off his zombie elves and trying to defeat Krampus once and for all. The stories are woven together by a radio host, played by William Shatner, on air over Christmas.
Not every Christmas horror movie needs to be set on Christmas Day with killer Santas. David Cronenberg’s 1977 horror/sci-fi film isn’t overtly Christmassy, it just happens to take place near Christmastime. After a motorcycle accident, a young woman begins to feed on the blood of others, turning them into zombie-like creatures. Soon, the zombies are everywhere and the city of Montreal descends into chaos. One memorable scene takes place at a mall fulls of holiday shoppers and doesn’t end well for Santa.
It’s almost as much of a cliche as Die Hard at this point, but Gremlins is a quintessential Christmas movie. The comedy-horror classic has a young man bringing home what he thinks is a cute and cuddly creature with a strange set of rules for care. He, of course, violates all those rules and ends up unleashing strange and violent creatures who are out to destroy. When a wise old man tells you “don’t feed them after midnight,” believe him!
If you’re only looking for Yuletide scares, you might have to fast forward through the bulk of this horror anthology. Holidays has a short film for every major holiday on the calendar, starting with Valentine’s Day and heading through to New Year’s Eve. The Christmas short is second to last and directed by Priest and Legion’s Scott Stewart. Seth Green stars as a dad desperate to do anything to bring home a virtual reality device for his son and ends up being haunted by it. Father’s Day and New Years Eve are also worth checking out!
While literally not a Christmas movie, the freezing cold and blustery snow of The Shining can’t help but feel seasonally appropriate. The iconic horror film isolates one family in a hotel over the winter to work as caretakers in the off-season. The hotel is haunted and the dad (Jack Nicholson) goes mad and really, we all know the story by now. It’s one of the most famous movies of all time and for good reason.
From a classic horror film to a… not-so beloved one. P2 stars a post-American Beauty and pre-Hunger Games Wes Bently as a delusional parking garage attendant who locks an unsuspecting woman in over night after her office Christmas party. He even makes her a Christmas dinner! So festive. Of course, she’d rather be free and the two play a game of cat and mouse throughout the enclosed space.
Christian Bale stars as the titular psycho in this horror-comedy from director Mary Harron, based on the much more disturbing and less enjoyable book by Bret Easton Ellis. Patrick Bateman is a 1980s financial hotshot who slowly loses his mind and goes on a murderous rampage, fixating on his business rival Paul Allen (Jared Leto). Thanks to Reese Witherspoon in a festive costume at an office Christmas party that goes awry, this totally counts as a holiday film.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Is it a Halloween movie, or a Christmas movie? Personally, I think it’s both. As a result, this Tim Burton stop-motion film gets played a lot around the end of the year at my place. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween, looks for something more in life and ends up hijacking Christmas. The normally sugary-sweet holiday turns into something dark and sinister with Santa Claus tied up and a skeleton delivering gifts for a change. There’s still a happy ending, of course.
The quintessential Christmas horror movie! Black Christmas is a favourite of mine in a lot of different categories: best Canadian horror, best Christmas horror, one of the best horror/slashers ever, period. A 1970s sorority are plagued by strange phone calls and disappearances right before the school semester ends for Christmas holidays. It pre-dates Halloween, inspired When A Stranger Calls and countless other “young girls terrorised by a mysterious killer in the house.” Plus, the shot of Billy’s eye in the doorway is still super creepy.