Is it possible we've never done a proper Christmas horror movie list on these pages before? I could have sworn we had. Let's fix that toot sweet. In completely random order here are some bloody yuletide flicks to cram in your stocking!
THE SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT SERIES (1984-1991)
The first film is a required classic so goofy it's hard to believe anyone ever took such offense to it. The flashback stuffed second installment jacks up the lowbrow dark humor even more. Number three is rather a depressing dud and unconnected stand alones 4 (THE INITIATION) and 5 (THE TOYMAKER) are, if not good, at least bizarre enough to deserve a gander. Choosing a preference over those last two is a breeze; 4 was directed by SOCIETY's BRIAN YUZNA and 5 stars the dreaded MICKEY ROONEY! (MORE)
SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1974)
I admit I didn't make it all the way through this one the first time I attempted to; in fact, it lulled me to cozy sleep. The factors that once swayed me to slumber, I found later to be its major, most potent charms. It's a quiet movie, dark and moody and at some points it almost plays like a scarred silent film. Big bonuses include genuinely eerie locations and the always striking and highly watchable MARY WORONOV. Something tells me this one is only a proper DVD release away from being an established perennial. (MORE)
BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974 and 2006)
BOB CLARK's original is above reproach in my book. It's that rare movie that becomes more and more mysterious upon each viewing. The remake stands as a textbook example of what NOT to do when attempting an update, but I'll shamelessly throw it on anyway just to see ANDREA MARTIN's returning face. I'd call the re-do an overwrought insult in general but it does have a cozy parlor room atmosphere and loads of Christmas lights sparkling. In other words, best served after plenty of eggnog.
CHRISTMAS EVIL (aka YOU BETTER WATCH OUT! 1980)
None other than JOHN WATERS has called this chestnut, "The greatest Christmas movie ever made." And far be it for me to argue with him. BRANDON MAGGART (whose tree FIONA APPLE fell from!) stars as a hard not to like psychopath obsessed with X-Mas. Perverse and bizarre, it's also wonderfully shot and if you snatch the SYNAPSE DVD you get a commentary from WATERS along with director LEWIS JACKSON! (MORE)
EYES WIDE SHUT (1999)
Speaking of Christmas lights, did STANLEY KUBRICK hang a string in every shot of this movie? I hate typing the name TOM CRUISE even more than you hate reading it, but no one can say he's not perfectly cast as a self-obsessed douche. Many were disappointed by STANLEY's swan song but if this all-night journey into crazy town isn't fascinating I don't know what is. Keep your eyes perpetually peeled and the gifts just keep on coming. Must blame HORROR DIGEST's ANDRE for dragging me out of the closet as a big fan!
DEAD END (2003)
You'd have to be approximately three years old not to see the final reveal of this flick from miles away, but it doesn't make the journey any less compelling. The cast here is phenomenal, LIZ SHAYE, RAY WISE and (who'd of thought?) ALEXANDRA HOLDEN give solid, amazing turns. A late night excursion to granny's pad for Christmas slowly turns into a creepy mind screw road movie that I've come to regard as feeling like DAVID LYNCH directing WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOLF? I love this movie. (MORE)
WIND CHILL (2007)
This would be an excellent double feature with the above-mentioned DEAD END. Another holiday inspired road trip takes a u-turn for the crazy as a blunt EMILY BLUNT discovers her traveling companion is not on the up and up and that an ill advised short cut may result in hypothermia and poltergeist activity. I love the atmosphere (and yes, the BLUNT) but out of place CGI and a less than satisfying conclusion stall its status. Still, if you are looking for chills they are served by the ice tray here.
Don't have Christmas and not invite Gizmo! JOE DANTE is truly a master when it comes to shoveling up humor with horror and if this movie doesn't give you a blast of nostalgia then your heart is coal. Some thought this one went too far with PHEOBE CATE's telling of a major bummer on a Christmas past but to me, it's the highlight of the film. Five thousand extra points for inclusion of a gremlin Christmas tree attack! (MORE)
Speaking of Christmas trees, has everybody caught this 16 minute X-mas card of hilarious depravity from director JASON EISENER (he of the upcoming RUTGER HAUER starring HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN)? You'll never look at your Christmas tree the same way again. Envelope, consider yourself pushed! (Watch TREEVENGE HERE!)
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (1972)
I'm sure T.V. movie aficionado AMANDA BY NIGHT will back me up when I say you can't go wrong with an AARON SPELLING production. Not to be confused with JODIE FOSTER's Thanksgiving flick, this one stars JESSICA WALTERS (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) JULIE HARRIS (THE HAUNTING) and SYBIL herself SALLY FIELD. Written by JOSEPH STEFANO (PSYCHO), they sure don't make â€˜em like this anymore and the poncho clad mystery killer predates many a slasher to come!
THE NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS (1975)
Not on Christmas! I prefer my holidays rape-revenge free but if you're looking for an Italian take on LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT that takes place in late December, the train stops here. Beautiful locations and a soundtrack by none other than ENNIO MORRICONE (THE THING) soften the blow but merry this film is not. It's a bit slow and a tad sick but it may fit the bill if you're itching to travel to the squeamish zone.
TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980)
While we're on the subject of LAST HOUSE, that movie's big baddie DAVID HESS directed a film of his own. It's a might horrendous and good luck trying to make out much of the action thanks to sloppy lighting. On the other hand, I can't resist an early eighties slasher and the obnoxious synth soundtrack is heavenly music to my ears.
SANTA'S SLAY (2005)
This one will lighten your mood. I'm not a hundred percent sure that the entire film is successful but the opening scene, as I've said countless times before, is just one of my favorite Christmas horror themed treats ever. Yes, Virginia, you do get to see BILL GOLDBERG light FRAN DRESCHER's hair aflame and kick CHRIS KATTAN into a wall, what more do you want? Please Santa, give me a sequel!
Witnessing GRIZZLY ADAM's DAN HAGGERY utter the line, "I want to know the connection between the elves and the Nazis" with a straight face is a gift in itself. It's nearly as brilliant as the line, "Who are the goblins?" from TROLL 2. I can't tell where the line between intentionally bad and unintentionally bad is drawn in this movie, but I do know that the end result is very bad indeed and in a very joyous and entertaining way.
JACK FROST (1996)
Just before Christmas a freak accident occurs which results in a serial killer being fused with snow and voila…the world's first killer snowman! Dumb fun mostly remembered for an outrageous rape-by-carrot scene involving SHANNON ELIZABETH. You'll probably find some twisted laughs here but expect far fewer from its sequel JACK FROST 2: REVENGE OF THE KILLER MUTANT SNOWMAN.
TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972 and 1989)
Here's something you won't hear often, I can't for the life of me decide which I like better the original version of "And All Through the House" starring JOAN COLLINS from the 1972 movie TALES FROM THE CRYPT or the ROBERT ZEMECKIS directed segment from the HBO series. They're both just so darn good. The earlier version's Santa is more convincingly grubby but the later as portrayed by LARRY DRAKE is simply the face of true horror in my book. It's for the best to call this competition a happy and far too infrequent nose to red nose tie. Watch both for perhaps the purest most perfect Christmas time scares!
NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)
Maybe you'd simply like to watch one of the most beautiful and poetic movies ever made in the form of CHARLES LAUGHTON's lone directorial effort. It's not very Christmas-y overall but once LILLIAN GISH has given evil preacher ROBERT MITCHUM the what for, peace is ultimately found on the ho-ho-holiest day of the year! A must see for any fan of cinema NIGHT OF THE HUNTER may not have plenty of snow but it does have a satisfying side serving of WINTERS (and that would be SHELLY!) (MORE)
CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (1944)
I'd put this one right on par with NIGHT OF THE HUNTER in the incredible work of art department. Shelving the psychosexual groove of its precursor, this installment remarkably heads down a path toward dark fantasy and ends up being a rare sequel that exists on its own terms. Christmas effortlessly adds another layer of magic to the proceedings and if you can find a more beautiful snowstorm captured on film, I'd like to hear about it. Absolutely blood free and I can't speak highly enough of it. (MORE)
After a nightclub scuffle on Christmas Eve a group of hip thugs get lured to a country house where bacchanalian indulgences lead to an encounter with someone who just might be Satan himself. Nary an inappropriate stone is left unturned and VINCENT CASSEL as the Satyr-like host is remarkably both unrecognizable and his usual bad ass self.
On his way to a Christmas singing gig, a passive young man's van breaks down and he is forced to stay the night in a stranger's home. Gratitude toward the hospitable homeowner turns to fear when rather than fix the van as promised, the odd oldster catches it on fire. Thus begins a survival horror film that utilizes more pig squeals than DELIVERANCE. Gender and religion are dragged through the mud, and to what end I'm still not clear, but I love the look of this movie to death. It's raw like CHAINSAW and I'd like to hang a few frames from it right on my wall.
FILMS TO KEEP YOU AWAKE: A CHRISTMAS TALE
A bunch of kids discover a wanted criminal in a hole in the ground dressed as Santa and rather then turn her in, they exploit the situation for all it's worth. Eventually the woman escapes with axe in hand and expresses her raging displeasure. Directed by PACO PLAZA the genius behind [REC], and clocking in at 70 minutes, this stocking stuffer is funny, eighties nostalgic and ultimately successfully scary. (WATCH HERE!)
WILD AT HEART (1990)
I include this film as a salute to my darling cousin Jingle Dell (CRISPIN GLOVER).
RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE
I haven't seen this slick looking Santa vehicle yet but the chance of me not enjoying it is as slim as snowflakes in July. Hopefully this one will be playing in your neck of the woods and we'll all, everyone of us, have a good horror-packed Christmas movie to watch in an actual theater this movie season! Christmas dreams do come true! Check out the trailer below, let me know if I forgot to stick any of your holiday favorites in this stocking and merry (and bloody) Christmas to everyone!
EXTRA BONUS: COAL FOR YOUR STOCKING!
WHILE SHE WAS OUT (2008)
KIM BASINGER, happy to get a moment away from her abusive husband (NIGHTBREED's CRAIG SHEFFER) drops by the mall for some last minute Christmas shopping and finds herself running for her life from a gang of theoretical ruffians. This movie should have at least been trashy fun but a sleigh of lame casting leaves its blade blunt. BASINGER and SHEFFER are fine but you're a bigger wimp than me (and trust me you're not) if you find LUCAS HASS menacing. The more he glowered the more I wanted to knit him a sweater.
I like the Christmas Eve setting; I like the parking lot setting. I personally find parking lots to be the scariest places on Earth. I think I even like the two leads in this well enough. Yet, this movie failed to get me going in the way it needed to and I have to scold it even further for having what I believe the worst title in cinematic history. Honestly, you could just pick any other letter and any other number and it would be an improvement. What about H-11? Was that so hard? It took me one minute.
DON'T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS (1984)
I've got to give it to this one for being original enough to have Santas being killed rather than doing the killing, but I'm still not satisfied. Courtesy of some of the folks that made PIECES possible and featuring a disco singing cameo from CAROLINE MUNRO, you'd think I'd be caught with this baby under the mistletoe. Unfortunately the whole dealio makes zero sense and I can't for the life of me make heads or tails of what is going on. Maybe this is one that shouldn't be opened at all or maybe I should try it again next year!