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 ‘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!
Excellent list… and may I toss a couple more logs on the fire?
The dystopian nightmare Brazil (1985) is set around Christmas and opens with a family reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas being interrupted by stormtroopers bursting through windows. The director’s cut features a creepy wheelchair-bound Santa.
Edward Scissorhands (1990) of course has some wonderfully subversive Christmas imagery, including a topiary devil.
The City of Lost Children (1995) opens with a nightmare in which an army of Santa Clauses stuffs themselves into a child’s room (as well as a few pooping reindeer)
And of course there’s all the versions of A Christmas Carol, some of which are quite frightening in parts (especially the Richard Williams animated version from 1971. The recent Disney 3-D version was pretty spooky as well).
Finally, from the realm of televion, one of my favorite Tales from The Darkside episodes (Monsters in My Room) occurs during Christmas (who can forget Seth Green’s delight at opening the “cuddle-stuffed panda bear”? Maybe that kid really did need some toughening up…)
Those are all excellent additions to this list! I’m starting to wish I pushed things further away from traditional horror flicks.
“City of Lost Children” is an excellent example and “Edward Scissorhands” makes me think I could have included” Batman Returns” too.
That opening scene in COLC has to be one of the creepiest presentations of Santa(s) ever, very twisted and trippy and kindertraumatic for sure!
Oh, and “Brazil” with the stormtroopers is another great call!
Wow Unk, that’s an impressive list. I fully agree with you on the opening scene of Santa’s Slay, but what was James Caan doing there? Great stuff.
One notable omission, IMHO: the Tales from the Darkside episode “Seasons of Belief” – I can’t be the only one that remembers The Grither.
I don’t remember that one but wow, isn’t that E.G Marshal from “Creepshow” and the little girl is Six from Blossom!! Something tells me if I’m going to run this site right I better watch TFTD from first episode to last. My knowledge of it is just too damn random! Thanks for the addition!
Great list! Call me crazy, but I really liked “While She was Out”. Maybe its because I really dug the short story it was based on, which I’m pretty sure I read in a splatterpunk compilation a while back.
Also, Chuckles, you are not the only one that remembers The Grither, I was singing its song the other day (and getting weird looks from the neighbors).
I didn’t know “While she was out” was based on a short story. I’ll have to check that out. I really liked the premise but the thugs were just not threatening enough to make it work for me. I wish they had cast them to be a bit more trashy or edgy rather than Gap models. I did like the bit were she just starts screaming for God to intervene in some way, I thought that was interesting but it was all a bit too glossy for me. Great to see Sheffer though, even in a small part! I forgot to mention that it was produced by Guillermo del Toro too! Anyway, I won’t call you crazy…not with my questionable taste!
you had me at avalanche!
this list has totally made my day!
It just started snowing ouside, and this is my first white Christmas! This list made my day. I’m so ready to get my cockles caught up in terror!
And thanks for the linkage! 🙂 I realize, I’ve never reviewed Home for the Holidays… But I will, mark my words, I will!
No room at the inn for The Nightmare Before Christmas? Or what about Dario Argento’s Deep Red with its traumatic Christmas flashback?
There’s always room at the Inn! “Nightmare Before Christmas” is a good one. There’s a copy of it right in front of me. Why didn’t I throw it on the pile?
“Deep Red” has been coming up a lot for me lately (Should I blame Scissors?)
Some force in the universe is demanding that I watch it again. That Christmas flashbook is just the push I needed.
You just made my day too
Amanda, If you have snow now. I’ll be getting some soon too. I’ll be getting your snow hand me downs.
Very nice list, Unk. I’ve got another Evil Santa shocker from Europe for you: ‘Sint.’ Judging by the trailer, it can best be described as the Dutch version of ‘Santa’s Slay.’
Goblin, I know have a new mission in life…must see SINT.
Don’t forget Hardware and Batman Returns.
HARDWARE! That’s a good one I would have in never in a million years thought of! I forgot that the robots head was a Christmas present. This comments section is giving me many a good idea of what to watch in the next couple weeks!
SINT looks fantastic.
BTW: “and a soundtrack by none other than ENNIO MORRICONE (THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY)” Fixed that for ya’. 🙂
wait a minute isn’t Inside set on Christmas Eve?
Here’s one no one ever thinks about, but a friend and I have made it a holiday tradition for the last few years; WHO SLEW AUNTIE ROO? It has christmas written all over it. When Shelley Winters says “Come see what Father Christmas has left you” and opens the door to the grand toy room, it’s like she’s personally ushering in the christmas season in a morbid Willy Wonka kind of way. I really love this one at this time of year.
This list is a wonderful pre-Christmas present! Black Christmas is one of my favorite movies of any season/genre! And it’s going to be on TCM Saturday at 2am!!!! Everybody set your DVRs!
Bdwilcox, I hear ya. I just watched TGTBATU the other day in HD and it’s enough to make your eyes (and ears) cry.”Caught Once Upon a Time in the west too. That movie was so awesome it made Henry Fonda seem cool to me!
Magired, INSIDE (2007) does take place partially on Christmas, another good one! I’m not sure I’d watch that one on X-mas though (yes I would).
Craig, WHO SLEW is perfect! I can’t believe Aunt John, resident Shelly Winters expert, did not school me on missing that one.
Lynette, Thanks for the heads up on TCM’s showing of Black Christmas, I can’t get enough of that one either.
Keep those additions coming as you think of them! There’s always room for more under this tree!
When Christmas pops up, I always think Hardware, Gremlins, Christmas Evil and Batman Returns when it comes to an alternative set of seasonal viewing. But the big list above was the best one yet
I can’t believe I never thought of “Hardware” for Christmas before. My X-mas viewing could really use some sci-fi too! I haven’t seen Hardware in years but I have a beautiful edition of that Director’s other film “Dust Devil”. It comes with some of his documentaries too..
Now, I’m kind of in the mood for Batman returns too. Thanks again for your input !
Uncle Lancifer, behold, The Ecstasy of Gold sung by soprano Susanna Rigacci. (BTW, there’s a momentary bad drop-out at the 2:04 mark so don’t crank the speakers like I did.)
I am *so* pleased you included the Spanish awesomeness that is The Christmas Tale.
I watched it the other night and it just made me think of Kindertrauma!
Great list – but why isn’t The Children (2008) on there? One of THE best Killer Kid flicks I’ve seen and it takes place during the christmas holidays. I’ve seen it twice and it freaked me out equally both times. Never before have I seen such a completely merciless display of violence performed by and against kids (okay, Baby Blues, but still).
SUPREME list! So many gems, and it’s always great to see someone else discover the small, but truly wonderful joys of DEAD END. Hearts to Christmas Evil (it’s totally my ticket to an elevator conversation with John Waters), A Christmas Tale, but where’s the truly great killer snowman cinema, Jack Frost 2? Snowballs!
Eshbaal: I think you *could* argue that The Children is more a New Year’s film than xmas, but it is absolutely incredible.
Lastly, I heart Don’t Open Til Xmas. It’s a dreadful movie, but there’s something innocently sleazy about the film that just makes me smile. With my eyes. Just like the killer (or Tyra Banks).
YOWZA, That was better than coffee for waking me up this morning! Thanks, I needed that.
I love that Christmas tale. I only wish it was longer. It reminds me of STAND BY ME and my own childhood. Everyone should see that one.
THE CHILDREN ! Such a good movie and I totally forgot that it took place during Christmas. They need to put more Christmas lights in movies if they want me to remember such things! Thanks for that addition Eshbaal!
I’m so glad you dig the DON”T OPEN TIL CHRISTMAS, I could tell it was lovable but for some reason I just couldn’t do it. To be fair, I watched it not under the best circumstances. It’s got to be a better movie than TO ALL A GOODNIGHT anyway! For some reason it just confused the heck out of me. Were there like 70 characters in it? No worries, I will try again with it someday!
Meanwhile, How bout that DEAD END? If I could make a movie I’d like to make something like that. I just love that movie it is so simple and character driven. I’m really shocked that Alexandra Holden hasn’t been in better stuff afterward, she was so good in it and WISE and SHAYE just rule.
Unkle, that Dust Devil set is astonishing. I urge everyone to track it down.
The scariest Christmas movie? National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Why? Because I actually have relatives like Cousin Eddie; and that, my friends, is the most horrifying thing of all.
The Last Exorcism has a really cool trivia sweepstakes worth checking out http://on.fb.me/ExorcismTrivia
I’m sticking with Rene Cardona’s SANTA CLAUS. How can a movie that combines Santa, Merlin, and the Devil go wrong?
Yes! No Christmas party is complete without Satan!
i just watched Jack Frost, inspired by this post… it was everything i hoped it would be, and more!