On the first day of Christmas, Cultured Vultures gave to me… 15 of the best Christmas horror movies to help you get through the season.
We understand, with Halloween long over, you’re itching for your horror fix. While we typically have to wait until January for the next wave of horror movies to hit theaters, we can at least backtrack to previously released holiday horrors. Unfortunately, that means trekking through the avalanche of terrible Christmas horror movies.
As you can probably guess, finding 15 great Christmas horror movies wasn’t an easy task. Many of these fall under the “so bad, they’re good” umbrella and are best enjoyed with friends and family laughing along. Seeing as how those jovial nights are the whole point of the holiday season, consider this our Christmas gift to you and yours.
You know those movies that you can’t look away from? No matter how many times you’ve seen it and how bad it may be? Well, that’s Jack Frost.
When the vehicle transporting serial killer Jack Frost gets into an accident with a nondescript “Genetic Research” truck, the titular murderer becomes melted into the snow. This allows him to return as a rampaging snowman out for revenge against the sheriff that brought him in.
Jack Frost is full of terrible one-liners, attempts at witty quips, and ridiculous kills involving sleds, Christmas ornaments, and carrot rape. Yes, you read that right and it’s all that needs to be said about this holiday horrorshow.
Watch if: You want to turn your brain off this holiday season. Avoid if: Frosty the Snowman is your gospel of the holidays.
14. Silent Night (2012)
Director: Steven C. Miller
Who would have thought Santa Claus would be the perfect way for a killer to hide from the authorities. Well, it’s a disguise that works in the 2012 horror film, Silent Night, which is a loose remake of the 1984 Christmas classic, Silent Night, Deadly Night.
When a serial killer poses as Santa, it gives him access to the public he needed to continue his killing spree. Not one to randomly kill everyone, this Santa sticks to the rules. He’ll only slay if he sees that person partaking in a naughty deed. Or, at least, what he deems “naughty.”
Silent Night is full of creative kills, but it doesn’t have that old-school slasher charm of Silent Night, Deadly Night or many movies from the 80s. It is, however, a suitable Christmas horror film with a decent kill count and a murderous Santa.
Watch if: The phrase “Santa with a flamethrower” intrigues you. Avoid if: You’re a Silent Night, Deadly Night purist.
13. Santa’s Slay (2005)
Director: David Steiman
What happens when Father Christmas gets tired of being nice and delivers kills instead of gifts? Writer/director David Steiman explored this concept in Santa’s Slay, a slasher comedy starring Bill Goldberg as Santa.
Steiman tinkers with the lore of Saint Nick a bit for this gorefest, which sees Santa, driven by his “hell-deer,” fulfilling his murderous impulses. According to Santa’s Slay, Santa only delivered presents because he lost a curling match to an angel. Before that, Christmas was a “Day of Slaying” for the hot-headed product of a Satanic virgin birth. You know, like it says in the Bible.
Once free of his 1,000-year sentence, it’s time for Santa to start killing again – and boy does he kill. No one is off his list when it comes to maiming, disfiguring, and slaughtering everyone in his path.
Watch if: You’re tired of the whole “Coca-Cola Santa” image. Avoid if: You still believe Santa Claus delivers your gifts.
12. Dead End (2003)
Director: Jean-Baptiste Andrea
Ah, the dreaded family road trip during the holidays. There’s nothing more tense and uncomfortable than being trapped in a vehicle for hours as you begrudgingly make your way to a relative’s home for Christmas. Until, of course, you throw in a mysterious lady in white, her dead baby, a symbolic hearse, and a whole lot of carnage.
When Marion and her family become lost on a back road, they’re thrust into a supernatural mystery of gruesome proportions. As they start to die off one by one, it becomes a question of whether or not the experience is real or the product of insanity. Hey, we get it. Driving along a snowy road with nothing but family to talk to is sure to break even the strong-willed.
It’s not quite a traditional Christmas movie with all of the glimmering lights and references to Santa, but beneath its elements of horror, Dead End is a relatable holiday film.
Watch if: You want to watch Lin Shaye in a pre-Insidious horror film. Avoid if: You have a road trip planned with your family.
11. Inside (2007)
Director: Julien Maury
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, save for a crazed lunatic with sinister intentions. In this French horror thriller, expectant mother Sarah is pulled into a Christmas horror nightmare of frightening proportions.
Christmas Eve becomes a veritable bloodbath as Sarah’s intruder kills off anyone that comes to her aid, forcing the pregnant protagonist to defend herself by any means necessary. It’s a home invasion movie like any other, but the holiday setting and the killer’s motive put a slightly unique spin on it.
Watch if: You enjoy traditional home invasion movies. Avoid if: You’re pregnant.
10. A Christmas Horror Story (2015)
Director: Steve Hoban, Grant Harvey, Bretty Sullivan
Imagine the Christmas equivalent to Mike Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat. Four interconnected stories unravel during Christmas, leaving a trail of bodies that ultimately lead up to an encounter between Krampus and Santa Claus. Oh, yes, it’s that kind of movie.
A Christmas Horror Story isn’t afraid to be campy, and that’s a big part of its charm. While there are elements of horror to each story, it’s also a ridiculous anthology that will have you rolling your eyes, laughing, and having a grand ‘ole time.
Forget marathoning A Christmas Story. Break out A Christmas Horror Story and share your holiday season with William Shatner’s greatest character, Dangerous Dan, the alcoholic DJ that serves as our guide through these tales.
Watch if: You want your Christmas season to be sprinkled with a bit of Halloween. Avoid if: You fully respect mall Santas.
9. Christmas Evil (1980)
Director: Lewis Jackson
What would it take to send a toymaker on a relentless killing spree? Find out this Christmas with Christmas Evil, a 1980 yuletide romp that may speak truth to all of you stuck working long hours throughout the season.
When Harry Stadling is broken and beaten down by criticism, unfairness at the toy factory, and his own personal demons, it’s only a matter of time before the world feels his wrath. It’s a slow burn to Harry’s spree, but the payoff is everything you could want out of a Christmas slasher.
Christmas Evil is heavy on cheap practical effects and it’s actually a bit of a tragic tale, but it works well for some holiday entertainment. Some of its themes may be a little dark, but Christmas Evil is one you’ll want to sit down with this Christmas season.
Watch if: You want to watch the holiday version of Joker. Avoid if: You’re looking for a straight-forward, relentless slasher movie.
8. The Day of the Beast (1995)
Director: Alex de la Iglesia
Though the title may be best suited for Halloween, The Day of the Beast is a clever black comedy horror film that fits right in for Christmas. On a quest to kill the Antichrist, who he believes will emerge on Christmas Eve, a priest, Angel, goes on a rampage of wrongdoing.
Don’t worry, though. He’s kind of on a mission from God. At least a mission that would benefit God as Angel hopes to sell his soul for a chance at stopping the Antichrist. The Day of the Beast is definitely less about the season, but those sprinklings of the holiday help root it as a great Christmas horror film.
It’s certainly a different and refreshing take on the whole “stopping the Antichrist” plotline.
Watch if: You want to add something unique to your Christmas movie watchlist. Avoid if: You’re looking for a horror movie ripe with scares and kills.
7. Better Watch Out (2016)
Director: Chris Peckover
The holiday season is quite perfect for a home invasion movie, but Better Watch out is so much more than that. Sure, it starts off like your traditional home invasion film, but it takes a pretty demented and unexpected turn partway through.
Beyond the title and the holiday setting, Better Watch Out isn’t overdone with Christmas. This lets the core story shine without having to bastardize the joyous season. What it will do, however, is make you think twice about babysitting. Moreso than any version of When a Stranger Calls ever did.
Better Watch Out is punchy, funny, and even has a gruesome homage to a family favorite holiday film. Need a hint? Two words – paint can.
Watch if: You enjoy being surprised by a movie. Avoid if: You’re starting a new babysitting gig.
6. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
Director: John McPhail
You know what the zombie apocalypse genre needed? A musical. Thankfully, Anna and the Apocalypse fills that void, with the titular protagonist and her friends battling through hordes of the undead while belting out a soundtrack of original songs.
Set during Christmas, Anna and the Apocalypse utilizes the holiday setting well without overshadowing the undead with seasonal themes. Even as a musical, there is plenty of zombie horror and gore. It would be easy for the random outbreaks of song and dance to grow tiresome, but it’s all balanced well to deliver a horror movie that puts a clever spin on the zombie apocalypse.
Go into it for the holiday cheer and music, stay for the zombie gore and nods to zombie classics like Shaun of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead.
Watch if: You’re tired of the same ‘ole zombie movies. Avoid if: You’re not into musicals.
5. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Director: Charles Sellier
After suffering through a life of torment and abuse, Billy Chapman snaps. With the Christmas Eve murder of his parents burned into his brain, it only makes sense that he’d don the red suit of everyone’s favorite gift-giver when he finally snaps.
Chapman may not be your run-of-the-mill slasher killer, but when Silent Night, Deadly Night kicks off the kills, it becomes the holiday murder-fest you’ve been looking for. This 1984 slasher takes its time to get to the payoff, like most good slashers of the 80s; and though it doesn’t have the staying power of, say, Friday the 13th, it’s a worthwhile horror film to pop in this Christmas season.
The movie may have been a bomb at first, but it’s since become a cult classic that many turn to when the snow starts to fall.
Watch if: You’re looking for a traditional slasher that utilizes practical effects. Avoid if: You have a fear of being impaled on deer antlers.
4. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
Director: Jalmari Helander
We’re so used to the delightfully jolly version of Santa Claus dreamt up by the minds of Coca Cola. But what if there were more to the legend, just waiting to be uncovered in the mountains of northern Finland? Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale explores this concept in a most entertaining way.
While excavating a site in Finland, scientists uncover a strange find that may have a direct link to the local lore of Santa Claus. Unfortunately, it has an appetite for flesh and it’s quite possible that young children were once on its menu.
There is a slow burn to Rare Exports, but its clever weaving of Santa’s origins is definitely a unique twist to jolly ‘ole St. Nick. Think of it as a Christmas origin story, as Rare Exports finally answers the question of where all those common mall Santas come from.
Watch if: You want to see a different take on the Santa Claus legend. Avoid if: You love mall Santas.
3. Krampus (2015)
Director: Michael Dougherty
Trapped in a home with no power, no escape from the snowstorm that billows outside, and nothing to distract you from the relatives visiting for Christmas. It’s the truest form of holiday hell. Throw in mischievous toys, deadly gingerbread men, and a hoofed beast, and you have a cocktail of holiday horror delights for viewers.
There have been many versions of Krampus, but only Michael Dougherty’s had the production value, cast, and story to grab a wider audience. Picture a movie about Krampus, but it’s part home invasion movie/part supernatural horror. The cast is a wonderful mix of award winners, like Toni Collette; comedy greats like Adam Scott and David Koechner; and some relatively unknown performers like Emjay Anthony and Stefania LaVie Owen.
The best part of Krampus was the titular creature’s design, which integrates the classic goat-like look with something quite a bit more horrifying.
Watch if: You’re tired of low-budget Krampus movies. Avoid if: You think gingerbread men are out to get you.
2. Gremlins (1984)
Director: Joe Dante
Joe Dante’s vision of a peaceful town being overrun by monstrous little gremlins is by far one of the best Christmas movies. Ever. It falls just short of being the best Christmas horror movie for being laxer on its elements of terror, but there’s no doubt that Gremlins is a holiday horror classic.
When a strange creature known as a Mogwai is purchased by an oaf of an inventory, the town of Kingston Falls becomes a holiday hell. Green critters infest every corner, turning the Christmas postcard village into their own little playground of mischief.
Gremlins is funny, heartfelt, dark, and the perfect addition to every Christmas horror movie collection.
Watch if: You have a pulse and like to watch movies. It’s that simple. Avoid if: Your father dresses up as Santa Claus.
1. Black Christmas (1974)
Director: Bob Clark
So many horror movies have their roots in real events. Surprisingly, that includes 1974’s Black Christmas, which pulls inspiration from a classic urban legend and a series of murders in Montreal, Quebec.
Black Christmas is a classic slasher, where hapless victims are picked off one-by-one by a mysterious figure. Set in a sorority house during winter break, the holiday setting actually amplifies the horror. The seclusion during Christmas break is something many college students have found them in, and Black Christmas plays on that isolation when a deranged killer starts targeting the sorority sisters.
Bob Clark’s holiday horror is also one of the first slasher movies, predating Friday the 13th by six years and John Carpenter’s Halloween by four. Black Christmas went on to receive two remakes and a novelization and garnered a cult following.
Watch if: You enjoy an old fashioned slasher movie. Avoid if: You’re alone on campus this winter break.
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