Ah, the holidays, dubbed ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ by most, and only second to Halloween (in my opinion). December is a time to celebrate loved ones, exchange gifts and watch some festive bloodshed. That’s right, along with watching Die Hard—which is a Christmas movie, by the way—there are a few horror must-sees to prepare you for the holiday season. Here is a list of nine holiday horror movies and television shows to watch in December.
1. “And All Through the House” | Tales from the Crypt (1989)
In the mood to watch an escaped convict dressed as Santa Claus butcher some not so innocent victims? Well, have I got the show for you. This Tales from the Crypt holiday episode takes place on Christmas Eve. A young girl, Carrie, waits in anticipation for Santa Claus to arrive, while her mother murders her stepfather downstairs in the hopes of cashing in on his insurance policy. Just your basic, run-of-the-mill Christmas Eve. When the escaped convict shows up dressed as Santa Claus, Carrie is thrilled and befriends him. They are then at the mercy of the axe wielding Santa Claus to decide who has been naughty and nice. Hopefully this episode gets you in the mood for the holidays, and as Carrie’s mother so sweetly exclaims to her husband, “Merry Christmas, you son of a bitch!”.
2. “Back for Christmas” | Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1956)
Good evening (said in my best monotone Alfred Hitchcock voice). Herbert, a fed-up husband, decides to murder his wife before leaving on a holiday trip to the U.S. He is nearly caught in the act by friends that stop by for a visit before his departure, but manages to escape. Upon arriving and seemingly getting away with murder, he is informed that his crime will be discovered just before Christmas. Even in death his wife continues to ruin his plans, and his life.
3. “The Night of the Meek” | The Twilight Zone (1960)
Although this episode isn’t so much horror, it is packed full of supernatural. Henry, the local Santa Claus for the season, drinks to cope with the fact that he isn’t able to provide the children and residents of his town with the gifts they so longingly desire. He stumbles upon a magic sack filled with every requested gift from the townspeople. Is Henry really Santa Claus, or is the entire episode fabricated in his drunken stupor? Though there isn’t any murder or bloodshed, it is a classic episode that keeps you guessing. Either way, you can’t go wrong watching The Twilight Zone.
4. Gremlins (1984)
Everybody knows not to feed their mogwai after midnight, but that’s only thanks to the destruction of Kingston Falls. After Billy receives his mogwai for Christmas, he breaks the cardinal rules: no water, no food after midnight and no bright lights. The cute furry creature turns into an evil Gremlin and murder, violence and destruction ensue. It just isn’t Christmas without watching this classic horror comedy.
5. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
You may wonder how I enjoy celebrating the holidays while still succumbing to my post-Halloween blues. The answer is simple, mixing the two holidays into one masterful claymation. The beauty in The Nightmare before Christmas is its versatility. You can watch it in October when you’re feeling spooky, then again in December when you need a bit more Halloween in your holidays. Jack, a skeleton who’s become tired of the same repetitive lifestyle, hijacks Christmas in an attempt to fill a void within himself. Although this movie terrified me to my very core as a child, I can’t get through December without watching it.
6. Krampus (2015)
Krampus, from the German word krampen meaning claw, is an evil counterpart to Santa Claus. Instead of stopping by to deliver presents to all the good children, Krampus rounds up the rotten, beats them with birch sticks and carries them off to the underworld. You can see why I was excited when Krampus came to theaters December of 2015. Though some parts of Europe celebrate Krampuslauf—a day where adults dress up as demons and scare the shit out of young kids—Christmas where I live isn’t quite as entertaining. Krampus is a fun film about Krampus wreaking havoc on a town engulfed in a blizzard due to one child’s lack of Christmas spirit. The film’s dysfunctional family and miserable festivities are both relatable and entertaining. The film ends with a ‘be thankful for what you do have’ mantra that many of us need to be reminded of as we sit across the dinner table from our irritating relatives as we celebrate the holidays.
7. Black Christmas (1974/2006)
Have you ever thought to yourself, man, I sure am in the mood to watch a deranged maniac eat his sister’s eyeball and then make Christmas cookies out of his mother’s flesh, all while listening to some classic Christmas tunes? Yeah, me too. But where would we find such a masterpiece? I’ve got good news, all you have to do is watch Black Christmas. Billy, an escaped murderer who landed in the looney bin after butchering his family on Christmas, returns home. Unbeknownst to him, his house has since been turned into a sorority house. Naturally, he begins to butcher the residents, one by one. This movie is a definite must see around the holiday season.
8. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Yet another man dressed up in a Santa suit, carrying an axe and chopping off the heads of sleigh riders. Silent Night, Deadly Night is similar to the other films mentioned. Young Billy watches his parents get murdered by a thief in a Santa suit as a child. After being raised in an orphanage, he finds a job in the hopes of beginning a normal life. At work on Christmas Eve, his boss makes him dress in a Santa suit and all hell breaks loose.
9. The Stepfather (2009)
Can somebody say daddy issues? The Stepfather is a film that follows a deranged serial killer who marries a single mother, murders the entire family, then moves on to his next victims. This movie isn’t a Christmas film, in fact, most of the movie takes place in summer. The opening scene, however, reveals a calm killer preparing for his day: shaving, making toast, turning on some soothing music. As he makes his way to the front door, the bodies of his victims are revealed, one by one, as Silent Night ominously plays in the background. Though the Christmas scene only lasts a few minutes, it is quite disturbing and worth a watch.
There you have it, proof that blood and guts aren’t restricted to the month of October. Hopefully these films add some frights to your festive holiday season. Maybe this year you’ll be extra nice, seeing as how many demented Santas there are roaming around just itching to slay.