Tis the season of good will. A time of peace on earth and good will to all men. Or, if you believe what a certain sub-section of the festive film industry is peddling, a time to carve through an army of extras like a family man in a festive cardigan taking an electric carving knife to a Christmas turkey.
We are of course talking about Christmas horror movies, a peculiar subset of Santa-season on the silver screen that decides to fly in the face of convention and scare the eggnog out of people. So we’ve made a list, we’ve checked it twice, and without further ado here’s nine holiday-themed horror films that are definitely more naughty than nice.
1. Gremlins (1984)
To be completely honest we’ve got very little sympathy for the Kingston Falls residents who get ripped apart by the rampaging Gremlins in this timeless classic. After all, just how hard is it to follow the rules of Mogwai ownership? Don’t expose it to bright light, water, and foodstuffs after midnight - what’s so hard about that? Nevertheless looking back now, Gremlins is surprisingly dark for a festive themed flick aimed at kids. After all it features a dog getting strung up by Christmas lights and a surprisingly frank monologue on why Santa doesn’t exist!
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2. Santa's Slay (2005)
Look let’s be honest, any film starring a former professional wrestler is going to be suspect, so don’t expect anything amazing out of this Billy Goldberg starring Santa slayfest. However look beyond the acting and you’ll find a so-bad-it’s-good seasonal black comedy, complete with Hell Deer, exploding presents and Santa’s trip to a strip club.
3. Jack Frost (1996)
It may sound like it’s been ripped from the script of a failed superhero movie but here’s the set up for Jack Frost: A serial killer’s on his way to death row in the week before Christmas and gets involved in an accident with some kind of toxic waste that turns him into a mutant snowman who then goes on a killing spree. It’s ridiculous, right the way down to the heroes’ use of a hair dryer to dispatch the titular villain. Amazingly though, despite getting slammed by critics, it eventually spawned a sequel in the shape of the incredibly titled Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman.
4. Krampus (2015)
This recent seasonal spooktacular was a welcome addition to the holiday-themed horror genre. An enchanting animation that was written and directed by Michael Dougherty - who’s best known for his scribblings on X2 and Superman Returns - the film follows the titular beasty from German folklore, a sort of anti-santa who is half goat and half demon. Alongside the predictable parable about festive feelings it’s a surprisingly frightening festive flick, especially for younger viewers.
5. Black Christmas (1974)
Black Christmas is a classic slasher flick that just happens to be set against a seasonal backdrop. The action takes place in a sorority house on Christmas Eve where a crazed killer is hacking away at victims. It’s gruesome stuff, but the film is perhaps most memorable for setting up some of the stereotypes that have become par for the course for modern horror flicks. After all this is the film that made ominous phone calls a slasher staple long before Scream was even a figment in its writer’s imagination.
6. Black X-Mas (2006)
A loose remake of the 1974 original, this reboot caused controversy after the studio saw fit to release it on Christmas Day flying in the face of a small army of protesters who thought it wasn’t exactly in the ‘Christmas spirit’. It’s perhaps easy to see why given the gruesome content matter, which revolves around imprisonment, abuse, and all manner of brutal killings. At one point the villain makes cookies out of his mother. No, really.
7. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Christmas-themed Halloween flick or Halloween-themed Christmas classic? It’s hard to know where to stand on Tim Burton’s perennially popular kook-fest, but seeing how the plot involves Jack Skelington kidnapping Santa we’re going to go ahead and include it here. Oh and did we mention it was awesome? No? Because it is.
8. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
They made Santa into a serial killer, so it was perhaps no surprise that this film ruffled a few feathers upon its release in 1984. It’s pretty inane by today’s standards, but the idea of Santa - a man with a list of who’s been naughty or nice and easy access to anyone’s home - being a crazed killer is still pretty fun. Clearly Hollywood thought so too as the film went on to spawn a staggering four sequels.