It’s that time of year again, when the days get shorter and the nights get colder and longer. Although Halloween will always be the heavyweight champion of scary holidays, finding the horror in the Christmas season isn’t all that hard… if you know how to look for it. Take Santa for example, an all knowing magical human that sneaks into houses all over the world while we sleep, bringing good children presents and threatening bad children with various forms of punishment.
Then there is Krampus, who I thoroughly explained to you all last year. Click here if you need a refresher.
The Biblical version of the holiday celebration also hides a nasty underbelly just below the surface of the glorious birth of the baby Jesus. It seems every year we overlook that the reason Christ was born in a manger is because of a mad king ordering the mass extermination of all male babies in Bethlehem after hearing a prophecy, which sounds like a bad horror movie all by itself!
With all the endless stresses of the holiday season, not the least of which for many is having to hang out with their dysfunctional family, it’s easy to see why people would turn to a familiar outlet for release. Thus the Christmas horror movie genre was born! There may not be a lot of entries in this category so far, and many of them are admittedly awful, but every year new and better ones come out, giving us hope that this subgenre will one day reach its true potential. Until then here are the top 12 Scariest Christmas Themed Horror movies of all time.
1 – Silent Night, Deadly Night (1974)
Considered to be one of the most controversial movies of all time, Silent Night, Deadly Night was pulled from theaters just one week after it was released! After a young boy witnesses the murder of his parents at the hands of a deranged Santa he is sent to an orphanage where the cruel treatment of the Mother Superior along with the physical abuse incubates his psychosis. Eventually the boy turned man snaps and goes on a killing spree dressed as Santa asking those he crosses paths with if they’ve been naughty or nice.
The film developed a cult following over the years and spawned five sequels and a remake. It’s by far my favorite Christmas horror movie despite having some very cheesy moments. It’s also chock full of exposed female breasts. One of these scenes features original Scream Queens Linnea Quigley being impaled by a deranged killer Santa on a pair of antlers while wearing only a pair of sexy jean shorts. Silent Night, Deadly Night may seem childishly absurd at points, but it is far from a kiddy flick.
2 – Silent Night (2012)
Directed by Steven C. Miller, Silent Night is a loose remake of Charles E. Sellier’s 1984 film Silent Night, Deadly Night that incorporates elements taken from the real life Covina massacre in 2008. It hit theaters right after Christmas and was on DVD a few days later.
In this version Santa Claus terrorizing a small town community on Christmas Eve during the annual Christmas parade. With so many other Santa’s roaming around the police have their work cut out for them finding the real killer, who is hiding in a plain sight. There’s some feeble backstory that explains the revenge motif but the absolute best part is when Aubrey burns Santa with a flamethrower. Now that’s what I call fun for the whole family!
3 – Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
This rare gem of a Christmas horror movie comes from Jalmari Helander. It will absolutely blow you away. The plot centers around a group of local reindeer herders whose Christmas gets interrupted by idiot scientists excavating a nearby mountain that allegedly holds the grave of the historical Santa Claus, only Saint Nick can’t be killed that easily. Using elves disguised as old Santa’s this supernatural monster feeds on naughty children from the burial mound. The scientists want to sell the elves to rich bidders around the world so it is up to the herders and a lone child to save the day and free the stolen children.
4 – Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)
Silent Night, Bloody Night was directed by Theodore Gershuny. It stars Patrick O’Neal along with a bunch of former Warhol superstars including Mary Woronov, Ondine, Candy Darling, Kristen Steen, Tally Brown, Leweis Love, Jack Smith, and Susan Rothenberg. They shot it all in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York.
The movie is about a serial killer on the loose on Christmas Eve. Like most older movies it’s kooky but fun. If you’re not familiar with pop art or Warhol ask your grandparents. They’ll remember.
5 – Jack Frost (1997)
There simply aren’t words for some of the brilliant moments in Jack Frost, the story of a killer snowman. When a truck carrying a condemned serial killer collides with truck full of genetic materials a bloodthirsty ice demon is born! He’s like Frosty’s psychotic cousin who can’t be killed. Naturally the first thing on his agenda is to find the man who finally caught him and take his revenge on him and his family.
But don’t laugh! Because even though the horror comedy only managed to get a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes it gained enough of a following to spawn a terrible, terrible sequel. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to watch!
6 – A Cadaver Christmas (2011)
The dark work of a deranged scientist in the cadaver lab on Christmas unites a cop, his perp, a janitor, a bartender and the town drunk to stave off an army of newly arisen corpses hell bent on converting the living into new recruits for the damned.
Director Joe Zerull brings his zany and macabre vision to life with subtle nods to cult classics Re-Animator and Frankenhooker. Die hard horror aficionados will appreciate the timing, humor, and above all else the gore of this Christmas themed fright flick.
7 – Silent Night, Zombie Night (2009)
It’s almost Christmas but for one cop in Los Angeles there’s not much to celebrate. In fact he’s on the brink of leaving both his wife and his partner when, wouldn’t you know it, the zombie apocalypse breaks out! Now he’s trapped with the two people he hates more than anything in the world as the undead menace closes in.
Silent Night, Zombie Night is chock full of zombie goodness with an extra serving of gore for good measure.
8 – Black Christmas (1974)
This 1974 Canadian independent psychological slasher film was directed by Bob Clark and stars Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, Marian Waldman and John Saxon. The story follows a group of sorority sisters who keep receiving threatening phone calls before being stalked and butchered by a deranged killer hiding in the attic.
Originally panned by critics for its gratuitous violence it later received positive reviews and developed a cult following. Many horror fans now label it one of the original slasher movies. In 2006 the director produced a remake but you’ll wanna stick to the original if you know what’s good for you.
9 – Santa’s Slay (2005)
Santa’s Slay, a black comedy horror movie starring former professional wrestler Bill Goldberg as Santa Claus, was written and directed by David Steiman. In it Santa is basically the Antichrist, and he sets out on Christmas Eve to commit various holiday themed mass murders to both good and evil doers alike.
Turns out that Santa was only giving presents out as part of 1000 years of punishment for losing a bet with an angel and that Christmas itself is actually known as the Day of Slaying. I won’t ruin any of the surprises of this masterpiece for you but I will say that if you’re anything like me you’ll be laughing during this movie, often and uncontrollably, and that you’ll be quoting it to your friends and family for years to come.
10 – Santa Claws (1996)
This holiday themed massacre movie was written and directed by John A. Russo and stars Debbie Rochon playing a B-movie actress (inside a B movie – how meta!) who becomes a real life Scream Queen when her biggest fan starts stalking her. Dressed as Santa he then murders all her co-stars one by one in a jealous rage. Naturally his weapon of choice is the claw.
11 – Sint aka Saint Nick (2010)
Sint (released on DVD as Saint Nick in the United States) is a Dutch horror comedy movie about Sinterklaas, a Santa Claus type according to legend. This version paints Saint Nick as a far less jolly ghost whose hobbies include rounding up his henchmen and committing mass murder during his annual full moon celebration night. Luckily for the hapless villagers what can’t be brought down in a hail of hot led can still be run off with fire.
12 – Krampus (2015)
Which brings us to Krampus, an American horror comedy film based upon the legend from the dark side of Christmas past. Directed by Michael Dougherty, the film stars popular actors Adam Scott and Toni Collette as the head of a suburban family struggling to continue their family holiday traditions. Their endless bickering, and the errant wish of a foolish child, brings down the wrath of the dreaded Krampus, who proceeds to torture them until they learn to get along and enjoy the eggnog as one big happy family.
Fun fact: the film was originally set to release on November 25 but the studio decided to push it to December 4 so that it would coincide with the Krampusnacht, the traditional Austrian festival celebrating Krampus. It’s surprisingly good, and funny as well. This one is still in theaters though, which means if you’re going to see it this holiday season you’ll have to make the dreaded trek to the box office. Still movies like Krampus give us all hope that Christmas themed horror is here to stay and getting stronger every year.
I suggest you start tonight and watch them through into the New Year. And feel free to let me know what I missed!
Until next time, stay scared!