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Even after Andy Williams made “scary ghost stories” sound like a common holiday season tradition in “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” the mere concept of Christmas horror movies still sounds like gibberish to many audiences today. However, a true fan of the genre knows just what to look for when seeking some spooky, good fun during the holidays. However, if the first title to pop into your head was Gremlins, as much as I commend that answer, it clearly means you have not done your homework.
The holiday horror flick is an established and on-going subgenre that has almost been around as long as people have been going to the movies for a good scare. Yet, despite a few well-known hits here and there and plenty of critical acclaim for most, this type of film has yet to find a place in the mainstream alongside Christmas classics like Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life, or even Die Hard, depending on whichever side of that debate you fall under.
Well, as this most joyful time is finally upon us, now seems like as good a time as ever to give credit where it is due and honor the holiday films where red comes at the sight of blood and green is the color your face will turn by the end. While 12 is a number more often associated with the season thanks to a particular Christmas carol, I felt that 13 would be a more appropriate selection of movies that should already be a part of every horror fan’s annual traditions, starting with one hilarious adventure that most of the family can enjoy together.
A young man (Zach Galligan) receives a unique, furry creature from his father for Christmas which comes with a set of rules that, once broken, could put his entire quaint town in danger.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: For any squeamish viewers, there is not too much “red,” but plenty of green once the titular monsters from Gremlins emerge to bring holiday fear in director Joe Dante’s classic creature feature written by future Home Alone director Chris Columbus and produced by Steven Spielberg.
Rent Gremlins on Amazon here.
“Scrooged” visiting relatives cause Max (Emjay Anthony) to lose his Christmas spirit and accidentally summon an ancient evil with more sinister plans than a lump of coal for those on his naughty list.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: What co-writer and director Michael Dougherty did for Halloween with 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat, he attempts to do for Christmas by putting a comically morbid spin on all things merry and bright in Krampus, which is based on a real and terrifying German folk tale about a demon who punishes misbehaving children.
Rent Krampus on Amazon here.
Black Christmas (1974)
While spending winter break together on their empty college campus, a group of sorority sisters begin to suspect someone can see them when they are sleeping and knows when they are awake and it certainly is not Santa.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: Nearly a decade before director Bob Clark released his undisputed hilarious family masterpiece A Christmas Story, he arguably gave birth to the modern slasher movie with his first holiday classic, Black Christmas - which has been remade twice, but never to the same acclaim.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Years of abuse and recent flashbacks of his parents’ murder drive a teenager (Robert Brian Wilson) recently hired as a department store Santa to go on a murderous rampage.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: Technically, it actually is Santa who sees people when they are sleeping and knows when they are awake before giving them a particularly gruesome gift in Silent Night, Deadly Night - probably the most beloved cult classic about a killer Kris Kringle, of which there are a surprising amount.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Growing tired of the same spooky celebrations, Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) comes across a land that treats Christmas as obsessively as his home treats Halloween, inspiring a misguided attempt to incorporate holiday cheer into a town defined by fear.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: Santa (the real one) actually becomes a victim, but nothing further than kidnapping, in The Nightmare Before Christmas - an irresistibly creepy and highly inventive stop-motion animated fantasy from producer Tim Burton, Coraline director Henry Selick, and composer Danny Elfman.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
After a series of alarming disappearances, a boy, his father, and his hunting buddies hold the recently unearthed Santa Claus for ransom from the shady corporation that dug him up, only to become targets of their prisoner’s loyal elves.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: Santa (the real one) is also a victim of kidnapping, but apparently a perpetrator of the crime, too, in Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale - a Finnish thriller that might be the strangest movie that actually treats its dark twist on holiday themes somewhat in earnest.
Anna And The Apocalypse (2017)
A teenager (Ella Hunt) and her friends must fight to survive after Scotland becomes overrun with hordes of the flesh-eating, reanimated corpses of Christmas shoppers and others dressed as festive figures.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: As an inventive mix of uproarious zombie carnage literally splattered against traditional images of the holiday that is also a musical, Anna and the Apocalypse is an absolute blast that horror comedy lovers could actually enjoy any time of the year.
Better Watch Out (2016)
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: If you ever wanted to know how Home Alone might have played out if it pushed for an R rating, it might look something like Better Watch Out - a home invasion thriller with the pulse of a horror movie and the heart of a suburban satire.
A workaholic businesswoman (Rachel Nichols) is trapped in her company building’s parking garage by a sadistic security guard (Wes Bentley) one late Christmas Eve.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: While its only real connection to the holidays is its setting, P2 is still worth a watch as a surprisingly intense cat and mouse game co-written by Alexandre Aja and carried swimmingly by its talented central leads.
The Wolf Of Snow Hollow (2020)
A series of grisly deaths that all mysteriously occurred under a full moon during the holiday season leads a small town cop and the rest of his department to question if their perpetrator is a werewolf.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: Jim Cummings of Thunder Road fame writes, directs, and leads the cast of The Wolf of Snow Hollow - a more recent thriller that boasts a quirky sense of humor amid its suspenseful tone and also sees the late Robert Forster in his final onscreen performance.
Rent The Wolf of Snow Hollow on Amazon here.
The Lodge (2020)
Having already dreaded the idea of spending Christmas with her fiancé’s kids (Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh), a woman (Riley Keough) begins to suspect that the heavy snowfall is not the only thing keeping them trapped in their remote cabin.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: The Austrian directorial duo behind Goodnight Mommy take that 2015 chiller’s themes of dysfunctional family issues (to put it lightly) to more unrelentingly tragic levels with their English-language debut The Lodge - another recent release that I consider to be one of the most brilliant shockers of 2020.
The story of a man (Seth Green) whose life begins to unravel after discovering the unusual power of his son's Christmas gift is just one of several equally shocking tales that put new meaning to “surviving the holidays.”
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: While director Scott Stewart’s creepy Christmas-themed story only takes up a mere 15 minutes of Holidays, it is one of the strongest segments in this anthology that features a Halloween-set chapter by Kevin Smith and and opens with a “hearty” Valentine’s Day bit from 2019’s Pet Semetary directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer.
Jack Frost (1997)
When the vehicle transporting him to death row crashes with a truck hauling genetically engineered liquid nitrogen, a serial killer (Scott MacDonald) is resurrected in the form of a snowman and wreaks havoc on a local town of Christmas-obsessed citizens.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: While the plot does bare some similarities to 1998 family film Jack Frost starring Michael Keaton as a father resurrected as a snowman, instead of a heartwarming holiday story, this is one of the most aggressively cheesy horror-comedies ever made.
What do you think? Do you agree with adding Jack Frost to your Christmas horror movie binge, or do believe the Michael Keaton movie is a better qualifier? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back for additional information and updates on any new or classic scary movies, as well as what else you should watch during the holiday season, here on CinemaBlend.