Andy Williams made “scary ghost stories” sound like a common holiday season tradition in “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” but 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 the best horror movies that offer some spooky, good fun during the holidays.
Well, now seems like as good a time as ever to give credit where it is due and honor the great holiday movies where red comes at the sight of blood and green is the color your face will turn by the end. However, they should still be considered Christmas movies nonetheless.
Alysson Paradis stars as a recently widowed expectant mother visited on Christmas Eve by a mysterious woman (played by Béatrice Dalle) who wants her unborn child all for her own, by any means necessary.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: Not to be confused with Bo Burnham’s 2021 Netflix comedy special or a 2023 thriller starring Willem Dafoe, Inside – from writing and directing duo Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury – is one the best (and most brutal) examples of a few different categories: home invasion thrillers, horror movies that explore grief, and films from the mid-2000s French New Extremity movement.
Silent Night (2021)
A well-to-do family goes forward with hosting their annual holiday party with close friends on the eve of a cataclysmic environmental disaster.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, and Jojo Rabbit’s Roman Griffin Davis lead writer and director Camille Griffin’s Silent Night – a deliciously demented satire that elevates the struggle to keep the holidays bright when all hell breaks loose to, literally, world-ending levels.
Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022)
Riley Dandy plays a record store owner whose plans to party on the night before Christmas are interrupted when she becomes the next target of a killer robot Santa.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: As far as I am concerned, the words “killer robot Santa” should be enticing enough to give writer and director Joe Begos’ technophobic, eye-catchingly neon, old-fashioned slasher, Christmas Bloody Christmas, a shot.
Await Further Instructions (2018)
After waking up on Christmas morning, a family discovers they are trapped by a strange barrier completely surrounding their home as foreboding messages appearing on the TV cause the relatives to question their safety from the outside and even from one another.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: Sometimes family gatherings during the holidays are not so cheerful and the British sci-fi nail-biter Await Further Instructions exaggerates that very relatable concept to a sometimes frustrating, but still thoroughly intense, degree while also incorporating some especially frightening social commentary.
After making a stop for some cash on their way back from a company Christmas party, three coworkers (played by Brian Geraghty, Josh Peck, and Alice Eve) find themselves trapped inside a vestibule by a stranger whose malicious intentions soon become clear.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: From Buried scribe Chris Sparling comes another claustrophobic thriller but spliced with a deadly cat-and-mouse game, called ATM, which takes advantage of the winter weather that comes during the holiday season in very horrifying ways.
After taking a job as the mascot for a new toy just in time for the holidays, a struggling actor (played by Nyasha Hatendi) starts to suspect that the furry character is somehow taking over and irreparably damaging his life.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: The first Christmas-themed installment of Into the Dark – Blumhouse’s Hulu-exclusive monthly showcase of holiday-themed horror flicks – is Pooka!, which is one of the most unique, unsettling, thought-provoking and, simply, weirdest movies by director Nacho Vigalondo.
Zach Galligan stars as a young man who 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.
“Scrooged” visiting relatives cause a young boy 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 bringing a terrifying German folk tale to life in Krampus, which could get a sequel if Dougherty’s plans get the greenlit..
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, but it is certainly not Santa.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: Nearly a decade before director Bob Clark released his hilarious, family-friendly 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 played by Robert Brian Wilson, who was recently hired as a department store Santa, to go on a murderous rampage.
Why it's one of the best Christmas Horror Movies: Technically, you could say it 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 (voiced by 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 of 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 (who has an idea for a prequel), 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 a victim of kidnapping, but apparently a perpetrator of the same 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 (played by 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)
Olivia DeJonge plays a 17-year-old girl hired to look after her 12-year-old neighbor (played Levi Miller) and his friend (DeJonge’s The Visit co-star, Ed Oxenbould) on Christmas Eve, but must become their protector when intruders come stirring.
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.
Rachel Nichols plays a workaholic businesswoman trapped in her company building’s parking garage by a sadistic security guard (played by Wes Bentley) one late Christmas Eve night.
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, which boasts a quirky sense of humor amid its suspenseful tone and also sees the late Robert Forster in his final onscreen performance.
The Lodge (2020)
Having already dreaded the idea of spending Christmas with her fiancé’s kids (played by Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh), a woman (played by 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, which is one of the best horror movies on Max at the moment.
Seth Green plays a man whose life begins to unravel after discovering the unusual power of his son's Christmas gift in 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 great anthology horror movie that also features a Halloween-set chapter by Kevin Smith and opens with a “hearty” Valentine’s Day bit from 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 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 bear some similarities to the 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.
For how obscure and unlikely the concept of the Christmas horror movie is, as you can see, there are plenty of movies available to help make sure you have a bloody good holiday season, and the list continues to grow with upcoming horror movies like It’s a Wonderful Knife.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.