Though horror movies have long been associated with Halloween, quite a few are targeted towards the Christmas holiday. Sometimes they just take place at Christmas; others deal with a killer Santa, elves or even Krampus. They all vary in quality, from absolutely horrible to pretty darn good. Because everyone has their own taste in movies, I am not reviewing these films here. Instead, I am presenting an alphabetical list of some of the more popular Christmas horror movies.
ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE is a 2017 British Christmas zombie musical film directed by John McPhail from a screenplay by Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry based on McHenry’s 2010 BAFTA-nominated short Zombie Musical. It stars an ensemble cast of largely unknown young talent, including Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Marli Siu, Ben Wiggins, Mark Benton, and Paul Kaye. The film premiered at Fantastic Fest on 22 September 2017. It was released in the United Kingdom by Vertigo Releasing and United States by Orion Pictures on 30 November 2018 to generally positive reviews from critics, commending the performances, musical numbers and characterization.
When the zombie apocalypse hits the sleepy town of Little Haven – at Christmas – teenager Anna and her high school friends have to fight, sing and dance to survive, with the undead horde all around them. Teaming up with her best friend John, Anna has to fight her way through zombified snowmen, Santas, elves and Christmas shoppers to get across town to the high school, where they’ll be safe. But they soon discover that being a teenager is just as difficult as staying alive, even at the end of the world.
BETTER WATCH OUT is a 2016 psychological horror film directed by Chris Peckover, from a script he co-wrote with Zack Kahn. It stars Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller and Ed Oxenbould. The film had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest on September 22, 2016, and was released in the United States on October 6, 2017, by Well Go USA and in Australia on November 23, 2017, by Rialto Distribution.
When you think the suburbs, you think safety, but this holiday night the suburbs are anything but safe. Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) thought this babysitting job was going to be an easy night, but the night takes a turn when dangerous intruders break in and terrorize her and the twelve-year-old boy, Luke (Levi Miller), she’s caring for. Ashley defends her charge to the best of her ability only to discover this is no normal home invasion.
BLACK CHRISTMAS (originally titled SILENT NIGHT, EVIL NIGHT in the United States) is a 1974 Canadian slasher film produced and directed by Bob Clark (who went on to make the classic A CHRISTMAS STORY), and written by A. Roy Moore. It stars Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, Marian Waldman, Lynne Griffin and John Saxon.
It’s time for Christmas break, and the sorority sisters make plans for the holiday, but the strange anonymous phone calls are beginning to put them on edge. When Clare disappears, they contact the police, who don’t express much concern. Meanwhile Jess is planning to get an abortion, but boyfriend Peter is very much against it. The police finally begin to get concerned when a 13-year-old girl is found dead in the park. They set up a wiretap to the sorority house, but will they be in time to prevent a sorority girl attrition problem?
BLACK CHRISTMAS (abbreviated as BLACK X-MAS) is a 2006 slasher film written and directed by Glen Morgan and starring Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Hudson, Lacey Chabert, Kristen Cloke, and Andrea Martin. The film takes place several days before Christmas and tells the story of a group of sorority sisters who are stalked and murdered in their house during a winter storm. It is a loose remake of the 1974 film of the same name. A co-production of Canada and the United States, the film was produced by Morgan and James Wong through their production company Hard Eight Pictures, along with 2929 Productions, Adelstein-Parouse Productions and Hoban Segal Productions. It is the second film in the BLACK CHRISTMAS series.
In the 70’s, the boy Billy is born with yellow skin due to a liver disease and his dysfunctional mother rejects him. Later he witnesses his mother and her lover killing his beloved father and burying him in the basement of their house, and he is locked in the attic alone along his childhood. When he is a teenager, he is sexually abused by his mother and she has a baby girl called Agnes. During Christmas, the deranged Billy escapes from his imprisonment, kills his mother and stepfather and blinds one eye of Agnes. He is declared insane and his sister is sent to an orphanage. In the present days, Billy escapes from the Clark Sanatorium to spend Christmas with his family. Meanwhile, his former house is the Delta Alpha Kappa sorority house in the campus of the Clement University, and the housemother and the sisters Kelli Presley, Dana, Lauren Hannon, Megan, Heather, Megan Helms, Melissa and Eve Agnew are preparing the house for Christmas party in a stormy night while Clair Crosby is in her room writing a card to bury the hatchet with her sister. When three sisters vanish, the others receive weird phone calls and believe something is wrong, but they find that they are trapped in the location.
CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)
CHRISTMAS EVIL (originally titled YOU BETTER WATCH OUT) is an American psychological thriller horror film written and directed by Lewis Jackson and starring Brandon Maggart. The plot follows a deranged man obsessed with Santa Claus who eventually goes on a murderous rampage dressed in a Santa Claus suit. Since its release, it has gained a cult following, including praise and repeated viewings by director John Waters.
Widely recognized as the best of the Christmas horror efforts, Christmas Evil is the story of a boy who loves Christmas. He is scarred as a boy when he learns that Santa is not real. Throughout the rest of his life, the toy-maker tries to make the Christmas spirit a reality. He becomes obsessed with the behavior of children and the quality of the toys he makes. When he is met with hypocrisy and cynicism, the resulting snap causes him to go on a yuletide killing spree to complete this dark comedic horror.
A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is a 2015 Canadian anthology horror film directed by Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, and Brett Sullivan. It premiered on July 20, 2015 at the Fantasia International Film Festival and had a limited theatrical release on October 2, 2015, along with a VOD release. The film is a series of interwoven stories tied together by a framework story featuring William Shatner as a radio DJ.
Interwoven stories that take place on Christmas Eve, as told by one festive radio host: A family brings home more than a Christmas tree, a student documentary becomes a living nightmare, a Christmas spirit terrorizes, Santa slays evil.
DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS is a 1984 British slasher film directed by Edmund Purdom. It was written by Derek Ford and Alan Birkinshaw. Somebody with very little Christmas spirit is killing anyone in a Santa suit one London holiday season, and Scotland Yard has to stop him before he makes his exploits an annual tradition.
GREMLINS is a 1984 American comedy horror film directed by Joe Dante and written by Chris Columbus. It draws on legends of folkloric mischievous creatures that cause malfunctions—”gremlins”—in the British Royal Air Force going back to World War II and stars Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates, with Howie Mandel providing the voice of Gizmo, the main mogwai character.
gadget salesman is looking for a special gift for his son and finds one at a store in Chinatown. The shopkeeper is reluctant to sell him the `mogwai’ but sells it to him with the warning to never expose him to bright light, water, or to feed him after midnight. All of this happens and the result is a gang of gremlins that decide to tear up the town on Christmas Eve.
THE GINGERDEAD MAN is a 2005 American comedy slasher film directed by Charles Band. Gary Busey stars as the titular Gingerdead Man, created from a mix of gingerbread spice mix and the ashes of deceased serial killer Millard Findlemeyer, who terrorizes a small-town bakery. The film also stars Robin Sydney, Jonathan Chase, Alexia Aleman, Margaret Blye, James Snyder, and Larry Cedar.
A witch cooks up trouble when she revives her dead serial killer son as a giant psychopathic gingerbread man intent on killing the girl who had him executed.
JACK FROST is a 1997 American direct-to-video comedy slasher film written and directed by Michael Cooney. It takes place in the fictional town of Snowmonton, where (on the week before Christmas) a truck carrying serial killer Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) to his execution crashes into a genetics truck. The genetic material causes Jack’s body to mutate and fuse together with the snow on the ground. Jack is presumed dead and his body melts away. However, he comes back as a killer snowman and takes revenge on the man who finally caught him, Sheriff Sam Tiler (Christopher Allport).
Despite being critically panned, the film has developed a cult following for its comical death scenes and poor special effects, and was followed by a sequel in 2000, JACK FROST 2: REVENGE OF THE MUTANT KILLER SNOWMAN. JACK FROST marked the film debut of Shannon Elizabeth.
KRAMPUS is a 2015 American Christmas horror comedy film based on the eponymous character from Austro-Bavarian folklore, directed by Michael Dougherty, and written by Dougherty, Todd Casey and Zach Shields. The film stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, with Krista Stadler, and introducing Lolo Owen, Queenie Samuel, Maverick Flack, and Sage Hunefeld. In the film, a dysfunctional family squabbling causes a young boy to lose his festive spirit. Doing so unleashes the wrath of Krampus, a fearsome, horned demonic beast in ancient European folklore who punishes naughty children at Christmastime. As Krampus lays siege to the neighborhood, the family must band together to save one another from a monstrous fate.
The concept for KRAMPUS began in 2011, when Dougherty was planning to make a Christmas-themed horror film, with him and Shields writing the screenplay. Production on the film began in 2014, with Dougherty directing and writing a new screenplay with Shields and Casey. The casting call began from November 2014 to March 2015. Principal photography on the film began on March 12 and wrapped in May 2015. Creature effects were made by Weta Workshop.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (also known as TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS) is a 1993 American stop-motion animated musical dark fantasy holiday film directed by Henry Selick (in his feature directorial debut) and produced and conceived by Tim Burton. It tells the story of Jack Skellington, the King of “Halloween Town” who stumbles upon “Christmas Town” and becomes obsessed with celebrating the holiday. Danny Elfman wrote the songs and score, and provided the singing voice of Jack. The principal voice cast also includes Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Ken Page, Paul Reubens, Glenn Shadix, and Ed Ivory.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS originated in a poem written by Burton in 1982 while he was working as an animator at Walt Disney Productions. With the success of VINCENT in the same year, Burton began to consider developing THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS as either a short film or 30-minute television special to no avail. Over the years, Burton’s thoughts regularly returned to the project and in 1990, he made a development deal with Walt Disney Studios. Production started in July 1991 in San Francisco; Disney initially released the film through Touchstone Pictures because the studio believed the film would be “too dark and scary for kids”.
RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE is a 2010 Finnish fantasy action horror film written and directed by Jalmari Helander about people living near Korvatunturi who discover the secret behind Santa Claus. The film is based on the 2003 short film RARE EXPORTS INC. and its 2005 sequel RARE EXPORTS: THE OFFICIAL SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS by Jalmari Helander and Juuso Helander, both of which involve a company that traps wild Santa Clauses and trains and exports them to locations around the world.
A young boy named Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his friend Juuso (Ilmari Järvenpää) think a secret mountain drilling project near their home in northern Finland has uncovered the tomb of Santa Claus. However, this a monstrous, evil Santa, much unlike the cheery St. Nick of legend. When Pietari’s father (Jorma Tommila) captures a feral old man (Peeter Jakobi) in his wolf trap, the man may hold the key to why reindeer are being slaughtered and children are disappearing.
RED CHRISTMAS is a 2016 Australian horror film written, directed, and produced by Craig Anderson. It’s Christmas in Australia as Diane, played by the Dee Wallace, brings together her estranged family for a chaotic holiday gathering. A 20 year old decision literally comes back to haunt her when the ghost of Christmas past comes knocking at her door and is invited inside the family estate. Festivities quickly turn blood red, when the stranger is revealed to be Cletus, Diane’s aborted fetus, all grown up, very much alive and ready to terrorize his long lost mother. Diane must face her past and explain the hideous truth that is trying to kill them all, especially to Jerry, her Down Syndrome son, before it’s too late.
SANTA’S SLAY is a 2005 Canadian-American Christmas slasher comedy film that stars professional wrestler Bill Goldberg as Santa Claus. The film was written and directed by David Steiman, a former assistant to Brett Ratner; Ratner served as a producer.
In the Christmas Eve of 2005, Santa Claus (Bill Goldberg) arrives in Hell Township killing the locals. The teenager Nicholas Yuleson (Douglas Smith) finds that his grandfather (Robert Culp) is actually an angel that defeated the devil’s son in a bet, and the evil creature has spent the last one thousand years playing a good Santa Claus, giving toys to the children. Now that the bet is over, Santa Claus wants revenge. Nicholas and his girlfriend Mary Mackenzie (Emilie de Ravin) try to escape from the killer and find a way to stop him until the end of Christmas.
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT is a 1984 American psychological slasher film directed by Charles E. Sellier, Jr., and starring Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Linnea Quigley, Britt Leach, and Leo Geter. The story concerns a young man named Billy, who suffers from post-traumatic stress over witnessing his parents’ murder on Christmas Eve by a man disguised as Santa Claus and his subsequent upbringing in an abusive Catholic orphanage. In adulthood, the Christmas holiday leads him into a psychological breakdown, and he emerges as a spree killer donning a Santa suit.
The film was released by Tri-Star Pictures on November 9, 1984, where it received substantial controversy over its promotional material and content, which featured a killer Santa Claus. In addition to receiving negative reviews, it was pulled from theaters a week after its release. However, it was a success during its opening week, grossing $2.5 million on a budget of $750,000. Since its release, it has developed a cult following and spawned a series, consisting of four sequels, with the fourth and fifth installments having no connection to the original film, as well as a loose remake in 2012.
When available, I have provided links to purchase these films to add to your collection. In some cases, these may be out of print, demanding collector’s prices. Hopefully these movies will help make your holiday season so much brighter…even if it is just a bright red.
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