For those of you who like your holiday movies scary, not merry, here are twelve nightmarish Christmas films to help put you in the seasonal mood...
Black Christmas (1974)
Nine years before he gifted America the holiday perennial A Christmas Story, Bob Clark unleashed this holiday horror classic about a bloodthirsty psycho slaying sorority girls on Christmas Eve. This seminal slasher film is credited with giving birth to the holiday-themed horror film craze that continued with Halloween, My Bloody Valentine and some of the others on our list. Best of all it stars Margot Kidder as a boozy sorority gal!
Christmas Evil aka You Better Watch Out (1980)
Cult film director John Waters called this, “the greatest Christmas movie ever made.” If you share Waters’ taste for the nutty, don’t miss this deliciously demented chestnut about a deranged toymaker who dresses up like Santa and delivers the gift of murder to everyone on his “naughty” list.
Poor Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) gets the Christmas gift that keeps on giving--terror--in this horror-comedy classic about a cute little pet named Gizmo that spawns a race of little green monsters. The scariest moment in the film, however, belongs to Phoebe Cates, who delivers one of the most frighteningly ridiculous monologues in film history.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
The most famous of the “killer Santa Claus” movies, this ho-ho-horrifying tale traces the rise of poor little Billy Chapman from traumatized victim of his parents’ Christmas Eve murders to murderer in a Santa suit! The film – and its Santa-with-an-axe ad campaign - angered parents so much during its initial theatrical run that it got the axe from theaters two weeks after its release.
Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas (1984)
In this holiday slasher flick, it’s Santa Claus – or rather the men and women dressed up like him – who are the victims of a demented serial killer! If there’s a Santa-hating killer on the loose in your town, better think twice about wearing that St. Nick suit or you might lose your fake-bearded head.
Batman Returns (1992)
No demented killers dressed in Santa suits here. Just a bunch of freaks disguised as cats, bats and penguins to keep Gotham City sufficiently creepy during the holiday season. Returns revolves around the Penguin’s evil plot to kidnap the city’s first-born children on Christmas Eve. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare before, during, or after Christmas.
Jack Frost (1997)
Not to be confused with the unintentionally scary Michael Keaton movie of the same name, this frightful camp-fest tells the chilling story of a serial killer who, after a freak accident, morphs into a killer snowman. Forget a corncob pipe…this Frosty’s got icicle fangs!
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Evil takes more terrifyingly human form in the late, great Stanley Kubrick’s final film. Set during Christmastime in New York City, the film stars Tom Cruise as a wealthy doctor whose life turns into a living nightmare after he gets mixed up with an elite, satanic cult. Pay close attention during the film’s opening Christmas party scene: those aren’t holiday stars on the walls; they’re pentagrams!
A Christmas Carol (2009)
People sometimes forget that Charles Dickens’ holiday classic is, at its core, a ghost story. Surprisingly, Disney’s 2009 animated version doesn’t shy away from the more frightening aspects of the original novel as it spins the classic tale of a miserly banker visited on Christmas Eve by three spirits, including the chillingly Grim Reaper-esque Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
This blackly comic Finnish import plays like a strange cross between Santa Clause: The Movie and John Carpenter’s The Thing. On Christmas Eve, a team of archeologists in Finland unearths a frozen Santa Claus. When he thaws out, he’s hardly the holly, jolly fellow of Coca-Cola commercials; instead, he’s a nightmarish creature of myth that delights in punishing naughty children!
The title of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller may reference Greek mythology but its story plays out like a twisted retelling of the Biblical Nativity story. Landing on the planet LV-223 on Christmas day, the ship’s infertile crewmember Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) finds herself miraculously pregnant with an alien baby hell-bent on destroying humanity, rather than saving it.
Silent Night (2012)
The Ghost of Christmas Horror Movies Past brings us this recent update of 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night, starring the current queen of horror remakes, Jaime King (Mother’s Day in 2010, My Bloody Valentine in 2009). Time will tell if this becomes another holiday slasher classic like the original.
Until next time, wishing you and your loved ones a Merry Axe-mas to all, and to all a good fright!