Horror movies succeed based on one goal: do they tap into the underlying fears and premonitions rumbling beneath society? Remove some of the rules stitching us together, and introduce a fantastical, sadistic variable—that’s what great horror does.
So that Christmas season has been fertile soil for the genre’s tilling isn’t a surprise. The holiday and its supporters shoves glee and cheer down your throat you’d feel crazy not participating. That’s what these 11 films show: What if Christmas got a little crazy? The answer is simple—forget the green, Christmas is all about the red.
Silent Night, Bloody Night
A film harshly received upon its release due to its bloody violence, causing Rogert & Ebert to “shame” everyone who made this film. But some of us like our bloody violence and sadistic Santas.
Some consider Black Christmas the first proper slasher film. With angst-inducing phone calls, creepy foreign noises, and Christmas lights made more eerie than cheery, it traps girls in their sorority house, oblivious to the killer in the attic. You will not forget some surprisingly witty banter and fear plastic wrap forevermore afterwards.
Revel in this campiness: A serial killer named “Jack Frost” crashes into a genetics material truck, causing a fusion with the white powder, transforming him into the abominable snowman. Watching it, you can’t believe how far they really go to push their trashy aesthetic. Jack calls himself “the world’s most pissed off snow cone” before finishing off a victim with an icicle. Pass the red dye, please.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
What a threat to a child. He’s making a list and checking it twice. Don’t be naughty, be nice. That way you’ll get present. But what if you’re naughty? Well A Christmas Tale turns the Christmas myth on its head, as Santa is really a supernatural being who really punishes those naughty brats.
This Dutch reimagining follows a similar conceit about the true nature of Saint Nick. What if Sinterklass was a medieval ghost who returned with the full moon to claim vengeance? This 2010 film was the top-grossing in Denmark the year of its release.
I mean, isn’t there something twisted about how we gift big-eyed furballs to children, then instructing them to love said furballs? Gremlins doesn’t require much explanation—its cultish followers will tell you all you need to know—but this film necessitates inclusion for the scene when those furry creatures don red Santa hats and creepily sing “Deck the Halls.” Watching that makes me wish they’d go Fa La La themselves.
Christmas Horror Story
Last year’s anthology Christmas movies intersects four stories that aren’t so festive. Using William Shatner as a radio DJ to tell these stories, it also features a 25-minute segment on the Krampus myth that’s better and carries more depth than Krampus itself. Though that’s not saying much.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
More angsty than scary, Tim Burton’s conception of Jack Skellington remains a classic. It disturbs you, especially with Danny Elfman’s undertow of a score, but makes you reach out more than collapse into the fetal position.
Black Mirror’s “White Christmas”
Though it’s television, this 74-minute dread-inducing techno-thriller utilizes the backdrop of Christmas to its ultimate perverse effects. Christmas overwhelms the most stable of souls with a need for human connection. But what if that love was blocked from you? I guess Jon Hamm gets to tell you stories?
Home Alone & Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Kevin McAllister is a bully. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Within the original, he acts in self-defense. But the sequel sees Kevin ascending to his full Jigsaw powers. He throws bricks at the Wet Bandits’ heads and giggles in their faces! And that’s just how it starts! It’s the mirthless death scream of a true villain. Horror indeed.