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Christmas Horror Movies: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder

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BY December 22, 2019
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For many horror fans, Halloween is the actual “most wonderful time of the year.” That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy horror at other times of the year, of course. In fact, pretty much every major holiday has inspired at least one horror flick. As such, if you’re a horror fan, you might be in the mood for some Christmas horror movies. Maybe you’re tired of traditional Christmas movies or even alternatives, like Die Hard or Batman Returns. If so, here’s a list of old favorites and newer classics.

It Happened One Night: Horror Movies Set During Christmas

Christmas horror movies image via Frost Bite Films, Ltd.

These are horror movies that are set during the holidays, but are not necessarily about the holidays. It’s just Christmas vibes, if you will.

Home for the Holidays

This 1972 TV-movie is about a quartet of sisters whose father summons them home for, well, the holiday. Once they arrive, he confides that he thinks their stepmom is trying to kill them. And then a verified killer in a yellow raincoat starts stalking the gals. The legendary Walter Brennan plays dad Benjamin, while Jessica Walter and Sally Field are two of the daughters. It’s a bit soapy–the also legendary Aaron Spelling was one of the producers–but it’s good scary fun.

(available on Prime Video and uh, also on Youtube)

Gremlins

In case you somehow haven’t seen it, this 1984 classic is about the mayhem that ensues after an ill-considered Christmas gift. Actually, the gift would have been fine if only they’d followed the rules. But they didn’t, and rules are important in horror movies. Sometimes breaking them can put you in the path of a killer, like in slasher films, and sometimes, you just have to battle little monsters.

(available for rental on multiple streamers)

Jack Frost

As with everyone who writes about this movie, I have to put the disclaimer that this is not the allegedly heart-warming movie of the same name that came out a year later. Yes, somehow the film where the dad dies in a car accident and comes back to life as a snowman is not a horror movie. The horror movie is the one where a killer comes back to life as a snowman. Serial killer Jack Frost–sure–is being transported for execution when the vehicle crashes into a *checks notes* genetic research truck. Sure. The chemicals (?) cause him to dissolve and fuse with the snow. Then he wreaks havoc on the burg of SNOWMONTON (!!!), whose sheriff stopped his earlier rampage. Despite a now very ill-advised scene involving a carrot, this movie is a perfect example of so bad it’s good…ish.

(available on Tubi and Vudu for free and for rental on Prime Video)

Dead End

On Christmas Eve, a dad decides to deviate from his family’s typical route to their relatives’ home. Then they pick up a hitchhiker. It gets a lot less festive from there, unless you consider horror movies festive, then it gets really festive.

(available on Tubi for free and for rental on multiple streamers)

Christmas horror movies image via Lions Gate Entertainment

The Gingerdead Man

Like Jack Frost, this film follows the aftermath when a serial killer’s remains mix with something else. As you might have guessed, it’s gingerbread spice. The actual mechanism of how he comes back to life is somehow even more absurd. Unsurprisingly, this movie garnered overwhelmingly negative reviews, but trash fans might like it. (I, for one, have never let a little thing like quality stop me from watching and/or enjoying movies.)

(available on Tubi for free and for rental on other streamers)

Wind Chill

Although this movie received mixed reviews, many people might like its atmospheric charms. This one focuses on two anonymous college students, played by Emily Blunt and Ashton Holmes, who are sharing a ride home for break. When an encounter with another menacing driver forces them off the road (and disables their vehicle), things get spooky.

(available on Crackle for free and for rental on multiple streamers)

ATM

This one got even worse reviews than Wind Chill, but I liked it. The story: 3 coworkers are headed home after an office Christmas party when they stop by the titular ATM vestibule. Unfortunately for them, so does a creep. Cat-and-mouse horror ensues.

(available for rental on multiple streamers)

Christmas horror movies image via IFC Films

Better Watch Out

It’s a (horror) story as old as time: a babysitter and her charge are terrorized by a mysterious outsider. (But in this one, it’s Christmas!) Although this movie starts out with a…let’s say “classic” premise, it has enough twists and turns to make it worth watching.

(available on Tubi and Crackle for free and for rental on multiple streamers)

Anna and the Apocalypse

And here is another well-worn storyline: the Christmas zombie musical, which we’ve all seen a million times. I’m joking, of course. Despite the seemingly disparate elements, this Scotland-set flick is surprisingly charming for a movie described as “Shaun of the Dead meets La La Land,” which sounds like the worst thing I’ve ever heard today.

(available on Hulu and for rental on other streamers)

Christmas Horror Movies: The Real Minced Meat

And now we get to the movies that aren’t just set at Christmas–they’re counting on it. (I have no idea what that means.)

Black Christmas

While a new version of this has just hit theaters, there were actually 2 versions before that. The 2006 version was passable, no thanks to studio intervention by the Weinsteins, but you really should check out the original. Along with being one of the first slasher films, it’s a movie that understands the value of suspense. (Sometimes a rare quality in horror, surprisingly.)

(available on Tubi and Vudi for free and for rental on multiple streamers)

Black Christmas 1974 image via Warner Bros

Christmas Evil

A disturbed man obsessed with the idea of Christmas values dons a Santa suit and goes a-killing. You Better Watch Out was one of its original titles and it’s on the money, because he’s gonna find out if you’re naughty or nice. And if you’re not the latter, he’s coming. Fun fact: The killer is played by Brandon Maggart, aka Fiona Apple’s dad.

(available on DVD and Bluray)

Silent Night, Deadly Night

If the plot of Christmas Evil sounded familiar, but you know you’ve never seen it, it’s probably because you’ve actually thinking of this movie. It got a lot more attention than the previous one, largely due to its ad campaign. (“You’ve made it through Halloween, now try and survive Christmas.”) The image of a Santa killer made 80s parents so mad. So mad, in fact, that the film was yanked from theaters a week after it opened. It would then go on to become a cult classic and spawn multiple sequels.

(available for rental on iTunes and Vudu)

Elves

This movie has everything: Elves, demonic elves, Nazi secrets, the guy who played Grizzly Adams, and the line, “I had a rough day at work–Santa got murdered.” This movie is hot garbage, but you know, some folks are into that. Not to be confused with the 2018 movie of the same name, which, amazingly, got even lower ratings.

(available on VHS if you find a wormhole and occasionally on video sites)

Sint

This is like the Dutch version of Silent Night, Deadly Night, in that its poster upset a lot of Dutch parents. (The title is short for Sinterklaas, the OG Santa Claus.) Unfortunately, it is not a Dutch treat. Neither good nor so bad it’s good, it’s just kinda there. It might be worth watching if you want to see Mean Dutch Santa kill some kids, though. (But maybe you should talk to someone about that, instead.)

(available on Hulu and for rental on multiple streamers)

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Members of an archaeological dig in Finland discover the real Santa Claus. However, the genuine article is not as friendly as the legends would have you believe. That is to say, after he’s freed, children start going missing. Despite the surface-level similarity to Sint, this is a much better mix of horror and comedy.

Rare Exports image via Oscilloscope Pictures

A Christmas Horror Story

Christmas horror movies don’t tend to be anthologies, so this movie is the rare exception. (And y’all know I’m a gal who loves anthologies.) Anyway, Dangerous Dan, a DJ played by William Shatner, stars in the story that works as the framing device. He works his shift, cranking tunes at the radio station while various Christmas horror stories–see the title–take place all over town.

(available on Shudder and for rental on various streamers)

Krampus

Although Krampus makes an appearance in A Christmas Horror Story, he’s not the focus like he is in this film. If you’re unfamiliar with Krampus, then all you need to know is that the only scarier Christmas demon is the Elf on the Shelf. Originating in Central Europe, Krampus is kind of the dark side of Santa–the good Santa, not the one who’s murdering the kids in all these other movies. Basically, if you’re naughty, Krampus will come for you. And that’s what he does in this movie. While this isn’t the only Krampus movie, it’s by far the best, even if it did garner mixed reviews.

(available on Fubo, whatever that is, and for rental on various streamers)

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So there’s a mix of Christmas horror movies. Did I leave out any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments or come tell us on social media.

featured image via Warner Bros and Amblin Entertainment

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Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.

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