Guide to Christmas Horror Films

Christmas is the most joyful time of the year. So of course you have films like It’s A Wonderful Life, Miracle On 34th Street and Home Alone that make you feel good during the time, then in contrast you have the horror films.

They are bound to scare you, as they take a happy time and twist it for the worst. Here I’ll list horror films, in no particular order, for your horrific and gruesome viewing pleasure over the holiday.

Black Christmas (1974)

One of the first slasher films made, a crazy killer breaks into a sorority house, makes threatening phone calls, and kills people off one by one. Very effective with little on-screen violence and a killer we hardly see; the only part of him we see clearly is an eye.

We also enjoy several shots from the killer’s point of view, showing how unstable and mentally disturbed he is. Very little is revealed about the killer, other than he calls himself Billy and that he thinks the sorority girl is someone called Agnes.

The film has some acting legends such as Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea, Andrea Martin and John Saxon, who are all fantastic. The creepiest kill in the film happens while we watch children carol singing of O Come All Ye Faithful being played over it. Merry Christmas!

Black Christmas (2006)

A remake of the original film that loosely follows the plot, the 2006 Black Christmas is nowhere near as good as it’s very silly but it’s fun. The suspense of the original has been replaced with excessive gore and instead of a mysterious killer he’s been given a detailed backstory.

There are a lot of bizarre decisions; the killer having jaundice and having an obsession with eye gouging for no real reason; there’s a female character obviously played by a man (reminded me of one of Wayan’s brothers from White Chicks).

It’s beautifully shot, with golden lighting giving the effect of a fireplace lighting the rooms. The Christmas lighting in the first half may be over-the-top but is still great to look at and the second half of the film is effective with its limited light source.

There are winks to the original film but it has its own film and is a lot more fast-paced. The performances from the mostly all female cast – Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kristen Cloke, Lacey Chabert and Crystal Lowe - are all very good and are all stunning to look at. Also Andrea Martin from the original plays the housemother version.

A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

Here we have an anthology of four stories all loosely connected: 1) Teenagers break into their school to investigate a murder that happened there on Christmas Eve; 2) A little boy begins to act strange after his dad illegally chops down a Christmas tree; 3) After being shut out by their rich aunt, a family is hunted by Krampus; and 4) Santa Clause discovers his wife and elves have turned into zombies.

They are tied together with a radio DJ, played by William Shatner, as well as subtle crossovers and a twist ending, which could lead to several debates. George Buza plays an incredibly feisty Santa Clause; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a version of Santa so intense and badass.

Each story is pretty suspenseful, the scares are very well played out and scenes of violence are deeply unsettling.

Gremlins (1984)

A young man has been given a mysterious but adorable creature for Christmas, and there are three rules: 1) Don’t expose him to bright lights; 2) Don’t get him wet; and 3) Don’t feed him after midnight.

With the rules accidentally broken, the creature spawns other creatures that become evil monsters terrorising the town. The film is very well made with amazing puppetry, lots of red and green lighting to emphasise the Christmas-y feel.

This is very much a dark comedy. The violence can either make you cringe or laugh. Then are silly moments that are clearly supposed to be parodies of other films, and none of that is more explicit than in the scene where the gremlins are all gathered in the cinema to watch Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs.

Rare Exports: A Christmas (2010)

This is a Finnish film about a son of a deer hunter who believes he and other children are being targeted a killer Santa for being naughty. It's a very twisted reimagining of Santa’s origins, with morally grey characters and a pretty exciting action-packed climax.

A tongue-in-cheek ending may make you question shopping centre Santas from now one. An all-male cast, played by unknown actors, all deliver great performances, especially young Onni Tommila as our protagonist Pietari.

While there are a few lines in English, it’s a Finnish language film with subtitles.

Wind Chill (2007)

A girl seeks a ride home from college for Christmas break, and a guy gives her a lift, claiming to go to the college as well. Just as she realises he’s lying about where he’s from, they get caught in a snowstorm and crash the car in the middle of nowhere.

While trapped and freezing, they become haunted by the ghosts of a horrific murder that took place there. The film keeps you on edge, constantly making you question who you should trust, the mystery of the ghosts, and how our characters are going to get out of the situation.

It's very atmospheric with blue filters to emphasise the coldness and darkness, while slow paced with a lot of wide shots to emphasise isolation.

Emily Blunt and Ashton Holmes give terrific performances as the leads, whose characters are not given names at all throughout the film. After watching this film you’ll be afraid to listen to Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree on the radio again.

Silent Night (2012)

This is a loose remake of Silent Night Deadly Night (1984) about a serial killer in a Santa suit punishing the naughty. The main difference is that the killer in the original is the main character, where we follow him from childhood to adulthood to how he became a killer. In this film the killer’s backstory isn’t revealed until the end.

I feel this makes it scarier, keeping the killer a mystery and giving us a likeable protagonist to root for - Aubrey, a police officer determined to stop the killer played very well by Jaime King.

The kills are pretty creative, the backstory is pretty interesting (apparently based on a real tragedy), and there's a fun performance by Malcolm McDowell as the egotistical police chief.

Krampus (2015)

Krampus starts off like a mean-spirited version of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and transforms into a twisted nightmare.

When young Max is frustrated with his dysfunctional family, he accidentally summons Krampus to his home. While the story has some great suspense it mostly plays like a dark comedy and fantasy, with a humorous opening showing the horribleness of consumerism, the grandmother’s history with Krampus told completely in animation, and a lot of the action involves possessed gingerbread men and various toys.

Krampus is a very effective monster, shown mostly in backgrounds and darkness. Close-ups show him covered so his appearance is still mysterious. The lengths he goes to punish the family is both creative and extremely cruel.

The film has a powerhouse ensemble cast with Toni Collette, Adam Scott, Conchata Ferrell, David Koechner, and Allison Tolman mixed with talent from unknowns such as Emjay Anthony as main character Max and Krista Stadler as the German grandmother with a history with Krampus.

So everyone sit by your tree, enjoy a cup of mulled wine, and have a very scary Christmas!

Written by Jack Parish

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