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Tinsel & Terror - 20 Horror Movies For The Holiday Season

We pick 20 naughty and nice horror movies with an Xmas theme.






Words by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

When Charles Dickens injected supernatural elements into his beloved classic A Christmas Carol, he couldn’t have known how inextricably linked the holiday season would become with the horror genre in the latter half of the 20th century. Over the past four decades we’ve seen a host of horror movies set during the festive season. We've selected 20 of the most ho-ho-horrific.



Home for the Holidays (1972)

Not to be confused with the Jodie Foster directed 1995 comedy, this made for TV thriller was an instalment of US Network ABC’s wildly popular Movie of the Week series. Produced by TV mogul Aaron Spelling, this features western stalwart Walter Brennan as an aging father who convinces his three daughters (including Sally Field and Arrested Development’s Jessica Walter) to murder their stepmother, who he believes is attempting to poison him.



Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

The Grandson of a millionaire murdered on Christmas Eve inherits his Grandfather’s mansion, only to discover a killer is willing to do anything to keep him from moving in. The most interesting aspect of this dull thriller is that most of its cast were former alumni of Andy Warhol, and co-producer Lloyd Kaufman would go on to found the infamous Troma label, giving Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn his start in the process.



Tales from the Crypt (1972)

One of many anthology movies from Britain's Amicus studio, this one, based on the ‘50s American comic book, features a segment that boasts the first screen appearance of a killer Santa. After having just murdered her husband on Christmas Eve, Joan Collins becomes trapped in her home by an escaped lunatic in a Santa costume.



Black Christmas (1974)

Considered the first modern slasher movie, Canadian director Bob Clark’s seasonal horror would inspire a host of imitations; even John Carpenter claims to have taken inspiration for his masterpiece Halloween. With a bunch of young female students stalked by a killer in their sorority house, this set a template for the slasher genre that would become a cliché a decade later.



Christmas Evil (1980)

The first of a bunch of ‘80s horror flicks featuring killers decked out in Santa outfits, this was originally released under the title You Better Watch Out. Like so many horror movie villains, this movie’s Christmas obsessed killer is scarred for life as a child after witnessing his parents making out, in this case seeing his father copping a feel of his mother while dressed as Santa. As an adult he compiles a list of those who have been “bad” and sets about punishing them.



To All a Goodnight (1980)

This movie’s director, David Hess, had previously carved out a reputation as the cult star of controversial ‘70s exploitation movies like Last House on the Left and House on the Edge of the Park. The old staple of a sorority house serves as the location here, with another Santa clad killer on the loose during a party.



Don’t Open till Christmas (1984)

This British film turns things around by having men in Santa costumes the victims rather than the killer, as they are targeted by a Scrooge figure intent on eliminating Christmas cheer during a rampage across the sleazier parts of London. Cult British scream queen Caroline Munro stars.



Gremlins (1984)

The most successful movie on this list has become an annual seasonal classic. It opens with Darlene Love’s ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’, arguably the greatest festive tune ever recorded, and goes on to deconstruct the holiday mythos, memorably in a scene in which Phoebe Cates delivers a monologue on why she can’t get on board with the Christmas spirit.



Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Featuring yet another killer clad in red and white, this one caused a huge stir on its theatrical release State-side. The American Parent Teacher Association picketed cinemas nationwide, while critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel denounced it on their weekly TV show, stating how they believed everyone involved in the film should be ashamed of themselves. The filmmakers had the last laugh though, as the movie was a huge hit, leading to a series of increasingly bad sequels.



Child’s Play (1988)

Another highly influential title, Child’s Play spawned countless cheap ripoffs featuring killer dolls, but none came close to matching the fun of the original. Voiced by Brad Dourif, the possessed doll Chucky instantly became a cult figure, with many adult horror fans asking Santa for a ‘Good Guy’ doll of their own.



Santa Claws (1996)

Those Santa impersonating psychos just won’t give up. The one featured here is obsessed with a scream queen and murders her co-stars one by one using a claw. See what they did there?



Jack Frost (1997)

The funniest movie on the list, Jack Frost is an absolute hoot. In a riff on Child’s Play, the spirit of a killer enters the body of a snowman and wreaks havoc on a small town. Movies like this rarely live up to their outrageous premise, but this is one that really delivers. Not to be confused with the following year’s Michael Keaton family drama.



Santa’s Slay (2005)

The twist with this black comedy is that the killer isn’t your run of the mill Santa impersonator, but the bearded one himself. Here Santa is actually an evil demon who appears from the chimney of a middle class family gathered for the holidays, before proceeding to kill them all in increasingly brutal ways. In a cheeky bit of casting, all the family members are played by Jewish actors, headed by no less than James Caan.



P2 (2007)

French director Franck Khalfoun gave us this tightly wound thriller set in a multi-storey car park in which Rachel Nichols is held captive by Wes Bentley’s psychotic security guard on Christmas Eve. The movie didn’t generally fare well with critics, but Roger Ebert, who famously condemned Silent Night, Deadly Night, was surprisingly a fan. 



Wind Chill (2007)

Prior to becoming a Hollywood headliner, Emily Blunt starred in this low key chiller as a student sharing a ride home for Christmas with a mysterious male driver. Things take a spooky turn when their car becomes snowbound on an eerie stretch of road populated by ghosts.



The Children (2008)

The killer child sub-genre gets a seasonal twist when two families come together for Christmas only to find their children turning violently against them. Eva Birthistle stars as a mother forced to fend off her own children in order to stay alive.



Treevenge (2008)

In this short, Christmas trees rebel in bloody fashion against the humans who enslave them each December. It was impressive enough to allow its director Jason Eisener to find the funding for his feature debut, the equally over the top Rutger Hauer starring Hobo with a Shotgun.



Rare Exports (2010)

From Finland, home of course to Lapland itself, came this very Nordic take on the Santa Claus legend. Here, Old Nick feeds on reindeer meat and kidnaps children from the wilds of Northern Finland until a group of reindeer hunters catch him and attempt to sell him to a scientist.



Sint (2010)

Another European entry, this time from the Netherlands. In this dark comedy, ‘Sinterklaas’ is the evil ghost of a bishop who embarks on a killing spree whenever Christmas coincides with a full moon. A Dutch parents’ group took director Dick Maas to court in an effort to remove posters of his movie from public spaces, but the court ruled in the movie’s favour.




Krampus (2015)

Writer-director Michael Dougherty followed up his Halloween themed Trick 'r Treat with this Xmas set horror. Incorporating the Teutonic legend of Krampus, an anti-Santa who punishes naughty kids during the holidays, Dougherty's film adds horror to the 'Holiday family get together' genre. Think National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation with added killings.


A version of this post originally appeared at This Greedy Pig.



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