When people think about horror and holidays, the first thing that comes to mind is obviously Halloween. And Halloween is the best day of the year, obviously, but did you know that there's a lot of links between horror and Christmas?
Telling ghost stories during the Christmas season is a tradition that stretches back hundreds of years. Before Christmas became the garish, bright, loud, consumerist nightmare we all suffer each year, it used to have roots in Yule celebrations, where pagans would gather together around the warm fires to keep out the chill. Winter was seen as a season of death and it was said that the spirits would have license to walk the night once more. As Christianity came into vogue and priests would zealously convert pagans, the gloom and eerieness of the season was slowly replaced with bright colors and Santa Claus.
But old tales of terror remain. And nothing captures the red-and-white colors of the season like blood on the snow.
There is a lot of interest in horror during the holidays because Christmas can be hard for a lot of people. The forced cheerfulness can be hard for people to connect to, the obligation to buy everyone you know a gift stresses people out, and families can sometimes go absolutely insane when tehy are in the same room for too long. So watching horror movies is a good way to poke the most frustrating aspects of Christmas in the eye.
Go ahead. Bah humbug. Here's our favorite Christmas movies.
I like to think of this as the ultimate rebuttal to Christmas movies. While there are some elements that haven't aged well – the entire movie is basically a screed against foreign influence on America – the sight of the malicious little gremlins wrecking havoc on a boringly sweet town right out of Frank Capra movie is deeply satisfying.
A personal favorite that I watch every year, Krampus is the story of Santa Claus's dark shadow, a demon that takes and punishes misbehaving children.
When a family of jerks get snowed in during Christmas, their lack of seasonal spirit brings Krampus and his sinister followers down upon them. The movie is more funny than scary but it does great work brining the legend to life.
The real Christmas tale from Santa's homeland of Finland, this chilly film features a bunch of reindeer hunters who stumble across a group of drillers trying to free the original spirit of Santa from the mountainside. But the Santa of this film is not the jolly fat man of Coca Cola ads. Featuring some truly unforgettable imagery (you're never going to forget the elf that the hunters capture) it's one of the most unique holiday horror films out there.
According to legend, this Christmas slasher film was Elvis Presley's favorite Christmas movie. The story follows a group of sorority girls who find them stalked by an unseen maniac during the Christmas season. Less gory than the films that would follow in its wake, the movie was a big inspiration for John Carpenter's Halloween. We can't wait for the new film coming out next week.
Anna and the Apocalypse
If you're the kind of person who'd be into a zombie Christmas musical, this is the movie for you.
During the Christmas season, a zombie apocalypse breaks out in a small Scottish town. The kids at the local school, who are dealing with their own teenage dramas, are forced to fight for their lives while breaking out in catchy showtunes! It's a weird little film but oddly sweet, with a star turn by lead performer Ella Hunt.
Better Watch Out
What if Kevin McAllister from Home Alone was a violent, misogynistic little sociopath? Then you'd probably have Better Watch Out. The film wears its influence on its sleeve, showing what would actually happen if you hit someone with a paint can tied to a string. It's got a mean streak in a lot of way and is not for the squeamish, but it's also one of the most clever Christmas horror films of the last few years.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
No story about creepy Christmas classics would be complete without this phantasmagoria from the mind of Tim Burton. The king of Halloween, having become bored with his endless routine of scaring people, has decided to hijack the Christmas season. The ultimate film about gentrification, this movie boasts incredible stop motion animation from director Henry Selick and unforgettable songs by Danny Elfman.
The Silent Night, Deadly Night Series
One of the most infamous films of the 80s slasher craze, Silent Night, Deadly Night drew condemnation from parents groups for their depiction of a madman dressed as Santa. The movies aren't good but they are charming in an under-budgeted, campy way.
Check out this ACTUAL scene from the second film, which became a viral sensation.