Another year is coming to a close. Each Christmas season brings time to sit around, get fat on snacks and leftover turkey made into delicious sandwiches (mmm, gravy!). What’s better to go with all the inherent laziness than seasonal horror to offset all that pesky, excessive sweetness?
Get out your pants with the elastic waist.
Order up a few flicks.
Let terror sweep you away from all the Christmas bloat, annoying relatives, the gifts you hated that you have to pretend to enjoy, and all the residual economic turmoil of the presents you couldn’t afford that you bought people anyway.
Ain’t the holidays great?
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Had enough of the goody-good Santa Claus, milk-and-cookies shit? This Finnish dark fantasy flick will whet that fed up whistle! Rare Exports is about an ancient thing unearthed in the Korvatunturi mountains during an archaeological dig, and with its discovery comes primeval, long buried chaos.
There’s Krampus-related madness, the Joulupukki, elves, and other grim excitement. Funny, fully of fantasy, and some of the best Santa Claus stuff in the genre. Rated R, too! So you know it’s got the goods.
This movie’s a no-brainer on a list of Christmas horror. Father Gore particularly loves this one because – like American Psycho, also on this list – there’s a definitively anti-capitalist message at its core. The monsters in Gremlins are the epitome of the destruction inherent in all that Xmas has become to the majority of the Western world. This is a hoot, it’s weird, and if you dig deep there are lots of Marxist moments to sink your teeth into, should you feel the urge!
Afraid there’ll be no gifts under the tree this year?
Sinterklaas – an evil bishop killed nearly 500 years ago – will find you and murder you. And he’s bringing Zwarte Pieten to the festivities! You better not pout and you better not cry. Because nothing you do will save your life.
Eyes Wide Shut
One part about all Christmas horror, whether outright blood and gore or the more psychological sort, is it attacks the sanctity of Christian tradition. Eyes Wide Shut is perfectly set around Christmastime to dig hard at the American family. The festive season stands in juxtaposition with a seemingly normal family spiralling into depravity, illustrating the fragile nature of the holidays and the family as a social institution. More importantly, the bourgeois are on trial, and the original spirit of Christmas is far from their world. Tom Cruise’s confused doctor, prompted to go on a sexual odyssey after his wife – played by his then actual wife Nicole Kidman – has a surreal, Scrooge-esque night that eventually leads him to a masked orgy.
A not unexpected, twisted Merry Christmas from Stanley Kubrick!
Can’t say too much about this one without spoiling the real insanity. Total subversion of the Christian Christmas tale, in every way imaginable. Depraved, hilarious, unsettling, and one strange slice of horror for the holidays. Vincent Cassel, like always, provides an impressive performances. Definitely one of his weirdest characters to date.
Go in knowing little. You’ll find laughs + terror in store!
Father Gore’s not into Jesus, though his story, and religion in general, offer plenty of interesting themes to explore as examples of ancient literature. Jesus’s suffering wasn’t entirely horrific because he was supposed to be part divine. The fact he would be resurrected makes the story less human.
So, what if a human man experienced the physical trials of dying for others’ sins?
Fabrice du Welz’s Calvaire follows a singer named Marc, whose Christmas tour takes him into the backwoods where he gets stranded at an inn with its owner, a lonely man called Bartel. When Marc discovers Bartel has other things on his mind than giving the singer shelter for the night and helping with his car, he’s already in serious danger.
You’ll never forget this movie, in particular due to a dance scene in a bar— a genuinely scary moment that may start with laughter but will end in surrealist horror.
Really, the only thing you’ll need to know is this has Ray Wise AND Lin Shaye. Everything else is ultimately irrelevant. In case you DO need something else, this is a truly funny Christmastime horror-comedy— at times silly, and, yes, spooky. It’s nowhere near perfect. In fact, the edges can get awful rough. None of that matters, either.
Dead End is tons of fun with enough creeps and atmosphere to fuel a ghostly holiday evening. Put the regular lights down low, turn the colourful lights up bright, and let this one whisk you away while the wind and snow blow outside in the dark.
To All a Goodnight
Something upsetting about mall Santas is you never know who’s actually lurking behind the hat and the beard. To All a Goodnight is nothing great or special by any measure, though it puts the killer Santa gimmick to good use. It does have good atmosphere, which never hurts. This little slice of slasher exploitation has the honour of being the sole feature directed by David Hess. It’s also technically the first full-length movie to feature a killer Santa!
Dead of Night
This 1940s classic isn’t all Christmas. What holiday horror it delivers is a solid ghost tale to fill your boots. This includes its ghostly element at a Christmas party. All the segments of this anthology movie are pretty great, and there’s something especially creepy about this one. Might not be everyone’s speed. If you dig black and white horror, as well as classic ghost stories, this should check off all the appropriate boxes. This ain’t no Christmas Carol— quite a bit more grim than all that.
The Day of the Beast
Sure, they say Christ was born on Christmas Day.
But what about the Antichrist? When’s his birthday? Apparently at midnight on Christmas Eve. That’s why Angel, a priest, is going to sin as much as he can, sell his soul to the devil, get into the birth ceremony, and kill the Antichrist. Genius plan, no?
Father Gore’s not a huge horror-comedy lover, so when they’re good, they’re REAL good. Álex de la Iglesia’s The Day of the Beast is a ridiculous good time. Never dives fully into the holidays. It’s got enough of a connection to Christmas to be on the list. Anything that throws a Christian holiday into Satanic or pagan disarray is worth enjoying.
Wind Chill sees the holidays spin out of control on a desolate road when two college students – Ashton Holmes and Emily Blunt – head home the day before Christmas Eve but get stranded along the way. This excels mainly due to a pervasive unsettling mood, and while nothing’s wrong with a good, well-earned jump scare, the creeps in this movie are are primarily very much due to a constant atmosphere of dread. Blunt’s been a solid actress for a long while, proving her talent here in spades. The best quality is all the eerie mystery. Something weird and spooky for the nights approaching Christmas.
Christmas consumerism is capitalism’s worst seasonal sin, right up there next to Valentine’s Day. American Psycho isn’t wholly a holiday movie. It fits in cosy with the rest of these movies because of its attacks on societal institutions, and it does feature seasonal imagery. Patrick Bateman (played to perfection by an inhuman Christian Bale) in the midst of Christmas is like seeing a wart on a patch of otherwise beautiful, unblemished skin. At the same time, he’s right at home in a season nowadays built entirely on how much people spend, what gifts people get, and how many decorations you can put on your home compared to your neighbour.
In a way, Patrick IS modern day Christmas— he’s the soulless dollar sign imprinted on this time of year, the one people complain about but never see fit to change, the one they keep feeding like Bateman feeds his own murderous impulses.
A Christmas Tale
What happens when Santa Claus isn’t Santa, but a woman dressed in St. Nick’s getup, holding a bag full of cash she got from a violent robbery? What would a bunch of kids do if they found such a person in a hole in the woods?
Paco Plaza (REC, REC 2, Veronica) treats us to this hypothetical with a TV movie that’ll knock stockings off the chimney. This is like if Home Alone and Stand By Me were mashed together + set during 1985 in a coastal town. Might not super scary, but it delivers good tension, the kids are excellent, and it’s just damn fine fun.
What if the Secret Santa game wasn’t about getting gifts, and instead it entailed revealing the ugly secrets festering in peoples lives? Wouldn’t be much fun. That’s exactly what this Secret Santa is all about! Adam Marcus (Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday) delivers a mean dose of the Christmas spirit with a story about a family get-together that starts off well enough until becoming psychotic madness after the party’s punch is spiked with military grade sodium pentothal. Wild family drama surrounded by horror madness.
Admittedly, Tom Shankland’s The Children is a cheat on this list. The movie takes place over the New Year’s holiday rather than Christmas. Nevertheless, it’s got snow, family, and the holiday colours are vibrant throughout this disturbing horror-thriller about family visiting family resulting in brutal violence. Nothing happens out of the ordinary— oh, only that the kids suddenly, and ferociously, become angry little psychopaths. One of those movies that not only throws the meaning of family and the holidays out the window with a bloody splat, it also treads on the taboo of murdering children that even some lovers of horror find hard to digest.
Await Further Instructions
There have been plenty of bad reviews online for this movie, though Father Gore suspects many of those are from white viewers. Not to say people have to love it— to each their own! Await Further Instructions drives home a lot of the fears people of colour, and the left-leaning people in their lives, feel during the holidays when forced to spend time with older generations. A young man brings his girlfriend home to find his white family aren’t so endearing to outsiders, and it only gets worse when the house seems trapped inside a black curtain. The TV starts feeding the family instructions, further dividing everyone between those who follows orders v. those who don’t, and the situation devolves into terrifying, dramatic terror. Great post-Brexit, post-Trump era horror movie with bits of sci-fi. If you’ve got a racist grandpa, you’ll find something to relate to here.