It’s the end of another year. Now, we must stress over a new one.
At least we can soothe the New Year’s anxieties with horror, laughs, and weird thrills, too. This list has titles directly related to New Year’s Eve and the holidays, whereas other titles are more loosely connected. Either way, whether horror, comedy, or thriller, the titles on this list provide a very fun way to say goodbye to 2022 and welcome 2023. Might as well feel SOMETHING on the last day of the year.
Angel Heart (1987)
Directed & Written by Alan Parker
Alan Parker’s Angel Heart is a Southern Gothic delicacy about a man called Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) being recruited by the mysterious Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) to track down a missing singer named Johnny Favorite. This one’s a bit of a cheat because there’s only one real mention of New Year’s Eve. In all fairness, it’s a whopping mention considering it plays a big part in the whole unravelling of Harry’s personal world, which is, y’know, the centrepiece of the plot. If you want something eerie and deliciously Gothic to ring in the New Year, then you can do far worse than Angel Heart. The New Year is all about a fresh start, maybe even a whole new identity for some, and those year-end themes resonate to a devastating degree throughout Parker’s film.
Available on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, & more.
Season 3, Episode 8:
“Out o’ Time” (1999)
Oz will forever be the greatest HBO one-hour drama, and it’s also the original, the one that jumpstarted a trend that’s now become the norm for so much of the best episodic storytelling out there today. The show was raw and unapologetic. “Out o’ Time” is a perfect episode to watch on New Year’s Eve. The inmates and the staff of Oswald State Correctional Facility register another year around the sun, all of them with their own private anxieties and troublesome lives. There’s a bit of happiness: Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen) and Chris Keller (Christopher Meloni) are reunited. Most of all there’s INTENSITY, as racial tensions mount inside the prison walls, and a powder keg is ready to explode once troubled guard Clayton Hughes (Seth Gilliam) decides to do something as dangerous as it is unthinkable.
Fantastic episode of the show and does a good job of playing with so many of the core elements which made Oz tick as a whole. Though it’s filled with character and plot development based on a whole season’s momentum, this episode would be fun, and unnerving, even for folks who’ve never watched the show. A New Year’s Eve staple in this house.
Available on HBO Max, Crave, & Amazon Prime.
Directed by Bong Joon Ho
Written by Bong Joon Ho & Kelly Masterson
“A shoe doesn‘t belong on your head; a shoe belongs on your foot. A hat belongs on your head. I am a hat, you are a shoe. I belong on the head, you belong on the foot.”
What’s more fitting in 2022 than revisiting a story about the widening, violent gap between the rich and the rest of us? It feels like Snowpiercer is the inevitable conclusion of where humanity is headed, albeit heightened to the appropriate sci-fi level; the film only gets more relevant year after year, unfortunately. What’s so great about the film is that, in spite of the dire circumstances of the characters being stuck on a horrific train rife with inequality, there remains a human heart of resistance in the plot and characters—something to give us hope heading into 2023. There’s also one of the wildest New Year’s celebrations in all of film and television in Snowpiercer; you cannot go wrong watching this film on NYE.
Available on Netflix.
Directed by Jim Makichuk
Written by Jim Makichuk & Douglas MacLeod
Ghostkeeper isn’t anything overly unique, and it doesn’t top many, if any, favourite horror lists, but the movie’s atmosphere is pure icy despair. The plot sees a trio of friends spending New Year’s Eve snowmobiling in the Rocky Mountains on the West Coast of Canada. As you might expect, they wind up stranded in a snowstorm, stumbling across a remote hotel where they stay the night. It’s there they meet a strange old woman and her two reclusive sons, all hiding a horrible secret from the outside world.
This film is a real creep show. John Holbrook’s cinematography captures the bleakness of a Canadian winter deep in the wilderness. You can feel the sense of isolation the characters feel caught in the forest, out in the middle of nowhere. Lack of money wound up scrapping plans for a larger ending. Still, the finale’s spooky, and the old woman (played by Georgie Collins) is an unforgettable villain who could’ve been immortalised in the genre if this movie were better known. One of her final lines will haunt you forever: “You don‘t want to be crazy, do you?”
Available on Amazon Prime.
The Phantom Carriage (1921)
Directed & Written by Victor Sjöström
Something we’ve lost over the years is the Victorian tradition of telling ghost stories throughout the holiday season, so a film like Victor Sjöström’s The Phantom Carriage is a welcome addition to any New Year’s Eve movie list; a trip back to a time before the contemporary commerciality of Christmas we know today.
There’s a Dickensian Christmas Carol feeling to The Phantom Carriage, adapted from the 1912 novel Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness!—written as a means of public education about tuberculosis—as it follows a man called David Holm (played by Sjöström), a drunkard whose New Year’s Eve is interrupted by Death’s ghostly carriage driver to take him on a trip back through his past transgressions. There’s fantasy and horror, and a feeling that, like Scrooge, David has understood something crucial about himself that he wants to remedy. If only real people learned as much as fictional jerks, New Year’s resolutions might sound more convincing.
Available on The Internet Archive.
The Signal (2007)
Directed & Written by
David Bruckner, Dan Bush, & Jacob Gentry
Three directors—David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry, and Dan Bush—envision a twisted mix of horror, science fiction, dark comedy, and romance with 2007’s The Signal. Although New Year’s Eve isn’t a significant aspect of the story itself, the events of the plot occur around the end of the year, and the second segment, labelled “Transmission 2: The Jealousy Monster,” involves a New Year’s party gone terribly/hilariously wrong. It isn’t often movies that aren’t anthologies cross genres so wildly. Bruckner, Gentry, and Bush offer a stunningly intense, weird, and emotional movie that has the urgency of a night out on the last night of the year.
The Signal also has a killer ending that’ll leave you thinking.
Available on Amazon Prime.
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Directed by Ronald Neame
Written by Wendell Mayes & Stirling Silliphant
The ocean’s terrifying as much as it is fascinating. So, in that sense, The Poseidon Adventure is as much as horror movie as any other. Who can’t find the horrifying fear in being on a cruise ship that gets tossed upside down during a tidal wave? Add in the fact it’s all because of capitalism on the high seas and it’s the sort of unintentional Marxist adventure I can really get behind. There’s an all-star cast, including Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters, and Ernest Borgnine, among others, and the action is just stunning. A perfect, adventurous slice of cinema for any New Year’s Eve/New Year viewing that still holds up in 2022.
Available on Disney+ & Amazon Prime.
New Year’s Evil (1980)
Directed by Emmett Alston
Written by Leonard Neubauer
Watching a slasher film on New Year’s Eve feels right because we’re all dreading what new horrors the New Year will bring. Hearing the clock strike midnight leading into January 1st can be just as terrifying as it can be exciting. New Year’s Evil isn’t going to change anybody’s thoughts on the slasher sub-genre, neither is it high on any list for lovers of horror, but it’s fun and silly, which is sometimes enough for a slasher flick.
No one is safe in New Year’s Evil, as a man called Evil plans to murder women at the stroke of midnight in each of the time zones. There’s lots of blood and music while Evil does his thing. Cheesy? Yes! Fun? You’re goddamn right. Don’t need to turn your brain up too high for this one. Though there are other horror films that take place on/around New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Evil takes the cake—not because it’s the best of the NYE bunch, but because it is outrageous, recognises its outrageousness, and never tries to be anything BUT outrageous.
Available on Amazon Prime.
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Written by Carl Erickson & Don Mullaly
Before Paris Hilton in 2005’s House of Wax and even before Vincent Price in 1953’s House of Wax there was the 1933 horror film directed by Michael Curtiz, Mystery of the Wax Museum. Curtiz’s film is similar to the later Price-starring vehicle, but with a slightly different version of the twist. It involves a wax museum, insurance money, and the later disappearance of people/corpses which attracts the attention of not only the police but a reporter determined to get to the bottom of things.
There’s an eerie atmosphere throughout Mystery of the Wax Museum because of the two-colour Technicolor process; the film was one of the last two fiction films made using the process before the three-strip process became standard. It gives the film a dreamlike quality, so everything feels that much more unsettling. The plot takes place at the end of the year as Christmas is wearing off and the New Year approaches, making Mystery of the Wax Museum another proper movie to watch on the 31st.
Black-and-white version available on The Internet Archive.
Ghostbusters II (1989)
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Written by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis
The Ghostbusters have been disgraced after all the mayhem of the first film, now the entire city basically thinks they’re assholes. When their old friend Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) comes to them with worries about supernatural forces, they wind up stumbling on a river of strange ooze running beneath the city that just may be connected to a strange painting with sinister powers. Drs. Venkman (Bill Murray), Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Spengler (Harold Ramis), along with Winston (Ernie Hudson), eventually have to go up against hatred in liquid form if they’re going to save the city again. And the possible end of everything good is poised to happen on New Year’s Eve unless the Ghostbusters triumph.
Currently available on Netflix & also on Amazon Prime.
Into the Dark:
New Year, New You (2018)
Directed by Sophia Takal
Written by Sophia Takal & Adam Gaines
Sophia Takal’s New Year, New You is such a great use of New Year’s Eve with horror because it takes on the hollow nature of so many influencers in the online space. The entire episode is encapsulated in one quote: “You do not deserve to tell people to love themselves when you’ve spent your entire life making people feel like shit.” Similar to aspects of the recent film Sissy, New Year, New You attacks those who’ve done shitty things in their past and ignore that to present an entirely different, better self to the public online. Because some folks never forget. That’s why you need to be careful with New Year’s resolutions: don’t pretend you’re somebody you’re not, or you may just get a visit from somebody hoping to remind you.
Available on Hulu & AppleTV.
“Treehouse of Horror X:
Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die” (1999)
While “Treehouse of Horror” episodes on The Simpsons are typically relegated to Halloween, “Treehouse of Horror X” featured a New Year’s Eve segment, fitting since in 1999 every show on television was, in some way, tackling the impending millennium and the possibility of Y2K panic. The Simpsons used the segment “Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die” to further compound Homer’s idiocy when he forgets to overhaul the computers at work, after being tasked as a Y2K compliance officer at the nuclear power plant, causing utter havoc in Springfield and beyond.
Lots of good laughs, and an absolute perfect ending when Bart and Homer manage to make it off the planet with others deemed worthy to help society continue, only to realise they actually boarded the wrong getaway vehicle and they’ve travelling into the sun with all the other pop culture undesirables. Brilliant holiday-themed chaos.
Available on Disney+.
Into the Dark:
Midnight Kiss (2019)
Directed by Carter Smith
Written by Erlingur Thoroddsen
Although Midnight Kiss isn’t really one of my favourites from Into the Dark, this Carter Smith-directed entry in the anthology is still good fun, plus it gives us a queer New Year’s Eve to DIE for; those are few and far between when it comes to the horror genre. A bunch of gay best friends and their good Judy go to a house in the desert to celebrate the New Year, along with playing a dangerous, seductive game called Midnight Kiss to find their special someone. The celebrations are interrupted when a brutal killer starts to kill. Midnight Kiss has some great slasher moments, enough to please many of the sub-genre’s most dedicated fans; an enjoyable horror film to finish out the year. Slay, queens.
Available on Hulu & AppleTV.
End of Days (1999)
Directed by Peter Hyams
Written by Andrew W. Marlowe
Absolute pulpy trash befitting of a year end movie marathon because where else are you going to hear the Bible referred to as a “press kit” and watch Arnold Schwarzenegger battle Satan himself? End of Days mashes fear of Y2K, without any computer-related nonsense, together with cults, the Roman Catholic Church, and Satan hoping to bring about his spawn, the Antichrist. There’s little logic to anything that’s happening onscreen, but it never matters. Gabriel Byrne chews up scenery constantly, especially in a great exchange with Schwarzenegger’s character as Satan debates why God gets such a good reputation. And you get a bunch of ridiculous, funny lines from Schwarzenegger, alongside some truly gruesome imagery.
Happy New Year to us all!
Available on Disney+ & Amazon Prime.
Bloody New Year (1987)
Directed by Norman J. Warren
Written by Norman J. Warren, Frazer Pearce, & Hayden Pearce
In Bloody New Year, a group of people celebrating New Year’s Eve at the Grand Island Hotel in 1959 disappear. Decades later, some British teenagers are at a seaside fairground where they rescue an American woman being harassed, then they stumble onto the Grand Island Hotel, still decorated for Christmas despite the fact it’s July. That’s where trouble starts.
Goofy but eerie supernatural horror here. It’s part ghost story in a haunted house, part zombie flick, somewhat carelessly jammed together. Bloody New Year‘s wasn’t winning any awards in 1987, nor is it worthy of a current day reappraisal. This little horror is still a laugh, especially if you’ve got friends over for a casual NYE and you want to put something on that doesn’t require much brainpower; you can have a drink every time an asshole character bites the dust, though it’ll leave you terribly hungover for January 1st.
Available on Tubi.
Terror Train (1980)
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode
Written by T.Y. Drake & (uncredited) Judith Rascoe
As far as gimmicky slashers go, Terror Train is up there with the best. A bunch of students are holding a costume party on New Year’s Eve aboard a train. And what do you know, there are awful secrets lurking amongst a group of friends! This is one of those slashers involving a traumatic event at the beginning that creates the eventual killer, and it’s a brutal, wildly macabre setup. The killer uses the costume party to their advantage, changing from one costume to another as victims fall. Add in perpetual babe Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as random as hell David Copperfield—yes, the illusionist—and ’80s singer-turned-evangelist Vanity, and this a horror movie you just CAN’T FORGET.
Available on Tubi & Amazon Prime.
The X Files
Season 7, Episode 4: “Millennium” (1999)
Directed by Thomas J. Wright
Written by Vince Gilligan & Frank Spotnitz
The “Millennium” episode served as a great New Year’s Eve-inspired episode for The X Files and also as a backdoor series finale for Millennium. While this episode may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially because The X Files and Millennium were doing different conspiracy-related things that didn’t totally sync up, it’s nevertheless a fun, creepy, and slick episode. Mulder and Scully get help from Millennium‘s Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) when the Millennium Group try to start their very own zombie apocalypse in hopes of kickstarting the end of the world.
As far as horror goes, “Millennium” is a properly macabre way to enter the New Year. The final 10-15 minutes is an unsettling mini-zombie film when everything starts to break down and our heroes are in peril. Also a decent New Year beginning for Frank, who gets to see his daughter. As the New Year’s Eve ball drops in Times Square, Mulder and Scully share a kiss, too.
Available on Disney+ & Amazon Prime.