It’s officially the holiday season: Hot chocolate and candy canes are everywhere, the malls are bustling, kids are actually behaving if they still believe in Santa, and it’s Christmas, Christmas, Christmas all around. But sometimes, you need a little salt to go with all that sugar, so in between screenings of Home Alone and Miracle on 34th Street, why not bust out a few of these Christmas horror classics we compiled as Krampus hits theaters?
While the holiday season represents the most magical time of year, ancient European folklore warns of Krampus, a horned beast who punishes naughty children at Christmastime. When dysfunctional family squabbling causes young Max (Emjay Anthony) to lose his festive spirit, it unleashes the wrath of the fearsome demon. As Krampus lays siege to the Engel home, mom (Toni Collette), pop (Adam Scott), sister (Stefania LaVie Owen) and brother must band together to save one another from a monstrous fate.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
A young boy watches his parents killed by a thief in a Santa suit. He spends his youth in an orphanage, staying quietly to his self, but his mind is further bent by an iron-handed Mother Superior. He finally gets a job at a local store, where he finally snaps when he is required to wear a Santa suit, and goes on a killing spree that leads him slowly back to the orphanage.
A tiny Finnish village discovers the true meaning of Santa Claus: Namely, that he’s an eldritch horror who commands his elf army to steal naughty children for him to eat. But reindeer will do in a pinch. This quirky Finnish movie is a bit like having The Goonies and a modern horror movie thrown into a blender, and its mix of outright scares and deadpan comedy is a hoot to watch, especially after a Hallmark marathon.
Bob Clark, director of A Christmas Story, first visited the holiday with a movie that helped pioneer the slasher genre. A group of sorority sisters begin receiving threatening phone calls before slowly being picked off one by one. Clark lays on the atmosphere heavy in the movie, helped considerably by a cast that includes Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey, Kier Dullea, and genre stalwart John Saxon and an effective soundtrack. Clark would go on to produce a remake that’s OK viewing, but really, nothing can top the original.
Christmas trees have had enough of our crap, and they’re not going to take it anymore. Yes, that’s really the plot of this hilariously silly and gory short film from Jason Eisener, the director of the substantially darker Hobo With A Shotgun, and a nice antidote to any excessive Christmas cheer.
Thomas is a lonely security guard who just wants to spend Christmas Eve with Rachel. Unfortunately, he does this by trapping Rachel in an underground garage, and a cat-and-mouse game unfolds. It’s a fun watch, not least because of the carefully thought-out script; if you’ve ever yelled “Why don’t you just do THAT?!” at a screen, P2 often cleverly answers the question.
In this ’80s classic, Joe Dante builds a picture-perfect small town… and then fills it with grotesque, lightly satirical beasties in the Christmas classic. True, Gremlins can be enjoyed any time of year, but this movie features Dante at his satirical height, needling everything about suburban America in the form of a crowd-pleasing effects-packed blockbuster. It also features an odd connection to another Christmas classic: Chris Columbus, the screenwriter, would go on to direct Home Alone.
It’s A Wonderful Life
Yeah, yeah, everybody talks about the ending of this Christmas classic. But have you ever sat down and watched the whole thing? It may not be packed full of jump scares, but once Capra and Jimmy Stewart start calling out George Bailey on his inability to value the good he’s done for Bedford Falls, it gets surprisingly dark in a hurry. Hey, horror doesn’t have to be all gore and stabbings; sometimes a life falling apart is just as scary, especially around the holidays.