Yesterday I talked about Christmas traditions, and there are quite a few based on punishing naughty children or keeping evil spirits and witches away. That got me thinking about Christmas horror. Now, I am not at all a fan of the horror or thriller genre. But I do love everything Christmas. So I decided to look into the very specific sub-genre of Christmas horror movies.
Wow, there are a lot more Christmas horror movies than I expected, so I’ve looked into movies from this century only. And, as usual, I was checking on IMDb and found that, not so surprisingly, these movies don’t tend to score very well. Here below, you can find those that score 5,0 and above.
This French Christmas horror movie is the highest scoring I could find on IMDb. It was released in 2007 and was rated 6,8 by more than 35.000 votes. It’s rated R for strong bloody violence, gruesome and disturbing content, and language. The tagline is pretty standard: “Terror comes calling” but the storyline reveals more:
Four months before Christmas, Sarah and Matthieu Scarangelo were in a car crash, of which Sarah and her unborn baby were the only survivors. On Christmas Eve, Sarah stays home alone, where she grieves her husband and prepares to go to the hospital the next morning for the delivery. As night falls, a woman knocks on Sarah’s door asking to use the phone. When she refuses, the woman reveals that she knows Sarah and tries to force her way in. Sarah calls the police; they inspect the home and determine the woman has left, but promise to keep watch over Sarah through the night. The woman returns and tries to take Sarah’s unborn child, but Sarah locks herself in the bathroom. The strange woman torments Sarah through the night and kills all who try help her.
The second movie on the Christmas horror movie list is Finnish. Rare Exports was released in 2010 and is described as quite creepy at times and with a streak of black humor throughout. It scores 6,7 and the tagline reads: “This Christmas everyone will believe in Santa Claus”. Here’s the description:
On Christmas Eve in Finland, Santa Claus is unearthed in an archaeological dig. Soon after, children start disappearing, leading a boy and his father to capture Santa and, with the help of fellow hunters, they look to sell him back to the corporation that sponsored the dig. And then there’s Santa’s elves, who are determined to free their leader…
This 2003 movie scores 6,6 and relies more on the imagination than shocking you with actual gore and guts. You see the reactions on the characters of course, but the actual gore is left out. Even though the entire movie is in English, it was produced in France and the tagline is: “Read the signs.”
For the past 20 years, Frank Harrington has grudgingly driven his family to celebrate Christmas with his mother-in-law. This year, he takes a shortcut. It’s the biggest mistake of his life: The nightmare begins. A mysterious woman in white wanders through the forest, leaving death in her wake. A terrifying black car – its driver invisible – carries the victims into the heart of the night. Every road sign points to a destination they never reach. The survivors succumb to panic, to madness; deeply buried secrets burst to the surface, and Christmas turns into a living hell.
Better watch out
You better watch out, you better not cry… That song immediately springs to mind with this movie Better watch out. From 2016 and scoring 6,5. And I also love its tagline: “You might be home, but you’re not alone.” Love that it refers to another Christmas staple, Home Alone. Reviews say it’s more of a thriller than an actual horror movie, relying heavily on its black comedy plot. The acting of the children does seem to get good reviews overall.
When you think the suburbs, you think safety, but this holiday night the suburbs are anything but safe. Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) thought this babysitting job was going to be an easy night, but the night takes a turn when dangerous intruders break in and terrorize her and the twelve-year-old boy, Luke (Levi Miller), she’s caring for. Ashley defends her charge to the best of her ability only to discover this is no normal home invasion.
Apparently the French are quite into the Christmas horror movie subgenre, because here is another French (spoken and directed) option: Calvaire from 2004 with a score of 6,2. It’s not overly violent and gruesome, but the sense of threat is ever present. More gloom and doom than guts and gore.
A few days before Christmas, traveling entertainer Marc Stevens is stuck at nightfall in a remote wood in the swampy Hautes Fagnes region of Liège, his van conked out. An odd chap who’s looking for a lost dog leads Marc to a shuttered inn; the owner gives Marc a room for the night. Next day, the innkeeper, Mr. Bartel, promises to fix the van, demands that Marc not visit the nearby village, and goes through Marc’s things while the entertainer takes a walk. At dinner that night, Bartel laments his wife’s having left him, and by next day, Marc is in a nightmare that may not end.
2019’s The Lodge scores a 6,1 on the IMDb scale and was directed by the Austrian duo Fiala and Franz. It features family and step-family awkwardness, cult trappings and builds very slowly. It’s more of a psychological horror film than outright blood and death Christmas horror.
A soon-to-be-stepmom is snowed in with her fiance’s two children at a remote holiday village. Just as relations finally begin to thaw between the trio, strange and frightening events threaten to summon psychological demons from her strict religious childhood.
This is actually a Christmas horror movie that I might watch! It’s based on the Krampus myth, which originates quite close to my home country. Krampus, released in 2015, features one of my favourite comedic actors, Adam Scott, and scores a pretty respectable 6,1 seeing it’s an American Hollywood film based on a German myth. The grandmother in the story speaks only German, though, to add a sense of authenticity.
When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max (Emjay Anthony) gets disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas. Meanwhile, this lack of festive spirit unleashes the wrath of Krampus: a demonic force of ancient evil intent on punishing non-believers. All hell breaks loose as beloved holiday icons take on a monstrous life of their own, laying siege to the fractured family’s home and forcing them to fight for one another if they hope to survive.
Anna and the apocalypse
Christmas meets zombies in 2017’s Anna and the apocalypse from the UK. Judging by the tagline “To survive it takes killer moves and killer tunes” and cheesy description, it’s more of a scary comedy than anything else. Full of music numbers and silly pop-references, though it is rated R for zombie violence and gore, language, and some sexual material.
When the zombie apocalypse hits the sleepy town of Little Haven – at Christmas – teenager Anna and her high school friends have to fight, sing and dance to survive, with the undead horde all around them. Teaming up with her best friend John, Anna has to fight her way through zombified snowmen, Santas, elves and Christmas shoppers to get across town to the high school, where they’ll be safe. But they soon discover that being a teenager is just as difficult as staying alive, even at the end of the world.
The Children is a 2008 Christmas horror film that comes from the UK and scores 6,0. It’s described as a horror mystery thriller that centers around vicious children that is not only scary but also quite gory at times.
Elaine and Jonah and their teenage daughter and young son and daughter, come to spend New Year with her sister Chloe and husband Robbie and their two young children at their isolated country home. One by one the children, after apparently being sick, become increasingly malevolent.
In 2007, this Christmas horror movie was released and got a score of 5,9. 98 minutes with an estimated budget of 8 million dollars and a cumulative worldwide gross of 7,7 million. There is quite a bit of tension, though the storyline gets quite predictable at times. The whole “buxom blond”-trope is a bit overdone, but Wes Bentley does manage to make you feel almost sympathetic for the bad guy.
Angela Bridges never imagined that her late night at the office would turn the sexy executive’s Christmas Eve into the most horrifying night of her life, but when a strong hand clamps a pad on her lips, Angela conks out quickly to the powerful anesthetic soaked into it! Angela comes to stripped of her business suit and reclad braless in a backless halter dress. Groggy and confused, Angela discovers she’s been kidnapped by Thomas, a lonely and disturbed security guard who surprised her with Chloroform in the underground garage. Thomas laughs as he describes how Angela kicked and struggled and “mmmmph”ed into the pad pressed tight and how the powerful drugging fumes rocked the broad shouldered bombshell in the upper regions of her nasal tubes! Angela freaks out and tries to escape but Thomas chloroforms her quickly leaving the vivacious vixen out on her bare back, her mouth agape. Thomas has a whole bottle of Chloroform! Angela’s already succumbed to it twice! It’s going to be a long night for the buxom beauty!
A Christmas Horror Story
William Shatner stars in A Christmas Horror Story, a 2015 Canadian Christmas horror movie that feature interwoven stories that take place on Christmas Eve as told by a festive radio host. The stories are both scary and entertaining and Shatner links them together really nicely. I think it’s worth more than the 5,7 score it received.
High school students investigate a mysterious homicide that occurred the prior holiday season, a couple notices their young son is acting strangely after a snowy forest trip to cut down a traditional tree and one family are stalked through a winter wonderland by Krampus, the Xmas demon. Meanwhile at the North Pole, Santa is fending off zombie elves.
Another French Christmas horror movie on the list: Sheitan from 2006, scoring a measly 5,6. It grossed a little less than the budget of 2,7 million dollars. Tension is building throughout the movie until all hell breaks loose. There’s quite a bit of nudity and gore involved, set in a beautiful and haunted provincial French manor.
On Christmas Eve, in the Styxx Club in Paris, the troublemaker Bart and his scum friends, Thaï and Ladj, meet the bartender Yasmine and the customer Eve, and after a fight of Bart in the nightclub, Eve invites the group to go to her house in the country. While on the road near the cottage, they are introduced by Eve to the weird shepherd and housekeeper, Joseph, whose wife is pregnant. Joseph feels a sort of attraction for Bart, and during this Christmas night, Joseph discloses his real intentions.
The first Dutch film in this list: Sint is technically not about Christmas but about the Sinterklaasfeest, which takes place on the 6th of December (see my earlier post on Christmas traditions for more). It was released in 2010 and scores 5,5. It walks the line between horror and parody.
December 5 will never be the same. Saint Nicholas is not the good-hearted children’s friend as people think he is. In reality he is a cruel bloodthirsty bishop who, whenever there’s a full moon on december 5, will try to slaughter as many children as possible.
This 2005 Christmas horror movie is based on the premise that Santa Claus is a demon who lost a bet with an angel to give toys and happiness. But now the bet is off and he is making a list. You better pray you’re not on it. It’s rated R for violence, language and some sexuality/nudity. It only scores a 5,3.
Bill Goldberg plays the devil’s son who lost a wager with an angel and was forced to spend 1000 years playing Santa, but now the wager of that time has run out, and good old Santa isn’t so joyful anymore. He makes up for lost time and starts to kill people.
In 2012, Silent Night was released, directed by Steven C. Miller and with a score of 5,2. This Canadian American Christmas horror movie stars Malcolm McDowell and Jaime King. Critics don’t call the movie that scary, but more entertaining and even goofy at times.
The police force of a remote Midwestern town search for a killer Santa Claus who is picking off citizens on Christmas Eve.
Merry Fucking Christmas
Merry Fucking Christmas with a score of 5,2 is an American movie that was released in 2012 and directed by J. Michael Whalen and Eric Williford. How it scored over a 5 is quite baffling to me because I can’t find any information on this movie online!
And you thought Halloween was scary? Four different tales of horror all centered around Christmas.
Only 5,1 for Clinical, released in 2017 and directed by Alistair Legrand. It’s a Netflix original film, in fact, and is a mix between Christmas horror and psychological thriller. And not just any psychological thriller, it involved mental illness. The plot moves a bit slow though and certain stereotypes are not only overdone but badly done as well. Though at the end, everything moves very quickly towards a not very thought out end.
A psychiatrist tries to put her life back together after a violent attack by seeking to repair the life of a new patient, but he has his own terrifying history.
This American film from 2016 scores a 5,1 on IMDb. It’s an anthology with several Christmas horror short stories, directed by Hollywood’s most distinct voices. The stories can be a bit predictable, but they do manage to set a mood or create tension.
HOLIDAYS is an anthology feature film that puts a uniquely dark and original spin on some of the most iconic and beloved holidays of all time. The film challenges our folklore, traditions and assumptions, making HOLIDAYS a celebration of the horror on those same special days’ year after year.
The Melancholy Fantastic
Creepy puppets come alive in The Melancholy Fantastic from 2011. It only just scores a 5,1 but it does have some beautiful cinematography. This Christmas horror movie is not that predictable, but the pace ebbs and flows.
A strange and gripping holiday tale of grief, love, and the horrors of loneliness.
In 2013, this 5,0 movie was released by Norwegian directors Tomren and Steinsvoll. Its English title is “Christmas Cruelty!” and critics calls it a movie that pulls no punches. It conforms to certain horror and slasher tropes but it still manages to be quite original.
“O’Hellige Jul!” follows both a serial killer as he plans for his next kills, and the next set of victims he has set his sights on. As the group of friends we get to know prepare for Christmas in their own way we also follow the killer as he stalks and does his final research for this years Christmas cruelty. In the last act of the movie he invades the home of our group of friends to execute his twisted little plan as foreshadowed in the first act.
The last movie on this Christmas horror movie list is aptly called Bloody Christmas. It has only just managed to scrape together a 5,0 rating since its release in 2012. The story is written really well and the camera work and angles are quite good. The movie starts with a bang and ends with a bang.
In a small town Police are in search for a child murderer. Meanwhile Rich Tague a has been 80’s action movie star, is attempting to figure out the meaning of Christmas as he plays Santa on a Public Access T.V show. He fantasizes about murdering the people that do him wrong. Will he have the strength to not be on his own naughty list?