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Am I the only one who thinks Christmas Eve is low-key kinda creepy? I mean, almost everything is closed, people are typically at home gathered around the fire with their families, even the air outside feels quiet and eerie. It's the perfect setting for someone to jump out and murder you!!!!!!!!!
As it turns out, I'm onto something, and there's a whole sub-genre of movies classified as Christmas horror—which you probably already know because hi, you're reading this. It makes total sense to me: family time is freakin' stressful, especially around the holidays. Instead of *getting* *into* *it* with your sibs, why not channel your energy into a gory X-mas thriller?
From spooky classics like Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas to faves like Home for the Holidays (directed by *the* Jodie Foster, NBD), there's a Christmas horror movie on this list for everyone—no matter whether you've been extra naughty or way too nice.
This film may be in French, but terrifying movies are universal. Be warned, if you also get extremely freaked out at the thought of a home invasion, then this one will be extra scary. It's all about a pregnant woman who, shortly after her husband's Christmas Eve death, gets terrorized in her home by an eerie stranger.
The Day of the Beast
OK get this: a secret code in the Bible tells a priest that the antichrist is supposed to be born on Christmas Eve. So what does he do to try to stop it? Commit as much evil as he can, of course!
When a woman named Grace is left stranded at a middle-of-nowhere lodge with her fiancé's two children during a snowstorm, they are terrorized by things that seem to be related to Grace's past. This movie's got Jarden Martell (who you might recognize from It and Knives Out) plus Alicia freakin' Silverstone, so the cast is great.
Stranger in the House
If a classic slasher movie is more your thang, then this 1974 release is what you want to be watching. It's got everything you could ever want in a '70s horror flick: sorority sisters on winter break, creepy threatening phone calls, and, of course, murder.
Make sure no young children are around because this is definitely NOT the version of Santa you want them to see. In this movie, the police force of a midwestern town is trying to track down a serial killer who dresses as jolly old Saint Nick and goes around murdering people on Christmas Eve.
Speaking of Saint Nicholas, this movie asks the age old question "What if Saint Nick was actually a blood-thirsty bishop who kidnaps and murders small children when there's a full moon on December 5?" The answer: It wouldn't be good!
Sure, kids are cute and all, but how do we realllly know what their imaginative lil brains are up to? They could turn on you during Christmas vacation in an ~isolated~ country home and try to kill you, like in this freaky horror flick from 2008.
Anna and the Apocalypse
A zombie apocalypse...on Christmas...honestly, at the rate the past year has gone, I wouldn't be surprised if this were on the docket for us this season.
If you're in the mood for some '80s goodness, then queue up this masterpiece about a toy-factory employee who has a nervous breakdown and starts murdering people—on Christmas, duh—in part because learning that Santa isn't real scarred him as a child.
Originally a Dutch film entitled Sint, this movie is based on the real story of a 15th-century gang led by former bishop Niklas. The group was ultimately murdered by villagers who were sick and tired of putting up with their looting and killing. During years in which the gang's death date December 5 coincides with a full moon, they return as murderous ghosts. Spo0o0o0oky.
The Gingerdead Man
Legit real-life cookie monster (made from the ashes of a serial killer, natch) seeks revenge in a small Texas town. Half slasher, half comedy, 100 percent bizarre.
Home for the Holidays
A classic father-asks-his-daughters-to-kill-his-new-wife-because-he-thinks-she's-poisoning-him tale. Nothing like going home for the holidays in the '70s, right?
I've always wondered what kind of phone calls the police receive on Christmas Eve—if I were to guess, probs a lot of family drama. But I've never really considered what would happen if someone walked into a police station the night before Christmas to confess to multiple murders...
All the Creatures Were Stirring
Riffing on the classic Clement Clarke Moore poem, this movie delivers a major plot twist―what if, on Christmas Eve, all the most terrifying creatures were let loose to make one hell of a bloody stir?!
In America, disobedient children get threatened with coal during the holidays, but in some parts of Europe bad kids get threatened with Krampus, a demonic goat man who abducts them in the dead of night if they talk back to their parents. Obviously, a freaky goat is way worse than receiving a useful-if-environmentally-unsustainable source of fuel in your stocking, so they made a horror movie about it.
Perhaps you've forgotten that Gremlins begins with a guy buying a mogwai as a Christmas present for his son. Gizmo the mogwai quickly reproduces, and then a bunch of lil creatures turn into murderous reptilian monsters. The moral of the story here is that you should never buy a gift that comes with the warning "don't feed after midnight."
Black Christmas has the impressive distinction of being both a holiday horror movie and a sorority horror movie. It's about a group of sorority sisters being terrorized by a murderer hiding in the attic of their house. The original Black Christmas premiered in 1974, followed by a remake in 2006.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Fine, fine, this is not technically a horror movie, but '90s children can vouch for getting dragged out of the movie theater screaming because their parents underestimated the fright factor of a talking skeleton. The Tim Burton-produced movie tells the story of Jack Skellington, a resident of Halloween Town who decides he wants to check out the situation in Christmas Town. Because Christmas is awesome, he thinks the holiday should be shared with the people of Halloween Town and so he makes it his mission to help them incorporate some yuletide traditions into their usual spooky routines. Is this a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie? You can decide for yourself.
There are at least four movies called Jack Frost, but for the purposes of getting scared on Christmas, you'll want the 1997 edition. That one is about a serial killer named Jack Frost who turns into a snowman and goes on a murder spree in a town called Snowmonton. If that sounds like too much for you, you could also go with the 1998 Jack Frost, which is about a guy coming back to life as a snowman after dying in a car accident—this second one is mysteriously not classified as a horror movie, though.
Better Watch Out
A more recent addition to the Christmas horror genre, Better Watch Out stars Stranger Things actor Dacre Montgomery, so if you're not sure if this tale of Christmas babysitting gone wrong is right for you, allow Billy's mullet to convince you.
The tagline here should be enough to sell this one: "They're not working for Santa...anymore."
What would happen if Santa Claus was actually the spawn of Satan? The answer—spoiler alert—is, ya know, lots of awful death and stuff.
Not be confused with the 2014 Santa Claws, which has something to do with Father Christmas being allergic to cats, the 1996 movie is about a guy who dresses up as Santa and murders people with a claw, as ya do.
A Christmas Horror Story
Released in 2015, A Christmas Horror Story is actually made up of four separate stories, including one where all of Santa's elves turn into zombies and another where Krampus (him again!) goes on a killing spree. Don't you wish you were still worried about the coal?
Not long after The Devil Wears Prada, Emily Blunt starred in this horror film as a college student who catches a ride home for the holidays. Naturally, the ride doesn't go as planned and, well, you can guess what happens next. Prepare to be haunted by Brenda Lee’s classic “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” well after the credits roll.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
Slasher met Christmas in the 1980s with the release of Silent Night, Deadly Night, but its time in theaters didn’t last long. Due to the controversial premise of the film (a man grows up in an abusive Catholic orphanage following the grisly murder of his parents on Christmas Eve, leading him to become a serial killer in a Santa outfit), Silent Night, Deadly Night was pulled just one week after its debut. The movie has since gained a cult following. If you must, there are four sequels in the franchise.
This thriller from Finland has everything: the harsh realities of winter, an adorable child you want to protect from the comfort of your couch, and a dark secret around Santa Claus stemming from a legendary mountain called Korvatunturi. In his review of the film, Roger Ebert called Rare Exports “a rather brilliant lump of coal for your stocking hung by the fireside with care.”
Ray Wise, best known for playing Leland Palmer on Twin Peaks, plays Frank, a father who has a nightmare drive on Christmas Eve in this French movie. The nightmare isn’t because of his dysfunctional family (no fam is perfect) but because of the unimaginable horrors he encounters along the way.
To All a Goodnight
There are only so many ways to make Christmas scary, so don’t be surprised to learn that the murderer on the loose in To All a Goodnight is dressed...in a Santa suit. His targets? A group of finishing school students and their boyfriends. Feel free to watch this 87-minute movie while folding laundry and declining texts to the next Zoom Christmas party.
Sometimes your Christmas Day is spent dealing with your oddball Aunt Linda, and then other times it's spent trying to not be murdered by the son you tried and failed to abort 20 years ago who has now shown up wanting violent revenge on your entire family. Holidays! Amirite?
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