You'd be surprised at how quickly the overwhelming holiday cheer of the Christmas season can turn into something sinister and deadly, as your favorite Christmas horror movies can attest to. If you're looking for a respite from the tooth-rotting sweetness of the winter holidays, look no further than these films filled with thrills, shrills, and kills.
Melt Your Icicles With These Horror Christmas Classics
These Christmas horror movies helped build the budding subgenre in the 1970s and 1980s with the likes of devious slashers, mischievous pets, and killer Santa Clauses.
Who Slew Auntie Roo (1971)
Who Slew Auntie Roo isn't like any fairy tale that you've ever seen; based on Hansel and Gretel, the film explores the dastardly widow's exploits as she obsesses over a young orphan who greatly resembles her dead daughter. If you're in the mood for a Christmas-y What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? film, then this early '70s movie is perfect for you.
Black Christmas (1974)
First released in 1974 and remade in 2006 and 2019, Black Christmas is a Canadian horror movie that takes inspiration from the real-life murders in the Westmount area of Montreal, Canada. Committed by 'The Vampire Rapist,' Wayne Boden, between 1969 and 1971, these five murders bear little resemblance to the film's final storyline, but the fear of an unknown intruder slowly killing off sorority sisters at a Christmas party still sparks fright to this day. Chew on your popcorn strings this Christmas season by watching one of the first classic Christmas horror movies to hit theaters.
Christmas Evil (1980)
Another cult classic, Christmas Evil is a 1980 psychological thriller, directed by Lewis Jackson, that puts Santa on his very own naughty list. After a traumatic childhood encounter involving his father dressed up as Santa Claus, Harry Stadling becomes obsessed with the holiday figure, eventually turning himself into a twisted version of old St. Nick. What follows is a descent into madness which is a bloody affair, that you'll have to watch to see it unfold.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
The 1980s was a decade rife with slasher flicks, and the bloodier, the better. As John Carpenter's Halloween proved six years earlier, no holiday is safe from a slasher's violence. Silent Night, Deadly Night is a 1984 psychological slasher film which follows a traumatized man's break from reality and transformation into a Santa Claus suit-wearing killer. A true cult classic, this controversial killer Santa film has spawned four sequels--just enough to get you through a marathon that lasts all of Christmas day.
You can't watch this truly absurd film from 1989 without feeling like you're watching a train wreck unfold before your eyes. This horror movie's plot is as strange as they come, retconning Nazi Aryan obsessions with breeding a master elf/human race, and centering the story on a young woman and her company fighting off a mystical Christmas elf lord trying to bring this dream to fruition. While this might be at the bottom of your Christmas horror list, you can't fully complete your task without seeing every last Christmas horror movie out there…including this truly awful one.
Jack Frost (1997)
If you're in the mood for a delicious B-grade horror movie, give this direct-to-video late-90s film a try. The film explores condemned serial killer Jack Frost's exploits as a freak accident on the way to his execution turns him into a murderous snowman. Given his noncorporeal form at the time, he's presumed dead. However, given his new frosty lease on life, Jack makes his way through the residents of the town in order to exact revenge on the Sheriff who caught him the first time. Be prepared for water and carrots to be used as murder weapons in ways you've never expected before.
Modern Christmas Horror Movies That Sleigh
The Christmas horror film genre has really seen a boon in the millennium, with both small studios and streaming services alike putting out movies that'll make you think twice about getting on the naughty list this year.
Starring the avant garde horror film savant, Toni Collette, and other notable actors like Adam Scott and David Koechner, Krampus is a mixed-bag of comedy and horror from 2015 that brings the legendary folkloric creature, Krampus, to life and sets him loose on a small American town. Watch as one dysfunctional family comes together to fight off the mythological murderer.
The Gingerdead Man (2005)
An absolute gem of a terrible horror movie, The Gingerdead Man gives the sweet Gingerbread Man from Shrek a bad reputation. What follows in this 2005 comedy horror movie is an unbelievably insane narrative featuring an electrocuted serial killer brought back from the dead in the form of a giant gingerbread man. Though his kills are brutal, the film's slayer's resemblance to a burnt, vaguely human shaped, crisp adds a layer of levity to this bloodbath.
Better Watch Out (2016)
Babysitters are notoriously unsafe when it comes to horror movies, and this 2016 film turns the tired trope on its head. Focusing on one young woman's harrowing fight to stay alive after the deranged boy in her charge attempts to kidnap and kill her, the film proves that teenagers can be ruthless.
If you're looking for a foreign film to spook you this holiday season, then Inside is a great choice for you. This mid-2000s French film subverts the classic home-invasion genre by placing two warring women at the center. A vulnerable pregnant woman spends her Christmas Eve trying to fight to protect herself and her unborn baby against a stranger's attacks. During the holidays, especially, the walls of your home feel like the safest place to be - but not if you're inside.
Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
There's nothing like a zombie musical to put you in the Christmas mood, right? This 2017 British holiday film is just zany enough for people who're afraid of scary movies to enjoy. In a delightfully genre-bending way, this film pokes fun at itself without falling prey to parody. After all, doesn't everbody look a little bit like a zombie on Christmas morning?
The Lodge (2019)
The winter weather that comes with the end-of-year holidays can instill a lot of fear of isolation in people around the world, and 2019's The Lodge brings that fear to life. A father and his two children meet with his fiancee at her remote lodge during the Christmas holidays to get to know one another. However, as unexplainable things begin happening around the lodge and the fiancee falls further into madness, you're left wondering just who the villain really is.
Mercy Christmas (2017)
Much like the film, Get Out, Mercy Christmas takes its male lead and drops him into an increasingly impossible-to-survive situation at the behest of his attractive love-interest. Rather than being used as a puppet, Mercy Christmas seeks to turn its protagonist into the entire Christmas spread. After watching this one, you'll probably be overjoyed to take a slice of fruit cake from your grandmother's plate.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
Santa Claus is anything but jolly in this Finnish horror film from 2010. Exposing the real Santa Claus for his tradition of kidnapping children for his own pleasure, the film just might make you a bit skeptical of the whole Santa myth, after all.
Another foreign film to broaden your holiday horizons, this Dutch movie entitled Sint explores the eventual downfall of a nearly 500 year old evil bishop named St. Niklas as he commits murder every twenty-three years.
This short horror film is worth every minute of its sixteen-minute run time due in large part to the bonkers, yet wholeheartedly satisfying, premise. Perhaps unintentionally humorous, the trees fight back in this floral revenge storyline. The best part of the whole short film? The fact that the trees aren't anthropomorphized and you get to watch huge evergreens shuffle their way to murder in real-time.
Dead End (2003)
The family in this early 2000s horror movie breaks some of the cardinal rules of the horror genre, such as taking an unknown rural detour and picking up a hitchhiker. Instead of enjoying a quiet Christmas Eve as a family, the group must face a series of disturbing events in a wooded forest on a road that never seems to end.
You Better Watch Out
Santa's not the only thing keeping an eye on you this Christmas season; make sure to keep your doors locked, your chimneys covered, and your baked goods put away before heading to bed on Christmas Eve. Just like the characters in these Christmas horror movies, you never know just who might come to visit you that night.