What is Christmas without decorations, eggnog, carolers, stockings filled with body parts…
…err wait. Something sounded wrong about that.
Unlike Thanksgiving, as I came to find out, Christmas is not only a holiday filled with charming family films, it is also the holiday with the most horror films linked to it. It’s natural to think Halloween would have the most horror movies associated with it, but two things working against that are any horror movie works for Halloween and the Christmas season is the biggest box office time of the year which seems to make sense to associate a horror movie with Christmas to take advantage of that.
This is not your standard list of Christmas horror movies. Though there certainly are movies in this list which directly associate their horror with Christmas, the main focus of this list is: 1) those movies which do not get much love in other Christmas horror lists as they are either indie films or not specifically about Christmas but take place during Christmas; and 2) several movies you can watch for free today.
What you won’t find on here are the all too common films on Christmas horror lists like Silent Night, Deadly Night and Christmas Evil, both of which I find to be borefests.
What I have included on this list is just a sampling of Christmas related horror movies from the silent era to today. I have also included after the main list a small listing of some indie horror films that are related to Christmas; they’re not free but you can check them out.
The Night Before Christmas (a.k.a. Christmas Eve; 1913)
This is based on Nikolai Gogol’s story Christmas Eve, in Russian that is. Witches and demons and sorcerers, oh my! It is the night before Christmas (in case the title didn’t give it away) as a witch summons a demon to a small Russian village where it steals the moon leaving many of the residents in the dark (the story was published in 1832, go with it), particularly those men going to and from the tavern, and leaving them as prime pickings for the witch.
Obviously a very early film, almost a decade before the famous and infamous Nosferatu and now over 100 years old. By comparisons with cinema today, or even cinema 50 years ago, some effects are cheesy but for their time they were fairly well done, including one scene combining animation with live action.
Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971)
Auntie Roo is thought of as a sweet, kindly woman who loves children and throws an annual Christmas party at her mansion for ten select children from the orphanage. Underneath that facade though is something sinister. This year a brother and sister from the orphanage who were not invited to the party secretly sneak into the party. This is suppose to be a night with roast pig but something else will roast tonight.
Shelly Winters stars as Auntie Roo and also features Ralph Richardson, twice in movies on this list, and Lionel Jeffries.
Tales from the Crypt (1972)
Not quite the cuddly Crypt Keeper everyone has come to adore from the TV series, but instead Sir Ralph Richardson plays a gloomy gus in, of all places, a crypt, as five tourists who become separated from a group end up with him. He regales them each with a story of how they will die if they do not repent.
One of the stories stars Joan Collins and is called “…And All Through the House”, based on a story from EC Comics’ The Vault of Horror. In it she plays a woman who is giving her husband a splitting headache, with a fireplace poker that is, on Christmas Eve. Alas, her plans are interupted by a maniac on the loose who happens to be dressed as Santa Claus.
Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)
Perhaps the earliest horror movie to directly associate with Christmas, most especially in the title. Somewhat of a thriller/slasher mix that far preceded the slasher movie cycle, and several of those films were influenced by this.
A patient escapes from a mental asylum as an old estate is about to be sold. The man putting the home up for sale inherited it but does know of its history, though several of the townspeople do, and the secrets it hides. It seems someone is not happy with the sale as people are being killed just before Christmas.
The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1982)
A wicked little slasher movie from the glut of slashers of the early 80s that gets no love from basement dwellers. Why is that? Well… because they’re basement dwellers. What else would you expect from overgrown boys still living in mommy’s basement on a staple of pizza and potato chips and Dungeons & Dragons?
There is no Santa killer in this, or any other Christmas associated killer. The plot of the film starts with a group of college students who stay over to clean the dorms while most of the students are gone during the Christmas break. Being it takes place during Christmas, complete with a Christmas party, it fits with the theme of Christmas related horror movies.
I actually think this is one of the better slasher films from the period. It has standard elements such as the opening prelude with a mysterious killer, the strange guy roaming around who is suspect, and of course college kids being stalked and killed. But it severely breaks with slasher tradition in what still has to be one of the most twisted endings ever in a slasher movie.
Lucky Stiff (1988)
Couldn’t you just imagine going to Christmas dinner with the family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
Yeah… it’s not on my top ten list either.
Ron was dumped, of all days, on his wedding day. So naturally he goes to the mountains to apparently be among the rednecks and weirdos (certainly on my travel itinerary… ahem) where he meets a lovely young woman and her family who want to have him for Christmas dinner. No, I mean literally have HIM for dinner.
Starring Donna Dixon whom you may remember as the tall blonde on Bussom Buddies and went on to bigger and better things with this movie. O.o
This was also directed by Anthony Perkins, best remembered for the role of Norman Bates in the movie Psycho.
Lurking Fear (1994)
It’s Christmas time. For inbred families everywhere that means…
…yeah, most likely dinner.
Based in part on the H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name and starring Jeffrey “I’ll do anything based on Lovecraft” Combs comes a story that has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, but the events of this movie do take place on Christmas Eve, it is entertaining at the least, and it features one sexy girl fight in the rain and mud, so what’s not to love?
Slay Bells Jingle Bell Rock Edition (2015)
Actually part of Bob and Derek Ferreira’s film The Carnage Collection (2015), but since it is Christmas themed it has been made available on its own, in an expanded edition no less.
Christmas decorations. They get no love. Ornaments at least get to rest in cozy little boxes between seasons. And of course we take care to put the tree in proper storage. But what about that lawn Santa? How do you think he feels with a cord permanently stuck up his ass only to be left in a storage building? He’s about to let it be known just how he feels.
Check Out These Other Indie Films for Christmas
Silent Night, Zombie Night (2009)
The streets of Los Angeles are filled with masses biting, screaming and turning violent. Oh my gawd… it must be Christmas shoppers!
One week before Christmas and a viral outbreak turns the residents of Los Angeles into zombies. And considering it’s Christmas shopping season it’s probably hard to tell at first. Add to this a love trinagle, then trap that triangle together during a zombie outbreak during Christmas and you have Silent Night, Zombie Night.
Chad Meisenheimer told me about this film which features him in a bit part as “Car Bumping Zombie” and his fellow filmmaker Shane Ryan as “Michael J. Fox Zombie”. Also features lesser known stars such as Vernon Wells and Lew Temple. 😉
Bloody Christmas (2012)
A has-been 80s action movie star who has resorted to playing Santa Claus on a public access TV show and at a local mall has fantasies about murdering the people he works with and feels have done him wrong. Meanwhile the police are investigating local child murders, but could it be a stressed out ex-actor playing Santa?
One of the stars of this film is the sizzling, delicious, yummy… err, scuse me, Geretta Geretta who is best known for her role in Demons (1985) as Rosemary, the super sexy zombie you see in some of the posters.
The Carnage Collection (2015)
This is the film from which the aforementioned Slay Bells was taken. It’s a horror comedy anthology with the setup being a take on the movie Stay Tuned (1992) with a guy being approached late at night in his home by a sinister cable salesman (nothing out of the ordinary there) who gives him free cable in exchange for, oh, his soul. He proceeds to watch a selection of strange programming which makes up the body of this film.
The 12 Slays of Christmas (2016)
Not one but 12, count ’em, 12 stories in a horror anthology about Christmas which brings together 12 different directors so you’re sure to find something you like in this. Made by Body Bag Films and brought to you by Troma, you can watch this included with your subscription to Troma Now.
60 Seconds to Die (2017)
This is a most ambitious anthology featuring an ungodly number of directors each given 60 seconds in which to tell their story. One of the stories is Christmas which features Chad Meisenheimer, who was the one who told me about this one as well. There is another segment called “Oh killing Tree, Oh Killing Tree” but I don’t know if it relates to Christmas or not. Being Chad has been helpful compiling this list, look him up on Twitter or Facebook to see what film projects he’s up too.
And To All a Good Fright!
As usual I ran behind on compiling a list and was originally going to make it all about indie films (and frankly most Christmas horror movies are independent films), but the response was not overwhelming outside of Chad Meisenheimer, Bob Ferreira and Troma Films providing me with suggestions. Rather than trying to do another same ol’ films list I decided to stick mostly to movies which could be watched for free. Now you can have some films to share with family and friends tonight and guarantee that you won’t be on anybody’s Christmas list next year.