I know what your thinking…Christmas horror movies? How can that be? Well, sometimes bad things happen on Christmas too. The Christmas season is a wonderful time of year, but sometimes the lines are too long, the gift you need is sold out and the coffeehouse is out of Gingerbread Lattes!
When that happens it’s best to go home, grab a spiked eggnog and watch one of the movies listed below. I only saw one of them in the theater. The rest were video rentals, on actual VHS tapes. Be kind, Rewind.
The Christmas horror movies on the list were released during the holiday season. Halloween would seem like the perfect time, but they were released in November. With the exception of the top pick, which was released in June.
These movies won’t put you in the Christmas spirit or warm your heart, in fact they’ll cut out your heart and wear it as a necklace! But I don’t discriminate, if there’s a horror movie, or any movie, with a Christmas theme I’m all in.
#5 Jack Frost (1997)
This is one of those horror movies that’s so bad, it’s good. No one saw this in the theater, it was a direct-to-video movie. Nowadays it would be a direct-to-streaming. It’s about a serial killer, Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald), while being transported to his execution crashes into a truck carrying genetic material. The material fuses with Jacks body and the snow on the ground transforming him into, well, Jack Frost, an evil serial killer snowman! There’s no wondering why it was direct to video. Shannon Elizabeth makes her film debut in this movie and has a decent death scene.
#4 Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
While perusing the shelves at my local video store back in the late 80’s, I saw a great cover. Santa in the chimney, his arm hanging out carrying axe. How could I pass this movie with such great cover art.
Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) was traumatized as a child when he witnessed his parents murder on Christmas Eve and then sent to an abusive orphanage. As an adult the Christmas season sends him into a physiological breakdown and he dons a Santa suit and goes on a killing spree.
I enjoy this movie for what it is, an 80’s campy slasher flick. But when it was released it caused a massive controversy. Siskel and Ebert said the filmmakers should be ashamed for making the movie. Parents were upset with the ads which featured a murderous Santa Claus. Parents claimed their kids were terrified of Santa Claus after seeing the trailer.
Uh, Santa is a creepy guy in general…He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when your awake…He sneaks into your house at night, pokes around, eats your cookies and then leaves…that’s kinda scary without seeing the movie! The protests worked and the movie was pulled from theaters one week after it was released!
#3 The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon/Danny Elfman) is the Pumpkin King of Halloween town and is transported to Christmas town. On his return to Halloween town Jack wants the residents to celebrate the new holiday, Christmas. He tried to kidnap Santa so he can take over Christmas town. Once Santa is out of the way the ghouls and ghosts from Halloween town scare the citizens of Christmas town.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Tim Burton classic. I never know if it’s a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie. Since they are trying to celebrate Christmas it falls into ‘Christmas movie’ for me. Did you know Tim Burton started out at Disney. Can you imagine how scary Disney movies would be if he had stayed!
#2 Night of the Comet (1984)
Night of the Comet is classified as a ‘horror comedy’ movie and is most definitely a Christmas movie. The opening narration tells us
…The citizens of Earth would get an extra Christmas present this year,…as their planet orbited through the tail of the comet. Scientists predicted a light show of stellar proportions, something not seen on Earth for 65 million years. Indeed, not since the time… that the dinosaurs disappeared, virtually overnight.
The comet is a heavenly Christmas present and as Earth passes through the comet’s tail almost everyone disappears overnight. Those that didn’t die are transformed into hideous zombies. As luck would have it both Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) and her sister Sam (Kelli Maroney) spent the night in a steel structure and avoided the fate of comet.
Now they are left alone (with the zombies) on earth to survive. And what do teenage girls do when alone on earth…shopping spree!! It’s Christmas time after all. They also fight zombies and soon find other survivors. They will be the ones to help repopulate the world. Just what we need, a world full of Valley Girls. Gag me with a spoon!
Night of the Comet is a cult classic and holds a 77% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Joss Whedon credits the movie as his inspiration to create Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
and the Number 1 Christmas Horror Movie is….
#1 Gremlins (1985)
This is one I saw in the theater, several times. It’s also classified as a horror comedy and written by Chris Columbus (The Goonies, Adventures in Babysitting, Home Alone).
Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) buys a Mogwai while in Chinatown as a Christmas present for his son Billy (Zach Galligan). Apparently ‘Mogwai’ is the Cantonese word for Devil, but nobody knew that while watching the movie. Billy loves his furry little friend and names him Gizmo. There are three rules to follow when owning a Mogwai;
- Keep them out of bright light
- Don’t give them water
- Never feed them after midnight
The first two rules seem easy enough to follow, but the last rule is tough. In what time zone do Mogwai exist? Is it midnight Greenwich Mean Time? Eastern? China Time Zone, which would make sense. What about Daylight Savings time, do Mogwai follow it, or are they like Hawaii? And how long after midnight? 5 hours? 12 hours? They truly are the Devil!
It doesn’t really matter though because Billy breaks all three rules the first night…thanks Billy! When Gizmo gets wet tufts of fur pop off his body and create other Mogwai, then Billy feeds them after midnight and they transform into evil, reptilian Mogwai, led by Stripe. Stripe and his band of evil Mogwai escape and go on a killing spree throughout the town. Billy and his girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates) try to stop them before they cause to much Christmas havoc.
Kate already hates Christmas as she retells her worst Christmas ever…
The worst thing that ever happened to me was on Christmas. Oh, God. It was so horrible. It was Christmas Eve. I was 9 years old. Me and Mom were decorating the tree, waiting for Dad to come home from work. A couple hours went by. Dad wasn’t home. So Mom called the office. No answer. Christmas Day came and went, and still nothing. So the police began a search. Four or five days went by. Neither one of us could eat or sleep. Everything was falling apart. It was snowing outside. The house was freezing, so I went to try to light up the fire. That’s when I noticed the smell. The firemen came and broke through the chimney top. And me and Mom were expecting them to pull out a dead cat or a bird. And instead they pulled out my father. He was dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He’d been climbing down the chimney… his arms loaded with presents. He was gonna surprise us. He slipped and broke his neck. He died instantly. And that’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus.
This movie screams Christmas starting with Billy receiving Gizmo for Christmas. Billy’s mom is attacked while making Christmas cookies and watching It’s A Wonderful Life. During the attack the Christmas tree is destroyed. Billy and Kate work at a bank with miserably bosses and an old lady wanting to foreclose on everybody, and a scene where Billy is running through the snow covered streets of town, both callbacks to It’s A Wonderful Life. Stripe and his gang show up singing Christmas Carols before killing an old lady. The Gremlins ruined Christmas, well actually Billy did by not following the rules!
Gremlins (along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) is also the reason we have a PG-13 rating. Both movies were criticized for the amount of violence and the PG rating, many thinking they should be R rated. Steven Spielberg, the director of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Executive Producer on Gremlins suggested the MPAA create a new rating category and PG-13 was born. Neither move was retroactively given the PG-13 rating, they both remain PG. Red Dawn was the first movie to get the PG-13 rating.
Yep, Gremlins is a Christmas movie, not the cheery, happy, an “Angel gets their wings” type, but Christmas nonetheless. It’s a movie I watch every year at Christmas time.
What are your thoughts on a ‘Christmas’ movie? What’s your favorite Christmas horror movie? Let us know in the comments below.