Tis’ the season to be… murderous? Apparently so.
Since the very beginning, the horror genre has been largely underrated, assumed to be lacking in substance and creativity. This belief began to shift in the 1980s and 1990s, as esteemed film critics and scholars such as Carol Clover and Robin Wood, took notice of the genre’s ability to break taboos with an incredibly astute sense of purpose.
Monsters who represented issues of class and race and sexuality, from Frankenstein to Dracula, had dominated the box office for decades. But eventually, a new kind of monster surfaced. One that was unnamed and could be lurking in any corner.
The slasher genre introduced the fear of the Other in a whole new way, because it invaded our everyday lives and, most importantly, our suburban neighborhoods. Along with this shift in the genre came a new desire to be more invasive, and before long, the holiday horror was born.
Let’s face it, you can only watch Charlie Brown bring home a sappy tree so many times. If you’re looking for an unconventional holiday flick to curl up with this season, we have a list that will completely change your outlook on the 12 days (or nights) of Christmas.
12. Silent Night, Bloody Night: Homecoming
Here is a classic tale of a surprise inheritance that is not all it’s cracked up to be. Like many horror films, this gruesome story begins with Jeffery being willed the home of his late grandfather. The man had been wealthy but troubled, and has taken his own life.
When Jeffery makes his way to the family home, the last thing he suspects is that an axe-wielding maniac has taken up residence in the abandoned house and now, well, he’s feeling a little territorial. The film is a UK remake of the American 1974 film, Silent Night, Bloody Night.
This 1989 slasher revolves around fears of medical experimentation that were so abundant in the 1980s. As the trailer proclaims: “an innocent romp in the woods turns into a hellish night”, when Kirsten accidentally unleashes an evil beyond belief. The result of a nazi-experiment, these elves are not working for Santa anymore.
Things go from bad to worse when Kirsten discovers that they are after her virginity, believing mating with her will create an unstoppable master-race (albeit, short and ugly).
Trapped with nowhere to hide, Kirsten and her friends are lucky to have Santa to depend on. Ex-detective turned mall Santa that is. The thrills simply don’t stop, and in all honesty, neither do the laughs. Cheesiness abounds in this Christmas slasher.
10. Black Christmas
In 2006, director Glen Morgan braved dangerous territory when he remade the Canadian holiday slasher, Black Christmas. In the updated version, a sorority house is taunted by bizarre phone calls over the holidays. The girls try to ignore them, but when the killing spree begins, there’s nothing to do but fight.
Facing a power outage and two killers, the girls stick together in an attempt to make it through the night. Flashbacks explain that Billy was once just an innocent boy, abused by a crazy mother, until he snapped. When his cannibalistic ways got him locked up one Christmas night, the police thought it was over.
Now, years later, Billy only has one wish: to be home for Christmas. Sadly, his home has been turned into a sorority house, but that doesn’t seem to be much of a deterrent for Billy, nor his sister, Agnes.
9. Jack Frost
What happens when a serial killer dies in a snowy car accident? He comes back as a malevolent snowman out for blood… obviously. This one gives cold-blooded, a whole new meaning.
The police are stunned, knowing a genetic mutation occurred as the result of something that was not yet cleared for experimentation. On the bright side, they now know that the test results would be very, very, negative.
When an evil snowman is after you, there’s not much to do but run, scream and hide. After all, he’s huge, viscous and has icy fangs that will do more harm than frost-bite. Lookout for the ode to Godzilla in this one.
8. Christmas Evil
This little known cult-classic features a Santa that takes his job very seriously. His naughty or nice list is far more than a suggestion for gift-giving, the phrase “be good for goodness sake” has never been more significant.
Okay, so Harry may not be the real Santa, but his list is certainly real enough. After being traumatized by seeing Santa (AKA his father) grope his mother one Christmas eve night, the boy grew bitter and three decades later, decides to do something about it. What the world needs, he decides, is a true Santa. By day, Harry works at a toy factory, and if that’s not creepy enough, you should check out his night job. He’ll be easy to spot, he’s the psycho in the Santa suit, peeping through your windows.
7. Silent Night
“Christmas, the #1 holiday for people going nuts!” Scantily clad carollers, greedy children, Santa is just not impressed. Hiding in plain sight, this maniac is on a mission to punish, cleanse, and burn away all those who have made the naughty list.
At first, the authorities want to believe a murderous Santa is only a legend, but with the bodies piling up and an annual Santa parade taking place, they have to find a way to take down an evil they never believed in.
After his successful portrayal of Dr. Loomis in Rob Zombie’s Halloween, it’s no surprise to see Malcolm MacDonald in the role of a small-town sheriff in yet another Holiday thriller.
6. Silent Night, Bloody Night
“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the night not a creature was left alive.” This 1974 drive-in favorite stars many Warhol superstars, including Candy Darling and Tally Brown.
Even so, it took hardly any time at all for the film to disappear into obscurity. Still, its creepy atmosphere and dark subject caused it to be remembered by a select few, and eventually remade in the UK, as the even less popular Silent Night, Bloody Night: Homecoming.
This who-dun-it follows Jeffery Butler on a terrifying night. Sneaking away to have an affair, he and his assistant take refuge in his grandfather’s old mansion, only to discover there is a deranged killer inside.
5. Santa’s Slay
This Canadian black comedy offers a very new twist on the Santa legend — and twisted it is. The scary truth is explained: Santa was the only son of Satan, but after losing a bet, he was forced to spread Christmas joy around the world, year after year.
After centuries of playing by the rules, Santa has had enough. No more presents, no more cookies, no more happy songs. Instead, Santa’s out to cause some major damage. On Christmas eve when Santa comes down the chimney, he’s got a trick or two to share. From stabbings to eggnog drownings, holiday cheer comes to an abrupt end.
Hell-deer, the Book of Klaus, and appearances by famous Jewish actors make for a disturbingly fun hour and a half.
4. Silent Night, Deadly Night
In 1984, this American slasher hit screens across the country, quickly becoming the most controversial film of the decade. The film was boycotted by parents all over the States, and was met with a petition by the PTA to have the film removed from theatres. As it turned out, some parents were not okay with the degradation of their children’s most beloved fantasy.
According to the documentary, Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, outraged parents and critics alike banned against the film, calling it a “worthless splatter film”, with Leonard Maltin even asking, “What’s next? The Easter Bunny as a child molester?” The film was pulled but was redistributed in 1986.
The story follows a young orphan who grows up to be a holiday killer, after witnessing his parents murdered at the hands of a Santa.
Although there is no Santa in this one, the holiday spirit is effectively killed when a young businesswoman is trapped and pursued in a parking lot, by a maniacal security guard who hopes to share Christmas dinner with her, the woman of his dreams.
With no cell phone reception, no passerby after hours, and a family who expects her to bail for the holidays, there is not much hope that Angela will be saved. So of course, it’s up to her. Taking on the archetypal role of a final girl, she toughens up and gets creative to plot an escape. It all culminates in a hellish cat-and-mouse chase. Roger Ebert said: “Although the plot may seem like a formulaic slasher film, P2 is in fact a very well made, atmospheric thriller with gritty yet realistic characters”.
A twisted holiday classic like this there never was, and may never be again. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, it appropriately straddles the line between a family comedy and pure horror.
When a young man receives an unusual Christmas gift he is intrigued and excited, but quickly proves himself too irresponsible to handle the mogwai. There are only two rules: never get it wet, and never feed it after midnight. When the rules are broken, cute, furry, Gizmo turns into five creatures that are more trouble than they’re worth.
Both the original and its 1990 sequel were major hits, from which a ton of merchandise was created, including toys, trading cards and video games.
1. Black Christmas
Effectively the first modern slasher, this Canadian classic has been a favorite among twisted holiday-lovers for decades. Like its 2006 remake, the story revolves around a sorority house at Christmastime, in which the girls are harassed by mysterious phone calls. In this case, the voice on the other end is perverted and violent, striking instant fear.
When Claire suddenly disappears after one of the calls, Jess becomes concerned that the two strange events are connected. They reach out for help from the police, to no avail. Unfortunately, she and her sisters are unaware that the killer is already inside the house, waiting to strike again. The film is especially famous for its use of killer point-of-view, which was mimicked by John Carpenter in the hugely successful slasher Halloween, just four years later.