Christmas is second only to Halloween for holiday-themed horror, and there are a variety of Christmas horror films out there when you want to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year in a not too joyful way.
Christmas horror, like those oh-so-sweet Christmas romance films, often follow a formula, and one of those formulas involves Santa. But, this is not the jolly old St. Nicholas we heard about in our childhood years. The horror movie Santa is usually a homicidal maniac dressed in a Santa suit.
Sometimes, the Santa-like figure isn’t even human, and anyone who has seen A Christmas Horror Story, Krampus or Rare Exports knows what I am talking about. Krampus is the demonic version of St. Nick, who beats bad children, often kidnapping them as well, and he is popular enough to have his own holiday, Krampusnacht.
If you are feeling grumpy and Krampus-like, you might want to watch A Christmas Horror Story, which is currently streaming on Shudder and Amazon Prime (for rental). It’s a surprisingly intense and dark anthology film featuring four intertwining stories. In one, three students investigate a possible haunting in their school after two other students were killed the prior year.
Krampus gets his own story, where he hunts down members of a family who have been fairly naughty. The youngest son breaks a Krampus ornament at his Aunt’s house, thereby unleashing the gigantic and very scary creature.
The best story involves a rugged Santa Claus, whose elves have become zombies that he must fight and kill to survive. It’s just funny to hear enraged elves throwing around the f-bomb in their chipmunk-like elf voices, and the blood and body parts fly around Santa’s workshop.
If you prefer a less bloody version of Krampus (or a Krampus-like creature known as Joulupukki), give Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale a shot. It’s an excellent Finnish fantasy-horror film, with plenty of scares and action, and some humor as well.
A young boy named Pietari lives with his father, who is a reindeer slaughterer (hey, it’s a horror film, what do you expect?) in Lapland. After Pietari reads some books suggesting that Santa Claus is actually a horned demon who punishes bad children, a group of researchers come across what they believe to be an ancient burial ground.
Things only get stranger from there, especially when Pietari and his father find a naked old man in a trap they set, the local villagers report that a thief has stolen items that include heaters and hair dryers, and several children disappear. It’s a wonderful mystery that Pietari is compelled to solve. You can stream Rare Exports on Shudder and Tubi.
Not in the mood for Krampus or Santa? Feel like watching something different, yet still scary and still Christmas-y? Try watching 2008’s creepy “something has gone terribly wrong with the children” flick The Children.
Elaine, Jonah, and their three kids are visiting Elaine’s sister during the holidays. The weather is appropriately snowy, and, as always happens during that time of year, family dynamics are at their peak. Youngest son Paulie gets out of the car upon their arrival and immediately throws up.
Everything seems to be fine until it’s not. Rebellious teenage daughter Casey is the first to sense that something is just not right with the younger children, and boy is that an understatement!
Something – we are not really sure what – has affected these kids, turning them into cold-blooded killers, and the adults must literally fight for their lives.
Of course, you can always watch 1974’s excellent Black Christmas, or one of several “Santa’s gone mad” films, including Christmas Evil, Deadly Games and Silent Night Deadly Night 2. All four of these gems are available as part of Shudder’s Unhappy Holidays collection, and all are good choices for Christmas horror.
When you are ready to exchange holiday cheer for holiday fear, there are plenty of Christmas horror films out there to enjoy, and we hope you check out at least one on our list. Scary Christmas to all!
Do you prefer your holidays to be scary, rather than merry? Tell us about your favorite Christmas horror films in the comments section.