You Better Watch Out: The top ten holiday slashers

Black Christmas. Image courtesy Shudder
Black Christmas. Image courtesy Shudder /

Just because it’s Christmas time doesn’t mean everything has to be candy canes, elves on shelves and wish lists to Santa. This time of year can be downright horrifying and thankfully, for those of us that enjoy the scarier things in life, Hollywood answers the call every year with a gift sack packed with yuletide terrors that can satisfy even the hardest of horror fans. You’ll want to check out these great holiday slashers.

Best holiday slashers

So grab yourself a cup of eggnog, curl up by the fire and enjoy 1428 Elm’s Top Ten Christmas Slashers. It’s sure to stoke that holiday spirit within you and maybe even give you some nightmares… before Christmas that is.

10. Holiday slashers: Secret Santa (2018)

The halls are decked with blood splatter and brain matter when a Christmas dinner goes violently off the rails. It seems someone has secretly drugged the punch and it’s causing the already dysfunctional Pope family to turn violent against each other and the only way this ends is in copious amounts of bloodshed.

This drug-induced slay ride stars Michael Rady (The Occupants, 2014), Debra Sullivan (13 Fanboy, 2021), A. Leslie Kies (Deadly Ride, 2021), and is co-written and directed by Adam Marcus (Jason Goes to Hell, 1993). It’s a family tradition. An annual anxiety-ridden Christmas dinner served up with a giant helping of gore-splattered rage that seems to befit this family as they transform from unpleasant and entitled to homicidal and primal.

9. Holiday slashers: Silent Night (2012)

Santa Claus is coming to town and he has some time to kill in this very loose remake of 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night. The small town of Cryer, Wisconson is about to have the absolute worst Christmas as a psycho in a Santa suit targets the town residence he has etched onto his naughty list. It’s up to the local police department to stop this maniac before they get added to his list.

Directed by Steven C. Miller (Under the Bed, 2012) and starring Malcolm McDowell (Halloween, 2007), Jamie King (My Bloody Valentine, 2009), Donal Logue (Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City, 2021) and Brendan Fehr (Final Denstination, 2000), this 2012 adaptation is inspired by an actual 2008 event in Covina, Los Angeles. It was here where a man dressed in a Santa outfit shot and killed nine people at a holiday party.

8. Holiday slashers: Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas (1984)

You would think that getting a gig as Santa for the holidays would be a pretty sweet one but in London, on this particular Christmas, it can be deadly. You see, someone is stalking people dressed as jolly old St. Nicholas and killing them in horrifically creative ways.

This British slasher stars Edmond Purdom (Pieces, 1982), Belinda Mayne (Krull, 1983) and Scream Queen Caroline Munroe (Slaughter High, 1986). It boasts a body count of nine Father Christmas’ and features everything from knives to spears, which is what every good Christmas movie should have.

7. Holiday slashers: Red Christmas (2016)

Spending time with family during the holidays can be hard enough but add to the mix a son who was long thought to have been aborted returning for bloody vengeance on the family who would have seen him perish before his life could even begin and you’re Christmas isn’t going to be too merry.

Red Christmas, its serious but not too serious approach, stars Geoff Morrell (Rogue, 2007), David Collins (Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, 2021), and Dee Wallace (Cujo, 1983). It’s a pitch-black horror-comedy with plenty of blood for the gorehounds and just enough self-awareness for a funny but exhilarating holiday ride. To be paired with a hot toddy and director Craig Anderson’s making-of documentary, Horror Movie: A Low Budget Nightmare.

6. Holiday slashers: All through the House (2015)

Santa Claus is coming to Napa, California but he isn’t bringing his usual bag of presents for all of the good little boys and girls. Instead, he’s cutting down bodies with an obsession only a madman can possess. Now the town is paying for its ugly past at the judging hands of a holiday reaper.

If you’re looking to put something under the tree for that discerning horror aficionado in your family, perhaps All Through the House would be a fitting X-Mas treat? Starring Ashley Mary Nunes (Inhuman Resources, 2012), Jessica Cameron (Truth or Dare, 2013), and Jennifer Wenger (Tales of Halloween, 2015) this holiday slasher holds its own in an unpredictable, unapologetic, unwrapped gorefest.

5. Holiday slashers: Christmas Evil (1980)

Originally titled You Better Watch Out but also known as Terror in Toyland, Christmas Evil tells the terrifying tale of a toymaker who adores everything Christmas but when his classic toys are suddenly met with ridicule, he suffers a mental breakdown and sets out to show everyone that they can’t put this toymaker in a corner. With axe in hand, he wanders the town destroying all who don’t relish in the Christmas spirit.

Despite having the classic slasher premise, which is enticing to almost any slasher fan, you might want to check out Christmas Evil based on its reputation. Not only does it get a glowing recommendation from transgressive cult film director John Waters (Serial Mom, 1994), the film was also seized in the UK under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 during the Video Nasty hoopla that rapt the United Kingdom in the early 1980s.

4. Holiday slashers: Better Watch Out (2017)

Part home invasion horror, part slasher and the best M. Night Shyamalan ending that M. Night Shyamalan wishes he wrote, Better Watch Out follows babysitter Ashley as she watches Luke during the holidays. When a group of intruders invades the house Ashley finds herself in a life and death fight to protect young Luke and herself, question is, is she protecting the right people?

This 2018 Saturn Best Horror Film Award stars Olivia DeJonge (Scare Campaign, 2016), Levi Miller (A Wrinkle In Time, 2018) and Ed Oxenbould (The Visit, 2015)  boasting not only a modest kill count for a slasher film but also an almost entirely Australian cast. The only actors in the film that are not Aussies are Patrick Warburton (Scream 3, 2000) and Virginia Madsen (Candyman, 1992) who are both American where this film is actually set.

3. Holiday slashers: Dismembering Christmas (2015)

Mark and his friends head to his father’s new house for some much-needed holiday cheer, but when they ignore a warning from the local prophet of doom, they soon find out that some urban legends are real. What starts as a holiday party for the ages soon descends into a bloodbath as a vengeful grinch crashes the party.

The film that allegedly has its beginnings as a Friday the 13th spec script stars Baker Chase Powell (Little Dead Rotting Hood, 2016), Jonathon Krautkramer (Don’t Go to the Reunion, 2013), and Leah Wiseman (Irrational Fear, 2017). This indie darling is sure to get more than a few hearts racing as the initially slow-paced thriller eventually ramps up to full slasher mode.

2. Holiday slashers: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

You may never look at deer antlers the same ever again as this golden age slasher ups the gore quotient and delivers on the scares. It all starts when young Billy is told by his grandfather that Santa Claus punishes those that are naughty. In a cruel twist of fate, Billy then sees his parents killed by a man in a Santa suit and the young traumatized child is sent to an abusive orphanage. Now, an 18-year-old Billy is out of the orphanage and donning a Santa suit, ready to punish those he deems naughty.

Audiences were up in arms at the initial promotional material for the film depicting a murderous Santa Claus and the film was ultimately pulled from the theatres (where it was out-grossing opening day competitor A Nightmare on Elm Street) after only one week in release. The film stars Robert Brian Wilson (TV’s Santa Barbara, 1991), Lilyan Chauvin (Pumpkinhead II: Bloodwings, 1993), and Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead, 1985) and was the inspiration for our number 9 spot on this list, Silent Night, though the latter has no connection to the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise.

1. Holiday slashers: Black Christmas (1974)

Was there any doubt that this classic from director Bob Clark (A Christmas Story, 1983) wouldn’t be at the number 1 spot on this list? Of course, there wasn’t. The story of the sorority house under siege from a maniac hiding in the attic during the Christmas holidays is not only the film that started the holiday horror craze but it is also (arguably) the proto-slasher having only a couple of “slasher” films before it. The best part is that you can stream it now on Shudder.

This classic stars Olivia Hussey (It, 1990), Keir Duella (The Haunting of Julia, 1977), Margot Kidder (The Amityville Horror, 1979), Andrea Martin (Black Christmas, 2006 remake), and John Saxxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984).  It was the inspiration behind John Carpenter’s seminal classic Halloween (1978) which is pretty much what a Black Christmas sequel would have looked like according to Black Christmas director Bob Clark.

With a catalog so rich with festive frights, this list is merely the tip of the sharpened candy cane when it comes to holiday horrors. What would you place on your list? Would it be a bloody and brutal as this list? Let us know in the comments and remember, stay creepy kids!

dark. Next. 25 best horror shows to watch (14 shows to skip)