Every holiday has its fair share of horror movies, and Christmas is one of the most on demand for our beloved genre. Every Christmas, we as horror fans sit down to watch a couple (or maybe a dozen) of horror movies related to this specific holiday, although most of the times we watch the same flicks over and over, out of tradition.
Therefore – and probably inspired subconsciously by Vanessa’s list of great horror films to watch on Christmas from last year – I decided to provide you with a list of lesser-known or perhaps underrated horror movies that will most likely make your Christmas time a whole lot better! Despite the title of this article, you might have seen a few of these flicks: if so, please let me know your thoughts about them.
Before we start, I want to give you a brief list of ‘honourable mentions’. Besides the classics (Gremlins, Black Christmas, Silent Night Deadly Night, Krampus and so on), there are a few I will recommend. For example, Calvaire: a Belgian psychological horror film from 2004, which is a bit disturbing and somewhat theme-heavy. This is not for everyone, but if you’re looking for a more unique and serious Christmas-related horror movie you should check it out. Another one is Rare Exports (2010), a Finnish dark tale that I personally don’t really like; however, most people who’ve seen it (including my girlfriend, who’s a big fan of this movie) are in love with it: thus, I have no trouble recommending this one. Finally, Night Train Murders (1975), a gritty and violent ‘rape and revenge’ movie I talked about in my best Italian horror films of all-time list. It takes place on a train, on Christmas, but don’t expect an uplifting story from this one!
Check my top 10 below…
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Now, it’s time to get into serious business, with the TOP 10 BEST Christmas-themed horror movies you probably have not seen:
10) Scary Little Fuckers (USA, 2015, 23 mins, available on YouTube for free) – this is by far the dumbest movie on the whole list. It’s filled with distasteful humour, gross content and bad acting: something that’s acceptable only for a short runtime. The story, which is basically a Gremlins spoof, revolves around an alcoholic dad who buys some creatures from a shady store for Christmas for his son. These creatures come with a warning: do not put them in the same cage! The idiotic son does it anyway and all hell breaks loose. This short movie is entertaining, gory and gross, which makes for quite a unique, fun experience. Look past the low-budget and you’ll enjoy it, in all its silliness.
9) Cuento de Navidad (Spain, 2005, 71 mins, DVD on Amazon) – also known as The Christmas Tale, this Spanish made-for-tv slasher came out as part of an infamous collection of movies in the mid-00s called Films to Keep You Awake. The story follows a group of teenagers who stumble upon a woman dressed like Santa Claus trapped in a hole in the middle of the woods. Upon finding out she’s got some stolen money with her, the teenagers decide to torture her until she decides to give them her cash. However, the woman breaks free and starts chase them down one by one with an axe. Impressive acting and a dark, bleak storyline will definitely keep you entertained or at least intrigued throughout. My only complaint is that the movie could have been a lot gorier, but it’s still a good watch.
8) The Dorm That Dripped Blood (USA, 1982, 88 mins, Prime Video) – released in the heydays of slasher flicks, The Dorm that Dripped Blood is one of the most likeable titles from the 80s, in my opinion. In the movie, four college students are stalked by an unknown assailant while staying on campus over the Christmas holidays to help clear out a dormitory which is to be demolished. The movie got an infamous reputation upon its inclusion in the official Video Nasties list, but it’s quite tame and accessible for today standards. Due to the fact that the characters are pleasant, and the atmosphere is quite tense, this movie still manages to be entertaining and effective even though it’s quite old and has a few dull moments. A few scenes are extremely memorable, in my opinion, but I’m not going to give them away in case you want to seek this one out.
7) Treevenge (Canada, 2008, 16 mins, YouTube and Vimeo for free) – a Canadian slasher short, where Christmas trees decide to take revenge on people who ‘kidnapped’ them from the woods and ‘tortured’ them through Christmas decorations. Besides being funny and gory, what I appreciate about Treevenge is the ability to show every-day human behaviour as cruel and raw: despite having a silly tone, and in such a short runtime, the movie manages to be a tad bit emotional, making you really care for the trees and enjoy seeing little kids who played with them being mutilated. Sounds twisted, I know, but you seriously should not miss this one.
6) Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (UK, 1971, 91 mins, Prime Video) – the oldest film on the list – and the only one in black and white (although there’s also a version with colour) – is a twisted version of the classic Hansel and Gretel tale (which is pretty twisted to begin with, when you think about it). Over the Christmas holidays, a demented woman lures kids into her house and then… well, that’s for you to find out. Set in the 20s, with a noir style that mixes with an early slasher atmosphere, this movie benefits from great acting, a nostalgic look-and-feel (that’s really hard to explain) and an overall dreadful feel that makes it quite an uncomfortable watch. However, there’s an uplifting side to the story, based on friendship and the Christmas spirit. Get some family member to buy you this one on Blu-Ray, it’s really worth it!
5) Await Further Instructions (UK, 2018, 91 mins, Amazon Video from January) – I actually got a screener version of this film from the producer a good while back. Ever since then, I meant to talk about it because it’s quite a great watch. It’s Christmas Day and the Milgram family wakes to find a mysterious black substance surrounding their house. Something dangerous is clearly happening right outside their door, but what exactly – an industrial accident, a terrorist attack, a nuclear war? Descending into terrified arguments, the family members turn on the television, desperate for any information. On screen a message glows ominously: “Stay Indoors and Await Further Instructions”. As the television exerts an ever more sinister grip, their paranoia escalates into bloody carnage. Filled with subtle – but not obscure – social commentary on propaganda, racism, prejudice, immigration and isolation (very delicate themes in Britain at the moment, due to the Brexit situation), Await Further Instructions proves that you don’t need a big budget to build up genuine tension and terror, as long as you have a good concept and great performances. This is a small movie that works on a large scale, one of the biggest surprises I have seen the whole year and one you should definitely get your hands on as soon as it’ll be available on Amazon. Were it not for the obvious ending, ruined by really terrible CGI and stop-motion animation, this movie would easily be one of my favourites of the year. Check it out, now!
4) Sheitan (France, 2006, 93 mins, DVD on Amazon) – This French horror/comedy starts on Christmas Eve, in the Styxx Club in Paris, where the troublemaker Bart and his scum friends, Thaï and Ladj, meet the bartender Yasmine and the customer Eve. Eve invites the group to go to her house in the country. While on the road near the cottage, they are introduced by Eve to the weird shepherd and housekeeper, Joseph (perfectly portrayed by Vincent Cassel), whose wife is pregnant. Joseph feels a sort of attraction for Bart, and during this Christmas night, Joseph discloses his real intentions. Often considered as part of the “new wave of French extreme horror”, this movie is much more accessible than for example Martyrs, A l’Interieur and Frontiers because it’s played for fun. Sure, the gore – which is amazing – can be disturbing at points and, unless you have a very dark sense of humour (like me), the twisted comedy of this film might not be for you. The movie looks a bit dated already – due to budget restraints – but the captivating story that benefits from a creative script, the nice twist and the great performances make up for that. Yet, gore and violence are the highlight here: but what is there not to love about a bloody Christmas?
3) Christmas Evil (USA, 1980, 100 mins, DVD on Amazon) – this is another film released in the heydays of the slasher genre. However, it’s not a slasher flick in the traditional sense; it’s more of a character study. Meet Harry (perfectly portrayed by Brendon Maggart) who, as a kid, witnessed his dad banging hard his mom dressed up like Santa Claus. That experience messed him up real good (I mean, that’s rather understandable), therefore as an adult he believes to be the real Santa Claus: as such, he gives presents to nice kids, but punishes the naughty ones… in a very bloody, mean-spirited way! This film has a slow pace, and I can understand people not liking it or even finding it boring. To me, however, the merciless approach of the movie in combination with a multifaceted villain – who you both fear and feel for – makes this quite a unique watch, a psychological thriller that seems ahead of its time. For fans of 70s and 80s horror movies, Christmas Evil is not to be missed!
2) Sint (Netherlands, 2010, 85 mins, DVD and Blu-Ray on Amazon) – this Dutch horror film, also known as Saint in English (you just add one letter…), is probably one of the most exciting viewing experiences on the whole list. It’s, also, the only movie that doesn’t really take place on Christmas, since it depicts St. Nicholas as a murderous bishop who kidnaps and murders children when there is a full moon on December 5. Based on Dutch and Nordic folklore, this film is very gory and violent, showing kids being slaughtered left and right. Don’t worry, though: it’s more entertaining than it is disturbing. In fact, Sint is also filled with comedic moments – borderline slapstick, by the way – that definitely lighten the whole experience. Despite the low budget, this film relies on some outstanding special effects. Overall, Sint is just an exciting, gory watch for fans of the genre. If you can look past the subtitles (which you should) and the shaky acting, you’ll find yourself enthralled in a world of madness, killings, and loads of fun!
1) El Dia de la Bestia (Spain, 1995, 103 mins, DVD and Blu-Ray on Amazon) – a few weeks before Christmas, a Catholic priest teams up with a Black Metal aficionado and an Italian connoisseur of the occult to avert the birth of the beast, and with it, the end of the world. Known in English-speaking countries as The Day of the Beast, this is film mixes slasher aspects with supernatural horror tropes: although El Dia de la Bestia isn’t very underrated (I mean, it won 15 prestigious awards upon its release!) it’s unfortunately overlooked nowadays. It doesn’t break any new ground, but it works in many ways: it’s a quite bloody horror flick, it has funny scenes, it’s surprisingly deep in terms of social commentary about religion and acceptance. Perfect example of satirical horror, I appreciate this film due to the aforementioned elements that perfectly intertwine with a gloomy atmosphere and an uplifting ending, very suitable for Christmas. This is one of my favourite Spanish horror movies, thus I strongly recommend it.
What about you? What’s a, perhaps, underrated or forgotten Christmas related horror flick you’d recommend or think more people should be aware of? Let me know and have a great Christmas!