On Reddit, u/CorgiTacos31 has started a debate considering the best Christmas horror film; in the post, the author wrote: “Trying to find the best horror film centered around Christmas.” Over 500 comments later, fellow Redditors have shared their personal recommendations for terrifying Christmas classics that deliver the perfect blend of glad tidings and gut-wrenching gore. Here are some of the candidates for movies to make you tell your friends, “Yule be frightened.”
While not explicitly a traditional ‘Christmas’ movie, Gremlins is set around the Christmas period. Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) visits an antique store, searching for a Christmas gift for his son, Billy (Zach Galligan). He encounters a mysterious creature known as a mogwai (‘devil’ in Cantonese) and gives it the name Gizmo. When Randall gifts the mogwai to Billy, he warns him not to expose it to sunlight, water, or feed it after midnight. Billy neglects these rules and a group of troublesome reptilians called gremlins spawn from Gizmo.
Gremlins can be categorized under “horror” for its gruesome death scenes, acts of violence, and graphic imagery. Some descriptions (i.e. Kate’s speech) leave little to the imagination. Additionally, multiple scenes were analyzed by scholars that established connections between the inhumane content and the backbone of urban legends. Overall, Gremlins seems to balance the spirit of Christmas with the imminent threat of a gremlins rampage. On Reddit, u/zdragan2 described Gremlins as “a Christmas movie for people who hate Christmas.”
Black Christmas (1974)
Noted as one of the earliest slasher films, Black Christmas was praised for its influence on the most popular succeeding slashers such as John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). Black Christmas was remade twice, once in 2006 and again in 2019, but the original has always been considered untouchable. In fact, Black Christmas made such an impact that it has since been named “one of the greatest horror films ever made.”
Black Christmas tells the story of a female-only sorority house under attack during Christmas break by an intruder that promises to kill them all. The sorority girls are targeted one by one, and the local townsfolk learn about the string of missing girls that can be directly traced back to the campus. Inspired by the urban legend known as “The babysitter and the man upstairs” that originated in the 1960s, Black Christmas can be credited with inventing some of the commonly used horror tropes in more recent slasher franchises.
Better Watch Out (2016)
Moving toward the psychological horror genre, Better Watch Out stars Olivia DeJonge and Levi Miller as Ashley and Luke, respectively. At Christmas time, Ashley, a 17-year-old babysitter, watches Luke, a mature 12-year-old. It soon becomes painfully clear that Luke has romantic feelings for Ashley and attempts to seduce her on multiple occasions, but fails. When a masked intruder threatens their safety, Ashley and Luke fight for their lives.
Despite Better Watch Out failing to break even with its box office revenue, audiences have still expressed a fondness for its simplicity and fun twist on such an overplayed horror narrative. Redditors have vouched for Better Watch Out on several occasions and claimed that the film had “infuriated them in the best way.” Luke Buckmaster of The Guardian praised the performances of the actors, saying, “deranged mind games and faultless performances in Christmas horror.”
Santa’s Slay (2005)
More of an unorthodox choice, but Santa’s Slay makes the cut. Redditors started a thread praising the slasher comedy for its cheesy jokes and inability to take itself too seriously. Some commenters called it “an absolute gem” and ranked it on par with other Christmas horror classics. Santa’s Slay stars professional wrestler, Bill Goldberg, as Santa Claus.
In the opening segment, Goldberg’s Santa interrupts the bickering between members of the Mason family by killing them all in a graphic, over-the-top display of Christmas-themed violence. It is later revealed that Santa is apparently the result of a virgin birth produced by Satan, meaning that Santa — in this alternate universe —is somewhat of an Antichrist.
While Black Christmas has been noted as the best Christmas horror film for its overall appeal, Santa’s Slay is considered the most enjoyable, particularly for its absurdity.
For the more demented among us, these Christmas horror films are chosen by fans for fans.