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The best of holiday horror

This holiday season, we gift you with a list of more than twenty must-see Christmas horror films — from eerie essentials to hidden treasures.

It’s a very special bonus episode of the Untold Horrors podcast. Instead of mining the depths of Tubi for buried genre gifts like we usually do, we’re wrapping the year with a discussion of our favorite holiday horror films — from essential classics to hidden gems to modern must-see movies.

We take turns sharing the films we consider among the all-time best, those we love that we think not enough people have seen or know about (hopefully unearthing some buried treasure for you), and a bevy of bonus picks that we couldn’t neglect giving some love to.

Read on for a rundown of the films we discuss, which doubles as a great seasonal watch list — especially if there are films on this list you may have missed (we’re pretty sure there may be at least a few).

CHRISTMAS HORROR CLASSICS – STEPH’S PICKS

 1. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

This Finnish, genre-bending, fantasy-action, horror-comedy Christmas film is such a wonderfully weird, magically delicious treat.  It is about people living near a Finnish fell who discover a dark secret about Santa Claus while drilling in the area.

Steph’s Mini Review

“It’s expertly crafted, daring, and wonderfully devious, in spite of also having a heartfelt Christmas spirit. It’s a beautiful blend of fairytale wonder and action movie thrills. Roger Ebert brilliantly summed it up as an R-rated Santa Claus origin story crossed with The Thing.”

Jamie hasn’t seen this one but promises to add it to his queue immediately. Watch it for free on Tubi.

2. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

Silent Night, Deadly Night is a 1984 slasher film directed by Charles E. Sellier, Jr. It’s about a traumatized person who goes on a killing spree while dressed as Santa Claus.

Steph’s Mini Review

“Bizarre, imaginative, and entertaining, it’s a cheesy good time with genuinely creepy scenes and visually striking shots. It’s a bleak treat with a great villain, a sadistic horror nun, and one of the best and most memorable kills in horror history featuring scream queen Linnea Quigley.”

Jamie likes this one but prefers the even nuttier cult classic Silent Night, Deadly Night: Part 2. Watch the original for free on Plex and then head to Tubi or Shudder to catch the cult classic sequel.

3. SILENT NIGHT (2012)

1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night is an all-time classic, but 2012’s brisk reimagining, Silent Night, is a very close second. Directed by Steven C. Miller, it stars Malcolm McDowell and Jaime King, telling the twisted tale of a masked Santa killer who goes on a murder spree, killing those he considers naughty.

Steph’s Mini Review

“It’s full of great gore, thrills, and dementedly dark humor, and it’s an effective blend of horror and comedy that’s a wicked little holiday splatterfest. A really underrated slasher surprise.”

Jamie isn’t a big fan of this one but thinks he needs to give it a rewatch based on Steph’s enthusiastic recommendation. Watch on Starz or rent for cheap on Amazon Video.

4. Christmas Evil (1980)

This 1980 slasher film, written and directed by Louis Jackson, is a cult classic and a must-see for horror fans. It’s also a subversive critique of the holiday’s commodification. It follows a tormented man named Harry who is obsessed with Santa Claus. After suffering a series of indignations, he eventually goes on a murderous rampage dressed as Santa, slaying people who end up on the naughty list and those who exploit the magic of Christmas for selfish greed and profit.

Steph’s Mini Review

“Despite it being a killer Santa film, it feels wonderfully unique due to its creative editing style, cinematography, music, pathos, and wicked sense of humor.  The film isn’t afraid to take its time with Harry’s story, making us fully invest in his plight.  The lead actor’s outstanding performance helps elevate this film into the stratosphere of a holiday classic.”

Jamie said he was also going to pick this one and absolutely loves it. He recommends you get the Blu-ray and watch with the John Waters commentary. You can also stream for free on Tubi.

CHRISTMAS HORROR CLASSICS – JAMIE’S PICKS

1. BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006)

Taking place several days before Christmas, Black Christmas is a loose remake and reimagining of the 1974 film of the same name, and it tells the story of a group of sorority sisters who are stalked and murdered in their house during a winter storm.

Jamie’s Mini Review

“This film feels like Christmas. The actresses play well off of each other. The gore is just jaw-dropping. It has a great atmosphere and a great feeling, and it is my favorite Christmas horror movie.”

Steph agrees that Black Christmas 20006 is a fun, gory good time, but she argues that the original Black Christmas is not only one of the greatest Christmas horror films of all time but one of the greatest horror films of all time. You can watch both versions for free on Tubi for a dynamic double feature.

2. KRAMPUS (2015)

A modern classic from the brilliant mind of Trick ‘r Treat writer/director Michael Dougherty, Krampus is a 2015 Christmas horror comedy film with a stellar cast, including Toni Collette (Hereditary). In the film, a dysfunctional family squabbling causes a young boy to lose his festive spirit. Doing so unleashes the wrath of Krampus, a demonic beast in ancient European folklore who punishes naughty children at Christmas time.

Jamie’s Mini Review

“This is another one with a great Christmas vibe. It’s so beautiful, balletic, and operatic — and just epic. It’s the best kind of evil, which is the mischievous, youthful evil… not the cruel evil.”

Steph agrees Krampus is a holiday treat. She loves that it’s a bit nihilistic. The acting and creature effects are stellar, it’s wildly witty, some scenes are genuinely terrifying, and the whole thing is an endlessly entertaining romp that proves Dougherty is the master of holiday horror. Watch on Peacock Premium or rent on VOD.

3. A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY (2015)