Oh, unholy night! Happy holidays, horror fans: for the Christmas season, I wanted to make a list of holiday horror movies to help you get in the mood without sacrificing your very impeccable horror taste.
Unlike other round-up horror movie posts, this list has horror movies and TV shows that are filled with the great fuzzy wonderment that is the Christmas spirit. They’re packed with joy, but also sorrow and heartache and horror––so much horror––for some.
This is a list for the horror fan who likes a bit of blood in their egg nog and tinsel in their guts. Maybe that’s too graphic, but if you know, you know.
There are a few movies on this list that are suitable for young ones brave at heart, like the classic Gremlins. Released in 1984, Gremlins follows a young man after he is given a special pet as a present from his father. This pet, a mogwai, has a few specific rules that the young man must follow, but of course, he doesn’t. All amounts of utter chaos break out once the mogwai transforms into its… other half. Wrapped around this story of a monster pet wreaking havoc on a young man’s life are stories of home, community, and love.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Another classic family-friendly horror movie for the Christmas season. Johnny Depp at his finest plays a bio-engineered young man with scissors for hands who gets brought down from his derelict home on a hill to live among the suburbanites and their woes. For people who have not seen it, it probably sounds absolutely basic and silly and wild, but that’s Tim Burton. With a simplistic plot and storyline, Edward Scissorhands still creates a frosted white cookie-cutter world of wonder and classic Christmas cheer. It’s a movie that reminds me of driving through rich neighborhoods during the holidays and knowing that though things looked sparkly and nice, there was still horror hidden within.
Rare Exports (2010)
A Finnish film from 2010, Rare Exports explores a common fear surrounding Christmas and Santa by tying it all into capitalism. The movie follows a young boy whose home is being excavated by a research team who believe they may have found the tomb or prison of an ancient figure: Joulupukki, or Yule Goat. As the boy investigates further, he unearths the truth of the site and is met with considerable hostility from the Yule Goat’s elves—which are nothing like any elf I have ever seen, except for Buddy, but if Buddy was a hundred years old. Beautiful scenery and holiday cheer are to be had in this fantastical horror movie about folklore, friendship, and capitalism.
Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
Personally, I love a musical. It doesn’t even have to be good. I’m just a fan of the form—characters singing out their internal monologues and subtextual conversations. The only thing I love more than a musical is a horror musical. Anna and the Apocalypse is that oddly unique blend of zombie, musical, and Christmas movie that we didn’t know we needed during the holidays. Yes, it’s British, and yes, it’s really goofy. It reminded me of Shaun of the Dead if Shaun of the Dead was a musical and set in a high school. Teenagers trying to survive their new abusive headmaster must now sing and dance their way through the zombie apocalypse, which they do marvelously.
“It’s Christmas, captain, and I want to open my presents.” And oh, what presents they are, Doctor Holloway. Prometheus, which, chronologically speaking, is the first in the Alien series, gives fans and newcomers a glimpse into how it all began. A research crew on the search for intelligent alien life forms believed to have created the human race find what they were looking for and so much more. The Christmas feelings that Prometheus evokes are those of excitement and gratitude, and of fear and loss. In a terrifying and horrible way, Prometheus offers a glimpse at what happens when you get exactly what you ask for.
Mercy Christmas (2017)
A solid low budget horror movie that’s equal parts demented and festive. After being invited to Christmas dinner by an attractive woman, a young man slowly learns that he will be killed, cooked, and served up to her entire family. There’s familial bad blood, Christmas feasting, and good old dad humor–pretty much everything you need to make your Christmas awful. If you love cannibals, irony, and really dark comedy, Mercy Christmas should be put onto your Christmas movie list this year and every year to come.
‘A Very Supernatural Christmas,’ Supernatural S3 E8 (2007)
I’m one of those people who likes to rewatch seasonally-themed episodes of my favorite shows. So of course, I had to include some on this list. And for those who are still reeling over the series finale of Supernatural, I am really sorry that I had to put this one on here, but I think deep down you know why. This episode features the boys when they are, well, boys. “A Very Supernatural Christmas” is a flashback episode that tells the very heartwarming story of when Dean and Sam had their first ‘monsters are real’ talk with each other. For people unfamiliar with the series, Supernatural is a spooky detective show, featuring two brothers who drive around in their awesome car fighting monsters and saving people—it’s sorta the family business. This episode’s monster of the week is pagan gods who plan on eating the grown-up Sam and Dean as a part of their holiday rituals. Though the storylines don’t really make sense together, this episode still brings tears to my eyes.
Stream it: Netflix
‘Unholy Night,’ American Horror Story S2 E8 (2012)
The holiday cheer felt in this American Horror Story episode is, well, covered in a lot of gross problematic things, but hey, so are the holidays. The episode comes toward the tail end of the Asylum season and shows the darker elements of the characters as the possessed nun of the hospital tries to bring back the very disturbing spirit of Christmas. You get your choice between a killer possessed nun, a murderous Santa, a Nazi doctor, and so many more just awful things layered with small glimmers of hope, of light. If you have never seen American Horror Story, this is a great episode to get you familiar with the stories and storytelling style of the anthology horror series.
Stream it: Netflix
All of these movies and shows can be found on major streaming services, so they’re perfect for a quarantined Christmas alone in the house with all the doors and windows locked and a weapon close at hand—just in case. I send you off with the best of wishes for a cheery and blood-filled––I mean, joyful holiday season. Merry Christmas, you monsters.