It’s that time of year where we can take some time off work to be with friends and family to eat, drink and sleep too much, and watch tv to our heart’s content without the slightest hint of guilt. Part of the festive season is the watching of endless, cheesy Christmas films, and the relief that you won’t need to watch them again for another year.
However, for those of us who may crave an alternative to such Christmassy viewing pleasures, it’s a good time of year to watch some Christmas-themed horror films – the perfect combination!
Below are just a few recommendations of “Festive Frights” for your consideration.
By Andreas Charalambous - 19th December 2013
Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)
Early eighties exploitation sleaze, as someone hates Christmas so much, that they are carrying out a murderous spree in sordid underbelly of London. What this film lacks in plot, it makes up in blood, gore and nudity. “Merry Christmas, nan!”
Jack Frost (1997)
No, not the Michael Keaton Christmas film by the same title. If you’re expecting to see a film on how a family man comes back to life in the form of a snowman to spend Christmas with his family, you’ve got the wrong film. If you’re looking for the film where a serial killer comes back to haunt the town that threatened his life, then come on in! Not a classic horror (or Christmas) film, but where else are you going to see a poorly-acted film about a murderous snowman who would axe you to death for a cigarette? Followed by Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman (2000).
Just remember, we mean this snowman..
…Not this snowman
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
A Christmas –themed slasher which is surprisingly enjoyable. In true Slasher style, we begin the film by looking back to a few years previously. This gives us the rationale as to why someone is going round dressed as Santa and hacking people to pieces. Made on a typically low budget, and follows the numbers of many other 80s low budget slasher films. This film spawned four sequels – including Part III: Better Watch Out; and Part V: The Toymaker.
Christmas Evil (1980)
An old-school slow-burner which actually tries to build up the characters. The story of a young man who becomes traumatised and transforms into (yet another) murderous Santa. Surprisingly little gore, but does make you think every time you hear the song about “seeing mommy kissing Santa Claus.”
Santa's Slay (2005)
A thousand years ago, the devil’s son lost a bet with an angel and was forced to spend the next millennium being Santa. Now that the thousand years are up – and in true ‘last day at work’-style, Santa (played by hulk of the wrestling world, Bill Goldberg, by the way) is on the rampage exacting his revenge and making up for the last millennium.
Tales from the Crypt (1974)
A typical Amicus portmanteau from the 70s. Featuring an anthology of morality tales – one starring the great Peter Cushing – this film is included purely on the merit of the first of the tales entitled And All Through The House. Here, we see Joan Collins murder her husband on Christmas Eve. Just when she thinks she has gotten away with murder, she receives an unwanted visit from Santa. This same tale was adapted for the US Tales from the Crypt many years later.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
A black comedy which offers some genuinely creepy moments. A curious discovery on a Finnish drilling site leads us to re-examine the origins of Santa Claus. Children start to disappear, a surprise discovery in a wolf pit, and hostile elves contribute to making this a remarkably original Christmas film.
Joe Dante’s brilliant film about the infamous little monsters who wreak havoc in a small town during Christmastime. Bizarrely, for a film that was originally aimed at children, there is much destruction, maiming and killing to be seen. The comic violence adds to the fun experience of watching Gremlins – some of these creatures are dispatched using such kitchen conveniences as the food blender and the microwave. As bonkers as this film is, there comes a sobering moment when one of the characters explains why they no longer celebrate Christmas.
Black Christmas (1974)
We couldn’t possibly have a selection of Christmas-themed horror films to offer, without tipping our hat towards Bob Clark’s proto-slasher. The story follows the remaining girls of a sorority house who are yet to leave for the Christmas holidays, being tormented and killed by an unseen killer. Seeing the murders take place through the eyes of the killer, can be quite an uncomfortable experience for some – especially seeing as we spend quite some time with him, listening to his hysterical laughter and ramblings about his mother.
BBC's Ghost Stories for Christmas (1968-2010)
Broadcast on the BBC late on Christmas Eve throughout the 1970s, A Ghost Story for Christmas was a traditional fixture for the best part of a decade. Viewers were chilled and terrified by atmospheric adaptations of classic ghostly literature such as that of MR James, as well as some more contemporary tales. Highlights include; Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968 & 2010), The Stalls of Barchester (1971) and The Signalman (1976). These atmospheric tales will send a chill down your spine which cannot be attributed to the weather outside.
What is Richard Donner’s comedic take on Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol doing in a piece about Christmas horror films? Upon closer inspection, this film starring Bill Murray as cynical TV executive Frank Xavier Cross, is much more sinister than it appears to be. Robert Mitchum plays the Jacob Marley role as Preston Rhinelander – who warns Cross of his impending ghostly visitors. During this process, Rhinelander appears as a rotten undead zombie who sets Cross off into a spiral of madness with disturbing hallucinations. The three ghosts of Christmas come in the form of a demented New York taxi driver, an ultraviolent fairy and a grim reaper – complete with tortured souls screaming in agony from within its ribcage. Add to this, Cross’ chilling prime time TV Christmas promo sequence - featuring aircraft being blown up by terrorists, drug addicts whimpering in pain as they inject needles into their arms, people burning from downpours of acid rain, and finishing with a nuclear explosion. Further still, add a former employee (played by Bobcat Goldthwait) who goes ‘postal’ after being ruthlessly sacked and goes in search of revenge with a shotgun, and you have a pretty dark, but well-disguised Christmas horror film!