Christmas is a time for family and joy. The craziness of the world is meant to come to a standstill, so that everyone can remember and cherish what's important in their lives. It's also a time to give and receive gifts, as we compare what neat loot Santa left in our stockings and under the Christmas tree.
For such a period of happiness and goodwill, you'd never expect the horror genre to strive and prosper – but you'd be wrong. In fact, we've seen a plethora of quality Christmas horrors released in and around the festive season. So, join us, as we explore the best Christmas-themed horror movies.
10. Santa's Slay
Ho-ho-spear! Credit needs to go to director David Steiman for casting Bill Goldberg as an evil Santa in 2005's Santa's Slay. It's absolutely as outrageous as it sounds, as Goldberg's not-so-jolly Saint Nick tackles the people on his Naughty List and soars around with his hell-deer.
Additionally, his origin story is as twisted as you'd expect, with Santa being the result of a virgin birth produced by Satan (after all, the name is just the shifting around of a few letters). Santa's Slay has become something of a cult classic as everyone caught on to its tongue-in-cheek references and performances.
9. A Christmas Horror Story
One of the best horror films released in the past 20 years was 2007's Trick 'r Treat, an anthology of horror stories that were interconnected. In 2015 a Christmas-themed horror anthology titled A Christmas Horror Story followed suit and delivered a slice of terror to the festive season.
The film featured a series of interwoven stories and starred William Shatner as the radio DJ who brought it all together. A Christmas Horror Story holds an 80% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and has become a B-movie delight for those who don't feel like watching It's a Wonderful Life for the millionth time.
8. Dead End
Lin Shaye is a scream queen who's received a recent renaissance in popularity due to the Insidious franchise. However, her performance in 2003's Dead End, alongside Ray Wise, Mick Cain, and Alexandra Holden, is often overlooked for some peculiar reason. It collected a few awards at a couple of film festivals but it remained mostly obscure to the larger general audience.
Fortunately, film lives on forever and Dead End is a perfect appetizer to go down with the eggnog and gingerbread cookies this holiday season. Join the nerve-wracking horror as you watch the Harrington family try to escape a never-ending road on Christmas Eve.
When you think of 2007's P2, it's surprising that it didn't get more attention or become a major cult classic. The film stars Rachel Nichols as Angela, a young businesswoman, who's imprisoned in the underground parking of the office block she works in by the psychotic and stalkerish Thomas (Wes Bentley). Of course, it takes place on Christmas Eve.
Shifting between horror and thriller, it's 98 minutes of riveting viewing and you'll be on the edge of your seat throughout as Thomas torments Angela. P2 received mixed reviews from the critics, but who cares about what random internet strangers think about a movie? We certainly don't.
6. Black Christmas
Black Christmas is one of the original Christmas horror flicks. Directed by Bob Clark and written by A. Roy Moore, it's a slasher about a group of sorority sisters who are threatened, stalked, and hunted by a deranged individual over the Christmas season. Made for $620,000 in 1974, it grossed over $4 million at the box office.
The film might've been released to mixed reviews, but it's gone on to become a classic that captures the suspenseful nature of that era of cinema. Even to this day, Black Christmas still holds up well and should be included in any plans for darker Christmas viewing.
5. Anna And The Apocalypse
Anna and the Apocalypse is the newest film on this list, and whether it'll stand the test of time still needs to be seen. Yet, you cannot ignore the impact that this zombie musical has had, with rave reviews and high praise from all corners of the entertainment industry. It's become the must-watch film for horror aficionados.
Whereas the zombie genre feels tired and bloated, Anna and the Apocalypse brought something new. It's hard to resist and you'll find yourself getting caught up in the catchy numbers and singing along with the characters. It truly is a Christmas miracle!
4. Better Watch Out
There's something sinister about 2016's Better Watch Out and its Christmas setting. Its plot and setting could've taken place at any other place or time in the year, but it largely works due to the contrasting spirit of the festive season with the film's premise. What it also successfully did was establish a different kind of antagonist that no one would've expected.
The usually mopey and fun-hating critics seemed to enjoy it as well, as it currently sits on an 81% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. We're not saying that Better Watch Out should be on your watch list this holiday season; we're saying it needs to be.
3. Jack Frost
Now, before any confusion seeps in here, there were two Jack Frost films released a year apart. The 1998 production stars Michael Keaton and is a wholesome family film. The other was released in 1997 and is a full-blown horror comedy from the mind of Michael Cooney.
In many ways, it slightly resembles the plot of Child's Play as serial killer Jack Frost becomes one with the snow and takes out his newfound snowman anger on everyone around him. Look, Jack Frost is extremely cheesy and as over the top as they come, but that's what makes it an unforgettable watch.
Joe Dante's Gremlins broke all the rules as it became a firm favorite in 1984. From the cute and cuddly mogwai named Gizmo to his evil gremlin spawns, there was so much to savor in this horror comedy that cemented itself in popular culture. Even to this day, it remains a movie that's talked about in most friendship circles.
Speaking of the film's reception to Little White Lies, Dante said, "It was phenomenal. I'd never seen a reaction like that. They thought it was the greatest thing ever and Warner Bros. was I think shocked, frankly, by how popular the picture became."
In 2015 Michael Dougherty's Krampus was the sleeper hit of the season, as it powered its way to $61.5 million at the global box office. In fact, you could say it was his stylish blend of special effects and the engaging storyline (on a thin $15 million budget) that convinced Warner Bros. to hire Dougherty for the upcoming Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Back to Krampus, it's a dark retelling of the Austro-Bavarian folklore, but it also holds a special moral about the importance of family over the festive season. Quite simply, if you watch only one Christmas horror movie this year, make sure it's Krampus.