With Christmas just around the corner, why not turn off It’s A Wonderful Life and stick on a film that’s as chilling as the weather outside, such as Black Christmas, Inside or (ahem) Jack Frost? From so-bad-it’s good to genuinely, unambiguously good, here are the 13 best Christmas horror films and, if it seems like a bit of a stretch to include some of these films, know how close we came to putting Batman Returns on this list. It terrified children, after all.
13. P2 (2007)
No, this English language debut from Maniac director Franck Khalfoun (co-written by Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur) isn’t very good. In fact, it’s quite bad. However, it’s bad in a way that perfectly suits the bloated excesses of the Christmas holidays, as poor Rachel Nichols is trapped in a parking garage with a lonely and increasingly hammy Wes Bentley. If you’ve ever wanted to see Wes Bentley dress up as a psycho Santa and do an Elvis impression, why not watch P2? If not, we’d advise you to keep reading.
You can buy P2 on DVD for £7.99 at Amazon.co.uk.
12. JACK FROST (1996)
No Christmas list would be complete without this gloriously trashy gem (yes, gem) from 1996, in which a serial killer somehow bonds with the snow and becomes the serial killing snowman of the title. Definitely in the so-bad-it’s-good category, the chillin’ and killin’ Jack Frost somehow managed to warrant a sequel: Jack Frost 2: Revenge Of The Mutant Killer Snowman. Frankly, we weren’t comfortable recommending that.
You can buy Jack Frost on DVD for £13.34 at Amazon.co.uk.
11. SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1974)
This 1974 slasher is less dependent on its seasonal setting than Silent Night, Deadly Night, but Christmas Eve provides the backdrop for an often underappreciated horror. As the dead bodies stack up at the old Butler house, a convoluted backstory swims into clarity and a fascinating cast (including John Carradine, Mary Woronov and Candy Darling) are picked off one by one. Definitely deserving of a Blu-ray restoration.
You can buy Silent Night, Bloody Night on DVD for £4.11 at Amazon.co.uk.
10. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)
Poor Billy Chapman tries his best to recover from the traumatic events of the Christmases of his childhood but he finally snaps when the store he works at forces him to dress as Santa Claus for the kids. Taking the “punish the naughty” part of the Father Christmas mantra far too seriously, he embarks on a bloody rampage in one of the better seasonal slashers. Steven C. Miller’s very loose remake, starring a gloriously hammy Malcolm McDowell, is also worth a look.
You can buy Silent Night, Deadly Night on DVD for £7 at Amazon.co.uk.
9. CALVAIRE (THE ORDEAL) (2004)
The holiday season is normally a boon for entertainers, unless of course you’re Laurent Lucas in this deliriously odd Belgian horror. He plays Marc, who crashes his van while trying to get to a Christmas gig, and ends up in the home of the lonely Mr. Bartel, who soon believes Marc to be the wife who left him years ago. As Marc endures increasingly bizarre punishments (the UK title is The Ordeal), the village’s Christmas spirit leads to a mesmerising dance sequence and possibly the worst Christmas dinner ever. Fans of The League Of Gentlemen should seek this out.
You can buy Calvaire on DVD for £9.99 at Amazon.co.uk.
8. RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE (2011)
This bizarre and charming Finnish seasonal horror fantasy is set in a small reindeer farming community as excavations in Lapland uncover a horrifying seasonal truth. When the reindeer start turning up dead, a local boy realises that there’s more to the Santa Claus myth than rewarding good children with gifts. The wicked will be punished…Oddly enough, Rare Exports is undoubtedly the most heartwarming film on this list.
You can buy Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale on DVD for £10.37 at Amazon.co.uk.
7. TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972)
One of the best of Amicus’ anthology horrors, Tales From The Crypt features a typically excellent cast (Peter Cushing, Ralph Richardson, Ian Hendry, Patrick Magee) making the most of a mixed bag of stories. The first, and most fun, stars Joan Collins as a woman who murders her husband on Christmas Eve only to be stalked by an escaped lunatic dressed as Santa. Much like the rest of the film, it’s both darkly funny and surprisingly nasty.
You can buy Tales From The Crypt on DVD for £9.96 at Amazon.co.uk.
6. CRONOS (1993)
Guillermo del Toro’s vampiric debut might not be the most obviously seasonal film on this list but it is set over the Christmas period, which gives us a reasonable excuse to remember how good it is. With Pacific Rim comfortably proving his crowd-pleasing abilities, it’s a good time to revisit this restrained Gothic chiller and the shudders provided by Federico Luppi seeking sustanance from the toilet floor.
You can buy Cronos on Blu-ray for £8.25 at Amazon.co.uk.
5. AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000)
Who can forget the image of Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman with a pair of antlers on his head? One of the many indignities that Bret Easton Ellis’ Whitney Houston-loving protagonist is forced to endure in Mary Harron’s brilliant satire is a Christmas party with his insufferable fiancee Evelyn Williams (Reese Witherspoon) and her pot-bellied pig. Still, it affords him the opportunity to set-up dinner with Paul Allen, and we all know how that goes.
You can buy American Psycho on DVD for £3.96 at Amazon.co.uk.
4. DEAD OF NIGHT (1945)
Arguably the best anthology horror ever made, this Ealing classic doesn’t have a single weak segment. One of the most chilling tales of the supernatural is told by young Sally O’Hara (Sally Ann Howes), who remembers a Christmas party at an old house with a haunted history. During a game of hide and seek Sally runs off from the group and finds a room with a boy who shouldn’t be there. Not quite as terrifying as the Hugo segment, but not far off.
You can buy Dead of Night on DVD for £6.25 at Amazon.co.uk.
3. GREMLINS (1984)
Some would argue that Joe Dante’s Christmas classic isn’t a horror film, but those people clearly haven’t seen Gremlins recently enough. With transformation sequences, a surprising number of deaths, scenes of genuine threat and a monster that can be killed by sunlight, Gremlins is more than deserving of its place on this list. What’s more, it’s an absolute classic and we’d use any excuse to talk about it.
You can buy Gremlins on Blu-ray for £6.25 at Amazon.co.uk.
2. INSIDE (A L’INTERIEUR)
Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s brutal debut takes place on Christmas Eve, as Alysson Paradis’ very pregnant widow comes under attack from Béatrice Dalle’s psychotic home invader. It’s a relentless, extremely gory horror that takes a woman in the depths of misery and plunges her into a fight for a life that she might not even want. Dalle is fantastic as the determined intruder, bringing grace and pathos to a terrifying figure. Not for the faint-hearted, but definitely recommended for everyone else.
You can buy Inside on DVD for £5.28 at Amazon.co.uk
1. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)
Bob Clark’s 1974 classic is one of the finest slasher films ever made and takes its rightful place at the top of the list. As a sorority house prepares for the Christmas break, the girls start to disappear and Jess (Olivia Hussey) receives increasingly bizarre obscene phone calls. Can Lt. Fuller (John Saxon) find out where the calls are coming from before it’s too late? With great performances from Hussey, Saxon, Margot Kidder and Keir Dullea, Black Christmas is still as gripping as it ever was and will have you jumping out of your seat no matter how many times you’ve seen it. “Billy! What your mother and I must know is where did you put the baby?”
You can buy Black Christmas on DVD for £7.99 at Amazon.co.uk.