Popcorn Picks: Top 10 holiday horror films


Photo credit/ Richard Andrus

Vincent Casella, Contributor

When people think of genres of film, those that usually come off the top of the head are action, drama and comedy. However, I am willing to bet that most will forget about one of the most striking and memorable genres of all that has the potential to combine all of those into one.

The subsection of the industry is holiday films, seeing as how they always have been and likely always will be relevant every December.

“Miracle on 34th Street,” “A Christmas Story” and “The Grinch” are some of the most acclaimed productions of all time that take place during this glorious and joyful holiday season.

With those examples in mind, people regularly do not associate this time of year with the horror genre. Although, filmmakers within that realm would like to expand the general audiences’ horizons and have thus made a variety of frightening holiday flicks that will make you afraid to see Santa coming down your chimney the night of the 25th.

Here are my Top Ten best horror films set during the holiday season.

10. Sint (2010)


Renowned Dutch Horror Filmmaker Dick Mass reimagined Sinterklass, the Dutch version of Santa Claus, in his 2010 dark comedy “Sint.” Featuring Huub Stapel as the notorious St. Niklas, the ghostly bishop of a gang murdered long ago, the film sees the fiend and his fellow demons come back and wreak havoc on the world every full moon. If you want a reimagining of Saint Nicholas, and a look into Dutch horror, I suggest you check out this film.

9. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)


What do you get when you cross “Shaun of the Dead,” “La La Land” and the holiday season? The result is “Anna and the Apocalypse,” a musical Christmas zombie horror film. Directed by Scottish Auteur Josh McPhail, the film follows a girl named Anna Shepard as she and her friends fight to survive a zombie apocalypse immediately after their high school graduation. McPhail’s latest premiered at Fantastic Fest in September 2017, before it received a nationwide theatrical release in the United States in late 2018. If all of this sounds of interest to you, “Anna and the Apocalypse” is sure to brighten your holiday season.

8. Christmas Evil (1980)


A murderous Santa Claus may seem like a common trope nowadays, but it wasn’t that prevalent back in the 1980s. With that said, Lewis Jackson’s “Christmas Evil” was incredibly controversial upon release due to its obscene and graphic content. It was so dubious that authorities in the United Kingdom seized its copies and added it to the list of Video Nasties, a grouping of films that the government deemed to be too explicit and violent for general audiences. This inclusion and the relaxing of European production censorship laws have both been instrumental to the film becoming a cult classic worldwide. It has become renowned for its unique cinematography and horrifying scenes throughout, definitely making it one to watch this month if you get the chance.

7. Silent Night (2012)


Steven C. Miller’s “Silent Night” is a loose remake of the infamous 1984 slasher, “Silent Night, Deadly Night.” This reimagination features a Santa that murders people, occasionally via flamethrower, and sees him face off against Sheriff James Cooper, depicted by Malcolm McDowell. While the film isn’t going to blow any heads off with witty writing or such, as seen by its 64% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s the perfect film to watch with a bunch of friends.

6. The Gingerdead Man (2006)


Horror-Comedy Producer Charles Band released “The Gingerdead Man,” a slasher featuring a killer gingerbread man, in 2006. It stars Gary Busey as Millard Findlemyer, a serial killer who gets executed via electric chair. The authorities give his ashes to his mother, a sinister witch, who mixes them with gingerbread mix to reincarnate him as a vengeful gingerbread man. As the titular villain, the “Lethal Weapon” actor puts on an unhinged performance that will wow audiences, for the better or worse. For this reason, alongside the generalized insanity of the subject matter, this film is a must-watch for horror lovers this holiday season.

5. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)


“Silent Night, Deadly Night” is one of the first cult classic horror film series, known for its corny writing and gratuitous violence. The original from 1984, starring Robert Brian Wilson as the main antagonist Billy Chaplin, had a budget of $750,000 and grossed about $2,500,000 in theatres. Its success ended up spawning an entire series, including five films and a remake, which is earlier up on this list. If you are looking for a film that’s equally cheesy and cutthroat, give the original “Silent Night, Deadly Night” a watch.

4. A Christmas Horror Story (2015)


“A Christmas Horror Story” is an anthology film wherein there are four short stories instead of one linear plot. It was directed by three individuals, the first of which was actor Grant Harvey, known for his roles on shows such as “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and “Animal Kingdom.” Steven Hoban, renowned Hollywood producer of films including but not limited to “Splice” and “In The Tall Grass,” co-directed alongside Harvey and British-Australian filmmaker Brett Sullivan. William Shatner, famous for his depiction of James T. Kirk in the Star Trek series, is the most distinguished actor of the film. He plays an alcoholic DJ at a holiday gathering, with the music played repeating intermittently throughout the whole movie. The film is rated 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. If anthology films are your thing, “A Christmas Horror Story” should be on your watchlist this month.

3. Krampus (2015)


“Krampus,” is a 2015 horror-comedy centered around a mythical creature from Austro-Bavarian folklore that punishes the children who are on Santa’s naughty list. Directed by Michael Dougherty of “Trick R Treat” fame, the film observes Krampus and his demonic minions descend on a family’s household three days before Christmas. Starring multiple big-name actors, like Adam Scott, Toni Collette and David Koechner, as various members of the Engel family, Krampus blends the Christmas season with horrifying monsters and practical effects that are sure to impress people this holiday season. Krampus is a great film to watch when you want something that isn’t too scary but is fun to watch with a group of friends. As a whole, it contains a few scares but is rife with comedy and stellar performances by the cast.

2. Black Christmas (1974)


Many horror movie fans and critics believe “Black Christmas,” originally titled “Silent Night, Evil Night,” to be one of the best horror films of all time. Directed and produced by Bob Clark, the film takes the classic “babysitter and the man upstairs” trope and runs with it entirely as it follows a group of sorority girls getting preyed upon during a Christmas Eve celebration. Highly regarded for its elusive killer alongside its gore and viscera, Clark’s classic not only inspired John Carpenter’s “Halloween” but has also received a cult following over the years, given its influence as one of the earliest slasher films. If you want a Christmas film that is genuinely disturbing and will keep you second-guessing, “Black Christmas” is a must-watch.

1. The Lodge (2019)


The top spot on my list goes to a film without any monsters or ghosts, that being Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s 2019 thriller “The Lodge.” After previously working on the 2014 German psychological horror “Goodnight Mommy,” the duo directed this film that follows an ex-Christian extremist cult member as her mind slowly unravels while at an isolated Massachusetts lodge with her family. Even though it features several characters slowly but surely losing their minds in addition to intense and somewhat disturbing Christian imagery, the film remains a profoundly enjoyable film nonetheless and thoroughly deserves the praise it receives.

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