Get ready, everyone: the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year is upon us. But with music and decorations already everywhere you go, even the most diehard holiday-head can suffer Christmas Cheer Collapse by the time December rolls around. To avoid turning into your own personal Grinch before even sitting down for Thanksgiving, get a prescription-strength dose of holly, jolly horror. A little blood and gore will help counter the sugarplum sweetness saturating the holiday season, leaving you free to deck those halls and trim those trees without snapping the heads off all your gingerbread men. And these 15 Christmas horror movies will give you plenty of chills, even as you roast chestnuts by an open fire.
Horror has a grand Christmas tradition, and I don't just mean the three spirits visiting Ebenezer in A Christmas Carol. "Telling scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago" is more than just a song lyric; Christmas takes place near the winter solstice, long honored in pagan circles as Yule (yep, that's where the Yule Log comes from). The darkest day of the year was seen as a perfect time for spirits of the dead to come through to the living. Combine that with people trapped inside by the cold for long, dark, and boring stretches, and you have the perfect setting for telling spooky stories by the fire. These movies lean a little heavier on the murderous slasher side, but will help you keep the tradition alive in the modern era.
1'Silent Night, Deadly Night'
Seeing your parents murdered by a Santa-clad robber is bad, and being disciplined by strict nuns only makes it worse. Young Billy finally snaps at an office holiday party where he's forced to dress as Santa, murdering his co-workers (as if anyone needed another reason to avoid the office holiday party). This twisted Christmas-themed slasher spawned no less than four sequels, though the last two have little to do with the holidays.
2'Black Christmas' (1974)
From the co-writer and director of beloved holiday classic A Christmas Story comes... a very different holiday movie. One of the earliest slasher films, this Canadian tale of sorority sisters stalked by an obscene phone caller keeps the killer ambiguous, and the audience on their toes.
Though not as frightening or violent as other films on the list, Scrooged takes place during the Greed Is Good era, which is terrifying enough. Bill Murray's cynical TV executive realize the hollowness of worldly pursuits as three Christmas spirits pull a This Is Your Life on him.
After seeing Mommy doing more than kissing Santa Claus, young Harry cuts his hand on a broken snowglobe. Cut to the present — adult Harry has a low-level job at Jolly Dreams toy factory. Obsessed with being Santa, he spies on neighborhood kids to see if they're naughty or nice, making freakish toys in his makeshift workshop. When coworkers take advantage of him, Harry finally snaps, going on a delusional murder spree where he believes he's doling out jolly justice.
Emily Blunt stars as a student sharing a ride home for the holidays with a young man who seems more than preoccupied with her. When their car crashes to avoid a mysterious vehicle, she's unsure whether there's really a mysterious figure stalking them, or whether she's been riding with her stalker all along.
6'Silent Night, Bloody Night'
It's Christmas Eve, and bodies are stacking up like kindling at the spooky Butler mansion. As the town's elite meet their bloody ends, the few survivors start to learn of the house's terrifying history...
7'Don't Open Till Christmas'
In a twist on the usual Christmas tale of terror, this one features a homicidal maniac murdering people dressed as Santa. Sex and seasonal cheer mix it up in this sleazy '80s slasher.
8'Home For The Holidays' (1972)
A made-for-TV-movie and quite possibly the first Christmas-themed slasher. Sally Field is one of four sisters returning home for the first time since their mother's suicide. The family secrets start spilling over dinner, and a yellow-raincoated killer begins taking them out one by one.
Witnessing his parents' brutal Christmas Eve murder, Alex has always been haunted by bad dreams. But lately, they've featured the same wolf-masked killer, who seems to be making appearances in reality. If you die in your dream, do you die in real life? Alex might just find out the hard way.
This truly bonkers Midwest oddity combines European Arthouse with local weirdness. When Sarah and boyfriend Ted visit her Wisconsin family, Sarah senses an evil presence. Soon, a fully-armored Samurai (no, really) appears in their cozy home and starts attacking them one by one.
11'To All A Goodnight'
Another Christmas Eve, another group of sorority girls, another killer dressed as Santa. This slasher ups the body count and sexy results, and while not as beloved as other holiday murder movies, it'll do for some mistletoe mayhem.
In this movie, sullen teen Kirsten accidentally raises an ancient, evil Christmas elf (yep) which figures into a group of Neo-Nazis' plans to crossbreed the last pure Aryan stock with the demonic elf to make Hitler's dreams of world domination come true.
It's nice to see holiday traditions from around the globe. Sint includes the terrifying Dutch tradition of Black Peter, creepy sidekick of St. Nicholas (better known as Santa). Normally playing good cop/bad cop, St. Nick gives out toys, and Black Peter tosses children in a sack and takes them to Spain (yes, really). In this tale, a murderous gang of Black Peters from beyond the grave are led by the ghost of crooked bishop Niklas, who return to murder everyone in sight when their death day coincides with a full moon.
14'Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale'
Reindeer slaughter, ancient elves, and a super-strong, horned Santa stealing children are just a few of the holiday treats in store from this Finnish horror fantasy. Based on a short film about trapping wild Santas and training them for mall work, this film somehow stretches the premise to weirder ends.
And finally, you can't have a list of scary Christmas films without including Gremlins, the family favorite about an adorable creature who spawns demons if he snacks too late or gets wet. Phoebe Cates' traumatic Christmas hatred unfortunately takes a back seat to a town under attack, but this kids' movie has plenty of winter scares, even for adults well past believing in Santa.
So if you're feeling frazzled by all the caroling and gift-giving, feel free to say "bah humbug" and curl up with one of these curdled winter tales. Have yourself a scary little Christmas, everyone.