When most people think of the Christmas season, they think of heartwarming movies to watch with your family by the fireside. But there’s a darker side to this holiday, going back to Krampus, Belsnickel and other folk tales. If you’re like me (and Henry Selick and Tim Burton, makers of “A Nightmare Before Christmas”), you love to celebrate scary Santas alongside the more traditional, jolly fellow. And whether you’re looking to find holiday horror on the streaming services you subscribe to, or just looking to rent one or two of these movies, we’ve got something for everyone.
Part 1: Streaming Holiday Horror
Do you subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, Epix, Amazon Prime, Kanopy or Shudder? If so, you’re in luck! These services have some gems streaming for you this season, with no other subscriptions required.
“Better Watch Out” (Shudder)
The original title for this film — before it was widely released in 2017 — was “Safe Neighborhood,” but its new title fits its Christmas theme more readily. Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) is on a babysitting job with one of her favorite kids, 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller). But it isn’t long before some unseen person — or people — is threatening them, and they’re in a dangerous situation. This one will take you on quite the roller coaster ride, and it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible. It’s dark and uncomfortable, and quite possibly my favorite Christmas horror movie.
“Anna and the Apocalypse” (Amazon Prime, Hulu, Epix)
Did you like “Shaun of the Dead”? Do you wish it had more of a Christmas theme and more singing? If so, this is the movie for you! This UK zom-com also functions as a musical, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it skimps on the scares and gore. In it, high school senior Anna (Ella Hunt) is ready to be off on her own when the worst happens: a zombie apocalypse. She bands together with friends and acquaintances to survive. The soundtrack bounces between fun and heartfelt, as do the performances.
“All the Creatures Were Stirring” (Shudder)
This is one of two Christmas horror anthologies available on Shudder; the other is “A Christmas Horror Story,” which is also good, but I didn’t have room for both on this list. The wraparound story for “All the Creatures Were Stirring” is a man and a woman meeting up at a theater production on Christmas Eve. They watch five acts, each of which we get to see as a full-on short film, rather than a stage play. There was only one of these that I fully disliked, and if you’ve ever seen an anthology, you can understand why a track record of four out of five is worth watching. Plus Constance Wu and Jocelin Donahue each make an appearance!
“Black Christmas” (Amazon Prime, Shudder, Kanopy)
The original version of this film from 1974 is a sort of proto-slasher, coming four years before John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” The director behind it is none other than Bob Clark, who made the other Christmas classic “A Christmas Story.” This dark (and sometimes funny) film is about a sorority being terrorized by an unknown caller…and killer. It may sound like old hat now, but this is worth checking out if you haven’t seen it before. For what it’s worth, the 2006 remake added its own flair, making it feel like it almost isn’t a remake at all. And it seems like the upcoming version will do the same; I’m excited to see it.
“Deadly Games” (Shudder)
It should be clear, by now, that you should have Shudder if you don’t already. This particular film was previously unavailable in almost any form — until Shudder has made it widely available for anyone with their service. The interesting thing about “Deadly Games” (also known as “Dial Code Santa Claus”), a French film, is that it’s about a nine-year-old boy who has to survive some pretty terrifying stuff on Christmas Eve using only his own genius. Maybe that sounds familiar — but this movie came out nearly a year before “Home Alone” made Macaulay Culkin a star. If you feel like you’ve exhausted your holiday horror watch list, you can now add this one.
Part 2: More Holiday Horror
Okay, so you’ve seen everything there is to see on your streaming services. So what other Christmas horror movies are out there for you to rent or buy?
Move over, Baby Yoda: Gizmo and the gremlins came first. While this 1980s family-friendly (mostly) horror movie has some issues in terms of ethnicity and stereotyping, the hijinx of the creatures is what makes it worth a watch. When a well-meaning dad brings home a new “pet” for his son Billy (Zach Galligan), things go awry quickly when some of the rules of caring for this new creature get broken. This film has the cuteness factor, but it also gets pretty dark, so maybe don’t show it to a four-year-old. But fun fact: Howie Mandel voices Gizmo!
This movie from 2007 may be better received if it came out now. The plot is as follows: a businesswoman named Angela (Rachel Nichols) gets trapped in an underground parking garage in NYC on Christmas Eve, but she’s not alone. Wes Bentley co-stars as a less-than-helpful security guard who might have a thing for our protagonist. This movie doesn’t shy away from showing the horror of what it can be to be a woman, with seemingly every man in Angela’s life making her uncomfortable — and sometimes even endangered. If you decided not to check it out way back when, maybe rethink that this holiday season.
No, it’s not déjà vu. This remake was released more than three decades after the original “Black Christmas.” People tend to be harsh on remakes, and this is no exception, but this telling features some gory details that the original did not. The cast features Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michelle Trachtenberg, Lacey Chabert and Oliver Hudson. It’s a fun (if disturbing) watch, and it’s just dripping with mid-2000s horror charm. If modern slashers are up your alley, then this should be too.
“Silent Night, Deadly Night”
Not to be confused with “Silent Night, Bloody Night,” this film is an ’80s slasher in the most classic sense. Sexuality and gore are at the heart of this one, for better or for worse. Can you imagine seeing Santa Claus on a murderous rampage? With this movie, you don’t have to. It’s the perfect choice for someone who wants to get into the holiday spirit without giving up the most beloved parts of the slasher genre.
Written and directed by Michael Dougherty (also the man behind Halloween anthology “Trick ‘r Treat”), this film is a horror comedy with an amazing cast. At this point, who doesn’t love Toni Collette? She plays the matriarch of the suburban family at the center of the film, with Adam Scott as her husband. Conchata Ferrell and David Koechner add to the comedy bona fides of “Krampus.” This family is terrorized by all kinds of Christmas-adjacent monsters: toys, gingerbread cookies and more. It’s a little ridiculous, but that makes it all the more to watch every year.
So, you should now be set to watch hours upon hours of holiday horror. Let us know what you think of our recommendations — as well as any favorites we missed — in the comments below. Or hit us up on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
Originally hailing from Pennsylvania, Jackie has called Austin home since choosing to attend the University of Texas, where she graduated with a degree in multimedia journalism. She loves spending time with her dogs, writing about pop culture in all its forms and spending time with friends – eating, drinking and doing trivia.