Further Reading: Seasonal Slaying - The 12 Horrors of Christmas

Kim Newman chooses 12 Yuletide nightmares.

by | December 25, 2008 | Comments

Thanks to Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol, the Yuletide season has long been associated with ghost stories — often with hard-won uplift at the end, like Scrooge being reformed by pestering spectres or Jimmy Stewart terrified into affirming that It’s a Wonderful Life after all. In the 1970s, the BBC threw a chill into Morecambe and Wise-dominated holiday schedules with their annual Ghost Story for Christmas series, mostly adapted from stories M.R. James had originally written to be read aloud as a seasonal treat. Somehow, the combination of the long nights, the cold weather and forced proximity to your family is as conducive to bone-freezing horror as joy to the world and all-round merriment.

So, for those who still think Christmas fans should be buried at the crossroads with a sprig of holly through their hearts, here are my recommendations for a full holiday of horrors…

On the first day of Christmas, my true love watched with me…
Tales From the Crypt (1972)

Joan Collins bludgeons her husband to death under the Christmas tree and tries to get rid of the body, all the while besieged in her hideous suburban home by an escaped homicidal maniac dressed as Santa Claus. In the end, her innocent little daughter lets Santa in and he throttles Joanie. Heh heh heh. The classic first episode of Freddie Francis’s adaptation of stories from the gleefully nasty 1950s horror comic.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love watched with me…
Hansel and Gretel (2006)

Three Korean psychic kids establish an eternal Christmas with sweets and cake for every meal in a house in the middle of magic woods. Only loosely connected to the fairytale, it features a Korean Santa who can actually grant little kids’ wishes and a miserable orphanage flashback which makes Oliver Twist seem cheery.

Santa's Slay

On the third day of Christmas, my true love watched with me…
Santa’s Slay (2005)

A maniacally evil Santa (wrestler Bill Goldberg) turns out to be the Devil’s son, and has only been nice to children for the last thousand years because he lost a bet with an angel. Now the term of the promise is up, and he can revert to his favoured mode of celebrating the ‘slaying’ time of year. Ho ho horror!

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love watched with me…
Black Christmas (1972)

Even before Halloween, there were holiday slashers, and Bob Clark’s sorority-set horror film is among the best of ’em, with Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder and Andrea Martin as sorority girls persecuted by a prank caller (yes, they trace the calls and… they’re coming from the attic!) at Christmas. The remake has murder by sharpened candy cane, but isn’t as good.

Black Christmas

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love watched with me…
36:15 – Code Pere Noel (1989)

It’s almost impossible to see this Christmas horror film — which I voted to win several awards at a film festival in 1989 when I was on a jury — because it’s never been distributed outside France. At the time, director Rene Manzor said that Hollywood wanted to remake his story about a shut-in, ingenious kid (Alain Musy) who improvises booby-traps to defend himself from a killer Santa Claus (Patrick Florsheim) over the holidays – but drop the Santa angle. Funnily enough, Home Alone came out a year later and doesn’t credit this as a source. The French film is darker, funnier and has more guts than John Hughes’ version — but good luck trying to find it.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love watched with me…
You Better Watch Out (1980), aka Christmas Evil

My personal favourite psycho-Santa movie, this is about an embittered, holiday-loving employee (Brandon Maggart) of a nasty toy company who spends the holidays murdering folks who abuse the spirit of Christmas and giving away toys for orphans. John Waters said of this film, “I wish I had kids. I’d make them watch it every year, and if they didn’t like it, they’d be punished.” For a real holiday horror, double bill it with New Year’s Evil.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love watched with me….
Don’t Open til Christmas (1984)

If you ever get fed up with Christmas horror films with psychopathic Santas — the worst I’ve ever seen is To All a Goodnight — then check out this dreadful British picture, in which a psychopath (Alan Lake) murders old gits in Santa Claus outfits.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love watched with me…
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Though there were enough homicidal maniac Santas in movies before 1984 to form a football team — with reserves — this was the picture that excited pro-Christmas protesters to picket at the sacrilege of depicting old Kris Kringle as a murdering lunatic. Maybe it was the scene where Linnea Quigley gets impaled topless on some reindeer antlers. All the fuss didn’t stop Silent Night, Deadly Night from having four sequels. For true perversity, I recommend the immediate follow-up Silent Night, Deadly Night Part II (1987), which cheekily recycles about an hour of footage from the original to pad out the minimal new story, but does run to a wonderful sequence — blatantly ripped off in Scary Movie — as the vigilante killer is taken to see a film about a murdering Santa (“that’s the worst idea for a film I’ve ever heard”) and gleefully takes a knife to some clown who talks throughout the picture.


On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love watched with me…
Gremlins (1984)

A classic — for Phoebe Cates’ “and that’s why I hate Christmas” speech alone. The studio wanted it cut, but Joe Dante insisted it stay in.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love watched with me…
The Addams Family (1991)

The opening of the film brings to life Charles Addams’ wonderful Christmas spirit cartoon, in which his gruesome family celebrate their own variety of togetherness by pouring boiling oil onto the heads of a parcel of merry carol-singers.


On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love watched with me…
P2 (2007)

Rachel Nicholls is trapped in a parking structure on Christmas Eve by a lunatic stalker (Wes Bentley) who wants to have take-out turkey with her and is going to torture her nasty boss to death as a present. There has to be a Christmas-themed torture porn/abduction movie, and this is it.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love watched with me…
The Devil Doll (1936)

This is the one about Lionel Barrymore escaping from Devil’s Island and teaming up with mad scientists to wreak vengeance on his tormentors — he drags up as a little old lady and opens a toyshop, selling shrunken, hypnotised human beings as dolls who also work as assassins. The best scene has a miniature killer smuggled into a victim’s home as a Christmas present for a little girl, then coming to life while tied to the tree and scurrying through the wrapped gifts to leave a nasty surprise come Christmas morning.

Tag Cloud

NYCC talk show comedies BBC One Red Carpet romance Ovation book The Walking Dead OWN ABC FX on Hulu finale Winter TV Nominations festivals halloween cancelled reboot Turner Classic Movies 4/20 YouTube 2020 cancelled TV shows DC streaming service Photos Syfy die hard Chernobyl historical drama Academy Awards Superheroe TV BET Awards Creative Arts Emmys Extras directors dceu crime thriller Hallmark Christmas movies Black Mirror Netflix HBO cancelled TV series Amazon Prime composers doctor who Musical Superheroes space Brie Larson Thanksgiving Martial Arts Song of Ice and Fire Holidays President AMC technology serial killer Spectrum Originals aliens History canceled TV shows Musicals Cosplay video on demand Freeform TV Land Holiday LGBTQ cats adventure theme song indie ratings robots anthology Turner streaming Podcast Travel Channel First Reviews Bravo Women's History Month ghosts harry potter singing competition Pop reviews Lifetime Christmas movies VICE VOD toronto comiccon 2018 jamie lee curtis screenings spain Ellie Kemper television laika See It Skip It strong female leads psychological thriller Endgame children's TV Disney Plus cinemax Paramount Network Lucasfilm Walt Disney Pictures Crackle social media police drama Apple TV Plus asian-american medical drama Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Pixar Pet Sematary Rocketman twilight Pride Month hollywood cartoon New York Comic Con batman game of thrones movies Sundance natural history franchise cars Disney+ Disney Plus name the review BBC quibi Mary Tyler Moore 2015 Nat Geo discovery Trivia Emmys 20th Century Fox USA GLAAD disaster Cartoon Network Cannes documentary Sundance TV zero dark thirty teaser critics Film Festival FOX Television Critics Association Grammys political drama Nickelodeon Sneak Peek sports Tumblr docudrama game show Winners Discovery Channel TCM The Purge American Society of Cinematographers unscripted what to watch Amazon Studios CMT IFC Films YouTube Red Polls and Games joker Starz Adult Swim indiana jones award winner spanish language mockumentary Best and Worst movie Teen breaking bad Video Games Watching Series Comedy Central Apple zombie fast and furious mission: impossible green book Western FXX TIFF based on movie TCA 2017 El Rey chucky Fall TV nature Sci-Fi Countdown MSNBC spider-man Rock TruTV MCU Valentine's Day classics Trailer stand-up comedy CBS Captain marvel hispanic south america sequel hist zombies Schedule spinoff TLC GIFs slashers ESPN Fantasy tv talk dramedy Heroines period drama Marathons Trophy Talk Elton John Showtime TCA Winter 2020 YouTube Premium Food Network latino SXSW Premiere Dates Netflix Christmas movies superhero YA Set visit Vudu Horror thriller Super Bowl Star Trek Rom-Com sequels diversity CW Seed psycho Infographic Calendar Comics on TV Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt cops Awards Tour Animation TV renewals stop motion Black History Month OneApp Stephen King romantic comedy 007 Funimation SundanceTV E3 worst Box Office Music Awards Emmy Nominations Warner Bros. adaptation GoT Star Wars 45 PlayStation transformers Sundance Now Fox News comics war Mary Poppins Returns true crime Christmas comic Toys Avengers richard e. Grant Comic Book APB football Disney Amazon best golden globes independent Marvel Television TNT RT History crime drama cancelled television Peacock Lionsgate Baby Yoda VH1 Lifetime Mudbound canceled TCA blaxploitation FX renewed TV shows screen actors guild Action documentaries Biopics Mary poppins Rocky miniseries cooking facebook Dark Horse Comics revenge Esquire Election 2017 Logo video Acorn TV parents Marvel Studios sag awards Comedy toy story Mystery elevated horror DC Comics binge rotten movies we love Apple TV+ mutant Tomatazos LGBT crossover criterion dark witnail news Country festival A&E foreign nfl Anna Paquin E! Reality Competition Spring TV 21st Century Fox Epix stoner Binge Guide free movies Classic Film BAFTA The Witch Tarantino spy thriller Ghostbusters MTV rotten nbcuniversal Shondaland casting worst movies USA Network Oscars anime WGN Reality IFC RT21 concert Pirates ABC Family 24 frames CNN BBC America series Film Summer child's play Spike politics science fiction HBO Max dragons Hulu 72 Emmy Awards DC Universe Character Guide obituary The Arrangement Masterpiece TBS Year in Review Drama 2019 versus Family blockbuster ITV X-Men BET scorecard Opinion Quiz Universal satire all-time A24 Television Academy HBO Go PaleyFest Columbia Pictures Certified Fresh travel 71st Emmy Awards Arrowverse Mindy Kaling supernatural Interview Shudder Hallmark SDCC cults The CW Sony Pictures Disney streaming service biography Amazon Prime Video dogs Paramount TCA Awards Tubi vampires Crunchyroll justice league remakes PBS Kids & Family films a nightmare on elm street emmy awards Marvel DirecTV WarnerMedia Writers Guild of America animated Disney Channel sitcom Hear Us Out venice DGA crime werewolf 2016 First Look scary movies San Diego Comic-Con Britbox kids NBC Pop TV dc CBS All Access universal monsters boxoffice National Geographic christmas movies