The Christmas horror subgenre is a growing section of horror that tends to play on the swept-away side of Christmas. It examines whose naughty, and how badly they deserve to be punished, often with comedy thrown in for extra good measure. If you are a fan of horror, especially horror comedies, this is the list for you! They are in no particular order.
*Warning movies may feature or discuss sexual assault. Those with sensitivities around this issue should proceed with caution for entry #2.
1) Violent Night (2022)
Described as Die Hard mixed with Home Alone, Violent Night is titled appropriately to set up audience expectations. A disgruntled Santa Claus decides that he has had with the predatory capitalism and consumerism that has besmirched his nominally jolly holiday. He decides to go on one last hedonistic sleigh ride, debating if this will be the last Christmas for humanity. Ending up at the mansion of the wealthy Lightstone family, he is suddenly thrust into an action thriller John Wick style, when armed mercenaries pick this night to break into the mansion and steal the purported hundreds of millions in the family vault. The youngest Lightstone, Trudy, pleads for Santa’s help with a child’s innocence, and Santa Claus reluctantly goes up against the bad guys. It is silly, action-packed, and has a comic twist on the idea of naughty or nice!
In theatres now as of December 2, 2022.
2) Black Christmas (2019)
From a Blumhouse producer of Get Out and Halloween, comes a feminist revenge thriller during the Christmas season. The women of Hawthorne College are menaced by an unidentified stalker during the holiday break. Fed up with the terror and trauma, a group of girlfriends decide to take matters into their own hands, and get the drop on the would-be killer. This is a must-see for people who like their horror protagonists with some bite! This movie gets extra credit for exploring the toxic hook-up culture and under-reported sexual assaults happening on college campuses with an unflinching eye.
on Hulu and Shudder now.
3) The Advent Calendar (2020)
This Shudder original centers on Eva, a former dancer, and paraplegic, who is gifted with an advent calendar right before Christmas. For those unfamiliar, the Advent is a seasonal preparation for the Nativity of Christ in Christianity, and its calendar marks down the days until the event. The calendar can be a simple flip calendar with Christian and winter themes, to a small decorative item with small cubbies with gifts pertaining to each day in the countdown.
This French-Belgian horror film centers on Eva’s advent calendar, giving her strange gifts that grant sometimes good, but often escalating terrible things in a “be careful what you wish for” fashion during the 24 days leading to Christmas. As Eva eats the candies marked with symbols on each day, strange things occur: her father, who previously suffered from Alzheimer’s, becomes lucid, the guy she likes shows interest, and so forth. But then, grizzly things begin to take place, like people that have wronged her in various ways, meeting horrific fates. Even then, Eva is reluctant to stop eating the candies, as she is convinced that at the end of the Advent, she’ll be able to walk again … but at what cost to her and the world around her?
On Shudder and Amazon Prime now.
4) Silent Night (2021)
This thriller mashes up Christmas comedy with apocalyptic dread for an interesting twist. A group of friends and family come together to celebrate Christmas with the usual frustrations, awkward familial relationships, feeling obligated and like one’s boundaries are not being respected, and that a giant, toxic cloud of man-made pollution is sweeping across the planet and promising that his truly will be the Last Holiday! This environmental cautionary tale for the holiday season is the directorial debut of Camille Griffin.
See it on YouTube and Amazon Prime.
5) Red Snow (2021)
The horror-comedy subgenre gets some fresh blood (pun intended) with this new spoof on the vampire eroticism obsession that seems to always be an undercurrent in fantasy media. Twilight meets The Cabin in the Woods here. A struggling horror writer specializing in vampire fiction finds herself in a case of story-come-to-life, when she has to fight for her life against vampires during the holiday season at Lake Tahoe. The action starts when injured bats break her window, and eventually are revealed to be the handsome Luke, a vampire with little subtlety to his character. The entire movie is an in-your-face spoof with good-natured humor. Vampire hunters, paranormal romance, and vampire revenge tales combine to make a comedic twist on both vampire and holiday movies.
Watch it on Amazon Prime.
6) Gremlins (1984)
A horror-comedy Christmas classic (that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?), Gremlins have been turning up on lists like these since 1984. And for good reason! Steven Spielberg’s horror-comedy has everything: monsters that are menacing and funny simultaneously, real stakes, great comedic timing, and a holiday spirit clashing with horror unleashed. Gremlins is the Home Alone of the horror-comedy subgenre, spanning just as many sequels and knock-offs from the original classic. This movie is a cautionary tale about what happens when you feed your Mogwai after midnight! (Hint: it’s nothing good)
Available on Amazon Prime and HBO Max.
7) The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
We end our list with another classic of horror-comedy Christmas movies, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. You’ve seen this by now, I’m sure, and if not, GO SEE IT. The only question we have is this: is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Christmas or Halloween film?
Did your favorite make the list? Let me know if there are some new Christmas horror films or classics that we should check out.