Holidays aren’t only a great time to think of others and reflect on your life and goals each year. It’s also the time for our yearly holiday favorites. What would this merry time be without Home Alone, Love Actually, or The Office Christmas Party? However, for horror enthusiasts, there is something even better, something we all wait all year—holiday horror films. As it’s almost the season for cheer, here’s the list of Nerspin’s best holiday horror movies, curated by yours truly.
10. Violent Night
Directed by Tommy Wikrola, Violent Night may not be a horror, but this comedy thriller has so much blood and gore that it certainly deserves to be on this list. It’s not only funny, it has impressive action scenes and David Harbour as Santa Claus.
Trudy (Leah Brady) wholeheartedly believes in Santa and awaits his visit. But not everyone shares her excitement and love for everything merry. Soon, an elite team of skilled killers breaks into a family mansion, taking everyone hostage. But what they aren’t prepared for is the actual Santa Clause interrupting them. But the bearded man is, indeed, coincidentally there, delivering gifts. The criminals have no idea who they’re up against.
As previously mentioned, killer action scenes are super engaging and extremely gory. Blood, guts, and limbs are flying around as Harbour’s Santa takes the intruders one by one. If you like action, comedy, some swearing, and buckets of blood—this one is for you.
Pooka! is an episode of Hulu’s horror anthology web television series titled Into the Dark, however, it has the length of a standalone film, and it feels like so. The film’s titular character and the bloody monster with shiny eyes carry similarities to the púca (or pwca, pooka, phouka, puck) who is a creature of Celtic, English, and Channel Islands folklore and is considered to be a bringer of both good and bad fortune. But in the episode by Nacho Vigalondo, Pooka is the newest, hottest kids’ toy.
Down-on-his-luck Wilson (Nyasha Hatendi), an unemployed actor, moves into a new apartment complex to start a new life. He soon finds an ambiguous audition ad and decides to give it a shot. Soon, he becomes Pooka. Wilson, dressed as a stuffed animal with wide eyes, discovers Pooka selectively repeats what it hears in either a “naughty” or “nice” voice, and Wilson’s job is to portray the character in both ads and live appearances. But soon, Wilson starts to blend reality with delusion as Pooka “takes” control of his life, going even as far as murder.
Pooka! is another hidden gem on this list. It’s an absolute must-watch this season. Prepare yourself to be thoroughly shocked as you watch Pooka! sow wreath. And perhaps you may even get emotional as you hear “look at all the pretty lights” repeated in the film.
8. A Christmas Horror Story
A Christmas Horror Story, by Brett Sullivan, Steve Hoban, and Grant Harvey is a memorable indie holiday horror. The film centers on a few storylines but ultimately leads to one about Santa Claus and his battle against zombie elves and Krampus. You read that right, the zombie elves.
Bailey Downs has no idea that something terrible is going to happen when the radio DJ (William Shatner) starts his show and sets the mood. A little town is soon overrun by wicked phantoms, zombie elves, and Krampus, also known as anti-Santa Clause. The bearded man fights the evil, as we also get to know the story of the Changeling creature, and why one specific high school has an issue with students’ murders.
Due to its different narratives, the film remains captivating the entire time. Next to Shatner who plays mostly with his soothing, low voice, A Christmas Horror Story stars Rob Archer, George Buza, and Zoé De Grand Maison. This hidden gem is criminally underrated, and this article is your sign to watch it this merry season.
7. Silent Night
Silent Night focuses on Art (Davis), who’s preparing for the upcoming holidays alongside his family: his mom Nell (Knightley), dad Simon (Goode), and his two brothers. As they welcome relatives and friends for a holiday feast, something seems off. The audience soon realizes that Christmas marks the day of the world’s end, and everyone is going to die by swallowing a government-provided suicide pill. But Art isn’t convinced that the end is ever supposed to come.
Silent Night, directed by Camille Griffin, is a slow but intriguing burn. It has an excellent cast ensemble and a twisty end that will make you ponder how little we know from the news. This underrated holiday apocalyptic horror starring Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, and Roman Griffin Davis, among others will give you similar eerie feelings to The Lodge and the same thought-provoking feelings.
6. The Lodge
Riley Keough is perhaps mostly known as Elvis Presley’s granddaughter but she’s also a skilled actress. Known for Daisy Jones & The Six Keough, among many others, the actress leads one of the most terrifying winter horror films.
During a family holiday vacation to a remote lodge, Richard (Richard Armitage) is abruptly forced to leave for work, leaving his two children, Mia and Aiden (Lia McHugh and Jaeden Martell) with his new girlfriend, Grace (Keough). The kids aren’t her enthusiasts and decide to tease her, but soon everything changes for the worse. Isolated and alone, a blizzard locks the trio within the confines of the lodge. Soon, frightening events conjure ghosts from Grace’s dark and brutal past.
This elevated horror not only gives you an example of Keough’s amazing acting skills but also terrifies you to your very core. Whatever you suspect is happening—it’s not, it’s something else entirely. Be ready for a chilling roller coaster.
Gremlins is undoubtedly a film that provokes nostalgia, all while scaring us at the same time. This 1984 Joe Dante holiday classic starring Zach Galligan and Phoebe Gates is an absolute must-watch.
Gremlins is a story about Billy, who’s gifted a mysterious cute creature from his father—a creature called Mogwai. Naming him Gizmo, Billy is more than delighted to have a new companion, but he also must obey three rules: avoid bright light, never get Gizmo wet, and no feeding Gizmo after midnight. Seems simple enough, right? But, as we all know, there is always a person who thrives on breaking rules.
Soon, Billy unknowingly unleashes wickedness on the whole town when he breaks the rules, and the nice, sweet Gizmo multiplies and becomes the titular Gremlins—ugly-looking, brutal monsters with pointy ears, each with individual, sassy style. Billy must join forces with his crush, Kate, and fight the Gremlins before they destroy the entire town.
This horror comedy is scarier than it actually sounds. The monsters sow harm and even death on the town’s residents. Not only that, but the movie also highlights the importance of the rules and that they are there for a reason.
4. Black Christmas (2019)
The 2019 remake of Bob Clark’s classic has the audience divided. Some loved it due to its updated message regarding toxic masculinity and women’s eternal fear of unwanted male advances. Others would call it “too woke”. But Sophia Takal’s film of the same title as the original is, for me, a great watch each year.
The remake, similarly to the original, focuses on the sorority group. As the majority of students at Hawthorne College venture back to their hometowns for holidays, everything around them is quieting down. In their house, Riley (Imogen Poots) and her sorority sisters prepare to deck the halls with a themed party and one very creative performance. They have no idea that they will soon have to battle a mysterious cloaked figure who begins to leave a bloody trail throughout the campus. Refusing to become helpless victims, Riley and her friends decide to band together and fight back against the psychotic killer, who brings blood instead of holiday cheer.
3. Better Watch Out
This holiday horror flick by Chris Peckover takes a different take on the mundane task of babysitting and provides twists that shock. Better Watch Out tells us the story of Ashley (Olivia DeJonge), who travels to the suburban home of the Lerners to babysit their 12-year-old son Luke (Levi Miller) during his parents’ holiday dinner.
Everything changes when something or someone begins to terrorize the duo. Ashley must soon defend herself and Luke when unwelcome intruders make themselves known and break in. Better Watch Out is a horror that should be on everyone’s holiday must-watch list. It’s full of twists and turns, it makes you question everything and shows exactly why you cannot fully trust everyone.
2. Black Christmas (1974)
Bob Clark’s 1974 holiday horror is a Christmas classic, and it remains one of the most harrowing films out there, no matter how much time passes by. Black Christmas is such a cultural staple, that the film had its remake in 2019, as well as a very poor reimagination titled Black X-Mas in 2006.
The film follows a group of sorority sisters as they prepare for the winter holidays. Jess (Olivia Hussey) and always intoxicated, forever-smoking Barb (Margot Kidder) are among the members of the group living together. As their holiday party goes on, the girls start receiving anonymous, lewd phone calls. Barb initially only eggs the caller on, but the girl immediately quits when the man answers threateningly. Soon after, their sorority housemate, Claire (Lynne Griffin), goes missing, while a local adolescent girl is murdered, prompting the girls to think a serial killer is on the prowl. But no one even remotely knows just how close the perpetrator is.
Black Christmas is timeless for many reasons, one of which is Jess’ storyline. As Hussey’s character goes through an unwanted pregnancy and seeks an abortion, we can see the stigma the procedure has and that, sadly, not much has changed. Jess, however, stands up to her boyfriend, as well as the killer, making the film not only terrifying but thought-provoking.
Trick ‘R’ Treat’s director, Michael Dougherty, delivered this helluva movie banger in 2015. It’s the perfect holiday horror film that puts you in a cheery mood but also terrifies you with the image of the infamous Krampus—a scary, horned creature, an eternal enemy of Santa, and the bearer of bad news and punishment to all naughty children.
While we can agree that the holiday season is the most enchanting time of year, Krampus, a creature from the ancient European folklore is the polar opposite of “enchanting”. The film tells the story of a boy who simply wants his family to get along. But when the family’s squabbles cause Max (Emjay Anthony) to lose his festive spirit, the terrifying demon comes to Earth and unleashes his wrath and disregard for humankind. As Krampus besieges their home, Max’s mom (Toni Collette), dad (Adam Scott), and his sister (Stefania LaVie Owen), as well as the extended family, must come together to save one another from a horrible fate.
Krampus not only contains a great storyline, packed with folklore and nostalgia. The film is equally as scary, weaponizing the traditional holiday symbols, such as angels or gingerbread men cookies, making them deadly and outright terrifying. Next to horror elements, Krampus gives us lessons on toxic families and the importance of peace especially during the season.