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Shlur’s Top Five Christmas Horror Films

“Christmas Eve is the scariest damn night of the year!” So says the unhinged grandfather character in Silent Night Deadly Night to his 5 year old grandson. While you may disagree with this sentiment, there’s no denying that the holiday season has inspired some great horror films. Traditionally, Christmas is a time of family, friends, good food and giving, but for some reason, watching someone else’s Christmas go to hell in a hand basket is extremely entertaining. This is a list of my favourite seasonal horror films. It was difficult narrowing it down to five, but so it goes.

5. Jack Frost (1997)

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Not the horrible wince-inducing feel good family Christmas film (with an appalling cameo from Henry Rollins), this is the tale of a serial killer whose body is genetically fused together with snow in an accident.

The movie takes place in Snowmonton (the “snowman capital of the world”) where the serial killer turned snowman comes back to wreak his revenge upon the town and the Sheriff who originally brought him to justice. Since its release it’s become a cult classic and the excellent mix of black comedy, horror and a cheesy independent feel makes it a winner. If films about mutant killer snowmen are your thing, then look no further.

4. Silent Night Deadly Night (1984)

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If there’s one common thing with all Christmas horror films, it’s that they’re generally hilarious (with the exception of Black Christmas), whether intentionally or not. This one falls into the latter category.

The film is about a young boy, who, after witnessing his parent’s murder at the hands of a killer dressed in a Santa Claus outfit, grows up and goes on his own festive themed killing spree. It caused such outrage upon its release (largely due to the killer being dressed in a Santa Claus outfit) that during a review the film critic Roger Ebert read out the name of every individual involved with the film’s production, saying “shame on you” after each name.

The acting is truly rock bottom, and the death scenes aren’t great (some making for the aforementioned comedy gold), but it’s still good fun nonetheless and a Christmas horror must see. Avoid the second one though as the majority of the film is made up of footage from the first.

3. Gremlins (1984)

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The story of a young man who receives a creature called a “Mogwai” as a pet, although adorable, when wet this spawns other more savage creatures who wreak havoc on a peaceful town at Christmas time. Directed by Joe Dante, this is up there with some of Dante’s best work including The Burbs and the Howling.

A significantly bigger budget than any of the other films on this list doesn’t serve as a curse like so many other horror films and it’s the film’s blend of black comedy and horror which makes it so appealing. At its heart it’s a rollicking festive family movie, yet the film’s dark side makes it something wholly original. The special effects and puppetry are fantastic and the humour will have you howling with laughter at times. Feel good Christmas horror for all the family.

 2. Rare Exports (2010)

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The most recent Christmas horror on this list. The film is based around the idea that the original Santa Claus was actually a devil-like beast who punishes children, instead of the much loved jolly fat man we all know today. On the eve of Christmas a young boy sets out to discover the truth behind several strange goings on in his small isolated village. Why have all the reindeer been slaughtered? Who took all the hairdryers and radiators? And where have all the children gone?

The performances on the whole are fantastic, as is the cinematography – with beautiful shots of the Finnish wilderness. Although there is humour in here it’s not overdone, with the film striking a nice balance between laughs and genuinely creepy moments. Overall this is a daring and original film which will make you think twice about the true meaning of Christmas.

1. Black Christmas

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One of my absolute favourite movies of all times, horror or otherwise, this is a masterpiece of horror film making and a genuine exercise in terror. Black Christmas was hugely influential on the whole slasher genre (preceding Halloween by 4 years) and achieves almost Hitchcock-like levels of fear and suspense.

The film is centred around a group of girls who are staying at their sorority house for Christmas. They begin receiving threatening and obscene phone calls and one by one the girls are brutally murdered by a killer hiding in their house.

It’s not just the stalk and slash element that makes this so unnerving. Although the death scenes are brutal, the overall atmosphere is chilling and bleak. A scene where local police find the body of a young girl in the woods and the sickening, animalistic sound of the prank phone calls to the girls adds to the unsettling feel of the film.

One of the common mistakes of modern horror movie making is to give too much away about the killer, removing any element of unknowing or fear from the film. This movie gives nothing away and the audience is left with feelings of dread and despair; terrifying Christmas viewing at its best.