After all the gratitude and gluttony of Thanksgiving, Christmas is a time for sharing with others, quality time with family, and gaudy decorations. But for horror fans, Christmas is the time for Krampus and Santa slashers. It’s a time for relishing in the death and decay of Winter and the dark and stormy nights. Christmas horror is an often overlooked subgenre, but it has its roots in the creepy origin stories of many Winter holiday traditions. Around the world, different Christmas monsters bring gruesome punishments to naughty children. Even the omniscient Santa Claus “sees you when you’re sleeping” and “knows when you’ve been bad or good.”
The Winter holiday season is just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than with a Christmas-themed horror binge? For any horror movie marathon, Shudder is the perfect streaming app. It has a well-curated list of horror movies from old to new, as well as its own exclusive content. A monthly subscription is only $5.99, and a free trial is available for new users. Now, no one wants to spend Christmas browsing thumbnails and watching a bunch of trailers to find that not-so-feel-good movie to cozy up to. So get the fire lit, grab some eggnog, and take a pick from below, because Collider’s done the hard part and put together a list of the best Christmas horror movies on Shudder.
It was a bloody good time and y’all weren’t ready for it!
Better Watch Out (2016)
Run Time: 1 hr 34 min | Director: Chris Peckover
Cast: Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould
What happens when naughty children take over Christmas? The answer is in this film. Preteen Luke Lerner (Levi Miller) is in love with his teenage babysitter, Ashley (Olivia DeJonge). He and his best friend, Garrett (Ed Oxenbould), have devised a seemingly innocent plan to get Ashley to fall for Luke. But Luke is twelve, and Ashley is seventeen, so that’s just not going to happen. When the plan goes wrong, a new game develops, one gift-wrapped in perversion, and Ashley’s exes begin dying by way of Home Alone-styled booby traps. Children are often impulsive with no concept of consequence. But this is the story of a child who not only knows the consequences of his premeditated murderous actions but firmly believes that his status of entitlement will grant him a sure way of getting away with it. So what happens when wealthy, naughty children with an awareness of their privilege take over Christmas? Bad things. Very, very bad things.
Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022)
Run Time: 1 hr 27 min | Director: Joe Begos
Cast: Riley Dandy, Sam Delich, Jonah Ray
A new Shudder original, Christmas Bloody Christmas, is lit with an acid-trip barrage of lights and filters and boasts gruesome axe murders all over a small town drenched in blood and cheerful Christmas decor. There’s been a recall of military-grade robot Santas, but this little town didn’t heed the memo. After Robo-Santa kills everyone around the main POV character, Tori (Riley Dandy), including all the cops at the local police station, it’s up to this final girl to take him down. It’s not clear why evil Terminator Santa is so hellbent on getting Tori, but it makes for a violently fun Christmas movie night.
The Advent Calendar (2021)
Run Time: 1 hr 44 min | Director: Patrick Ridremont
Cast: Eugénie Derouand, Honorine Magnier, Clément Olivieri
Eva (Eugénie Derouand) used to be a dancer until a near-fatal car accident left her paralyzed from the waste down and using a wheelchair. Nearing Christmas, her best friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier) gives her a strange advent calendar for her birthday. Each day, Eva opens a little door in the calendar and receives candy. With each candy she eats, strange things happen. Sometimes, the candy offers Eva the temporary use of her legs. This is a hard gift to let go of. But the calendar is connected to a dangerous entity, one that takes as much as it gives. If Eva wants to dance again, everyone she loves must die brutally. And the advent calendar doesn’t give Eva much of a choice in the matter. It’s darkly sardonic and beautifully filmed, glowing with ethereal yet grim filters and lighting. This French Christmas horror will have viewers questioning any gifts they receive this year.
All the Creatures Were Stirring (2018)
Run Time: 1 hr 20 min | Director: David Ian McKendry, Rebekah McKendry
Cast: Constance Wu, Jonathan Kite, Jocelin Donahue
All the Creatures Were Stirring is a holiday horror anthology boasting some pretty weird short stories. There’s a homicidal office gift exchange, a vengeful reindeer, and an alien abduction, among other uncanny tales. Each short is more bizarre than the last and offers a Twilight Zone-esque experience. All of the stories take place on Christmas Eve. Some have semi-happy endings with a lone survivor, and some end in dark and bloody fates. For low-budget lovers, it’s the perfect Christmas horror anthology for a strange and eerie movie night.
Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
Run Time: 1 hr 33 min | Director: John McPhail
Cast: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire
Think High School Musical but with zombies. Anna and the Apocalypse is a bloody good time. The songs are catchy, the zombies still move when their heads are cut off, and it’s all centered around Anna (Ella Hunt), who just wants to make it out of high school for a traveling year abroad. It’s a British film taking place at Christmastime in a small Scottish town; most teens are fed up with that place. The vice principal is a people-hating tyrant whose true penchant for punishing people comes out when zombies take over. During the zombie invasion, Anna and her friends are just trying to make it to the high school where their parents are holed up, but there are a lot of zombies between there and the bowling alley they start out at. They sing, they bash zombies with candy canes, and they learn a little about themselves along the way. Anna and the Apocalypse is the ultimate Christmas horror movie.
Black Christmas (1974)
Run Time: 1 hr 38 min | Director: Bob Clark
Cast: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder
This classic Christmas slasher staple is a cult favorite for good reason. The killer in this movie is uniquely deranged, and the script is progressive, putting the film ahead of its time. It’s had two remakes and a novelization, so it’s one of the better-known fan favorites on this list. A sorority house has been getting repeated unsettling phone calls from the same caller. When Christmas vacation comes, the sorority sisters remaining at the house are picked off one by one, some without anyone even noticing. The climax comes when police discover the calls are coming from inside the house. The death scenes are morbid and colorful, and the suspects’ actions keep audiences guessing. Black Christmas is a key film on any Christmas watchlist this season.
A Christmas Horror Story (2015)
Run Time: 1 hr 39 min | Directors: Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan
Cast: William Shatner, George Buza, Zoé De Grand Maison
A Christmas Horror Story connects four stories into one sleigh ride of a horror film. All in the same town, a teenage girl is possessed and inadvertently impregnated by the ghost of a Christmas murder victim, Krampus brutalizes a family, a changeling replaces a little boy and unleashes hell on his parents, and Santa’s elves turn into zombies, spewing vulgarities while attacking the jolly guy. The film is a riot of Christmas horror fun, starring William Shatner as DJ Dan, George Buza as Santa, and Olunike Adeliyi as Kim, among other talented cast members. It’s probably one of the biggest fan favorites on Shudder this time of year, and is usually only available seasonally, so give it a watch before the holidays are over.
A Creepshow Holiday Special: Shapeshifters Anonymous (2020)
Run Time: 46 min | Director: Greg Nicotero
Cast: Anna Camp, Adam Pally, Pete Burris
This Creepshow special is a hilarious and campy addition to the list. It’s short but worth the watch. When average guy Robert Weston (Adam Pally) comes to the conclusion that he may be a werewolf, he finds solace in a support group called Shapeshifters Anonymous. The group consists of a werecheetah (Anna Camp), a wereboar, a weretortoise, and a furry who puts on a hippo costume every full moon. There’s also a guy who just never talks. The group discloses to Robert the mock-biblical history of therianthropes (shapeshifters) and the origins of Kris Kringle who is their sworn enemy. The same night Robert joins the group, they are swarmed by an army of Santas and must fight for their love. The movie is a colorful riot providing much-needed full belly laughs this dark and gloomy season.
Super Dark Times (2017)
Run Time: 1 hr 43 min | Director: Kevin Phillips
Cast: Owen Campbell, Charlie Tahan, Elizabeth Cappuccino
Super Dark Times is not a fun movie. It’s intense and paranoid with a shocking climax. It’s a coming-of-age film patterning the usual themes of sex and death in an unusual way. Four teenage friends are playing with a sword when a fight breaks out. As one can expect, events spiral down from there. With a deadly secret hanging in the air between the remaining three friends, each handles the predicament in their own way without a solid plan to refrain from getting caught. While Zach (Owen Campbell) tries to lead a normal life and Charlie denies it even happened, Josh (Charlie Tahan) descends into a darker self. Something awakens in him, something homicidal, and cold-blooded killing ensues for audiences looking for a film that reflects the ominous and lonely nature of Winter, Super Dark Times takes the cake.
Run Time: 1 hr 29 min | Director: Adam Leader, Richard Oakes
Cast: Neal Ward, Frank Jakeman, Samantha Loxley
The premise of Hosts involves uninvited guests. The Henderson’s invite their neighbors, Lucy and Jack, over for Christmas dinner, who became possessed by something shortly before arriving. After Lucy (Samantha Loxley) blatantly bludgeons the matriarch to death with a hammer at the dinner table, in front of her husband and children, the rest of the family is held hostage and forced to participate in life-threatening events. Michael (Frank Jakeman), the father of the household, reveals a long-kept family secret that he believes to be the reason for this fateful night. But when asked why they are doing this, Lucy tells an ancient tale, a biblical tale, divulging that they are entities hellbent on getting their revenge and destroying God’s beloved Earth. The film is quite gory and moves in long, treacherous scenes that make viewers wait for each character’s demise. It’s a good scare for Christmas.
My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To (2020)
Run Time: 1 hr 29 min | Director: Jonathan Cuartas
Cast: Patrick Fugit, Ingrid Sophie Schram, Owen Campbell
Vampirism as a disease has been done in movies before, but vampirism as a debilitating ailment is a unique concept. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To depicts three siblings, Dwight (Patrick Fugit), Jessie (Ingrid Sophie Schram), and Thomas (Owen Campbell). Dwight and Jessie must do lurid things to take care of their sick little brother Thomas, who needs to feed on human blood to survive. Although Dwight wants out of this life, family comes first. Their sister Jessie is bitter, jealous, and controlling. She is the true villain of the story. Her iron will forbid her brothers from having any kind of life outside their odd home driving Dwight and Thomas to make mistakes no one can come back from. Besides, kidnapping and murdering people can only work for so long when your heart’s not in it. Watch My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To for a dreary, blood-soaked movie night.
Deadly Games (1990)
Run Time: 1 hr 32 min | Director: René Manzor
Cast: Brigitte Fossey, Louis Ducreux, Patrick Floersheim
Little Thomas (Alain Lalanne) is a child genius who lives in a mansion with his rich, working mother (Brigitte Fossey) and his ailing grandfather (Louis Ducreux). The boy is obsessed with action movies and even has a whole secret lair hidden in the mansion which his guardians know nothing about. Regardless of his high IQ, he still believes in all things magical, including Santa Claus. Thomas believes he has contacted Santa Claus through the internet, but he’s really invited a deranged killer into his home. Thomas witnesses the stranger, dressed in a Santa suit, kill his dog right in front of him. From then on the Deadly Games proceed. Preceding Home Alone, the films bare so much resemblance that writer/director René Manzor threatened to sue for plagiarism. Horror fans will probably enjoy Deadly Games a bit more, though, as the booby traps in this film are far more complex and fatal. And who doesn’t love a psycho Santa?
Await Further Instructions (2018)
Run Time: 1 hr 31 min | Director: Johnny Kevorkian
Cast: Sam Gittins, Neerja Naik, Abigail Cruttenden
It’s not clear whether it’s an alien invasion or TVs have taken over the world, but something disturbing infects the family in this British horror movie. Nick brings his Middle Eastern girlfriend Annji for Christmas dinner at his parents’ house. His family makes some racist remarks throughout the night, practically shunning Nick and Annji. Suddenly, a black substance encases the house, and the tv programming is interrupted by an emergency announcement telling them to “stay indoors and await further instructions.” From there, more and more orders are televised and Nick’s controlling father does not question them. While Nick and Annji have their apprehensions regarding what’s going on, Nick’s father, Tony, doesn’t let the family decide for themselves, and people die because of his militant nature. The real monster is Tony, and Nick and Annji use everything they’ve got to try and escape the fate that awaits them.
Silent Night (2012)
Run Time: 1 hr 34 min | Director: Steven C. Miller
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Jaime King, Donal Logue
Another gory Santa slasher, Silent Night is packed with creative, Christmas-themed killings and bloody homicides. The theme, of course, is morality, and those who don’t have it end up murdered in the most gruesome ways, Jaime King okays a cop trying to catch a bad Santa, one who’s doling out grim punishments to those on his naughty list. Malcolm McDowell plays the cocky sheriff who’s willing to put any no-good Santa behind bars and get the whole thing over with. There are Christmas light murders, wood-chipper murders, and classic ax murders. The film is cynical but a lot of fun for those who like their horror movies with buckets of blood. Watch Silent Night for a night full of screams.
Christmas Evil (1980)
Run Time: 1 hr 40 min | Director: Lewis Jackson
Cast: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey Demunn, Dianne Hull
In this 80s Santa slasher, Brandon Maggart plays Harry, a man who takes on the alternate identity of Santa Claus. When he was a child, he was traumatized to find out that Santa wasn’t real, and also by the way it happened (mommy kissing Santa Claus). Since then, he’s been consumed by the concept of Santa. At work, Harry is belittled by his colleagues and frustrated with greedy corporate schemes. At home, he spies on children and keeps a record of their good and bad deeds in books. All of this is to say that one day, Harry loses it, and goes on a killing spree to enact Santa’s judgment. The film is not as tawdry as most 80s horror films, and actually stands up on its own. It’s a nice popcorn-flick addition to the list that horror fans will thoroughly appreciate.
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