CC2K’s resident horror chick looks into the surprisingly vast library of Christmas-themed horror movies and offers some recommendations … and some warnings.
Did you know that there is more than one slasher movie that features a costumed Santa Claus as its villain? To help catch you up, here’s the horror chick’s run-down of the easiest-to-find holiday horror, so you know what to catch in your local revival theatre/cool video store. Since it’s the holidays, I’ve graded each film by what present Santa would bring it, from a lump of coal to the best present that bowl full of murderous jelly could ever bring anyone: a pony.
Black Christmas (1974)
Bob Clark’s other Christmas movie is nothing like A Christmas Story. This is not only one of the best slasher/psycho killer films ever made, it is also better than It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and A Grandpa for Christmas combined. This is one of my top five favorite films, and I can’t recommend it enough. It predates Halloween, and is the best holiday horror film every made. Period.
Present: A pony! A pony! Santa brought me a pony!
If you’re feeling daring, here’s the opening sequence:
Okay so technically this isn’t a Christmas-themed movie, but it does take place at Christmas so I’m including it. After all, Billy does get Gizmo as a present, and the dog does get tied up in Christmas lights. And it stars the always-lovely Phoebe Cates, and the super-cute Zach Galligan, and one of my favorite character actors, Dick Miller. I’d forgotten how disturbing and gross many parts of this film are: the gremlin in the mixer, the gremlin head in the fireplace, Cates telling the story of how her father died stuck in the chimney, dressed like Santa on Christmas Eve, “his arms laden with presents.” This may be a “family movie,” but it is still super rad and disgusting.
Present: Shiny new bicycle.
And here’s the now classic kitchen scene from Gremlins.
Silent Night, Bloody Night (1974)
Mary Wornov starts in this film that makes no sense and put me to sleep. I don’t really know how she fits into the story, and even the summary on IMBD is really obtuse. I nodded off after the first super-boring twenty minutes which was mostly Warnov walking around having an interior monologue about a supposedly scary house. I woke up in time for the ending that I think had something to do with the scary house having been an insane asylum, and a serial killer, but I had stopped caring.
Present: A big ol’ lump of coal.
For insomniacs, here’s the interminable opening sequence:
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Little Billy sees a guy dressed like Santa murder his parents. Years later, he’s an eighteen-year-old living in an orphanage, and is forced by the mean mother superior to work in a toy store in December, where the store owner has the bright idea to dress him up like Santa Claus. Big surprise, he loses his mind and starts murdering people while wearing the suit, and they try to stop him before he murders his way back to the kids in the orphanage. This movie is casually misogynistic in the manner of most of the old grindhouse films, but if you’re able to shrug that off and laugh at that kind of thing (and I’m not), it won’t bother you. Scream Queen Linnea Quigley has a cool scene as a naughty teen that’s skewered with elk horns. This film, like every other, is being remade. It also has a sequel, released in 1987, that I didn’t bother to see.
Present: Something kind of shitty, but possibly still enjoyable once a year: Christmas socks.
Here’s a scene from Silent Night, Deadly Night. I won’t tell you anything about it, but rest assured that it’s 100 percent awesomeness.
See? Told you.
Santa’s Slay (2005)
This film stars the wrestler Bill Goldberg as demon who lost a bet and became Santa. He was forced to be a good guy and give our presents and joy for a thousand years, and upon the end of his penance he rebelled and starting killing people while still wearing the jolly red suit. This is so bad it is unwatchable. I don’ care how many beers you’ve had, you will still hate it.
Present: A lump of coal … coated in ham and shoved down your throat.
Here’s the opening sequence, filed under “must see to believe”:
Christmas Evil (1980)
Don’t let the fact that this film was distributed by Troma scare you off, it has a good production value for what must have been a small budget, and an interesting, if silly, story. John Waters considers this to be the best seasonal film of all time. A boy who saw Mommy makin’ it with Santa Claus grows up to be a Santa-obsessed man, and one Christmas Eve, he dresses up like St. Nick, rewarding the nice… and punishing the naughty.
Present: Sweet and spicy, this film is a gingerbread man.
Here’s a memorable scene:
Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984)
Another Santa suit film, but this one has a man killing anyone in a suit. Since this is English, it has an Inspector tracking the killer, and the reporter who helps him is named Giles, because, if TV and film has taught us anything, one in three English dudes is named Giles.
Present: A Jack in the box… full of crazy!
Nobody survives a tree to the head:
Dead End (2003)
Frank takes a shortcut to his mother-in-law’s house for Christmas (over the river and through the woods maybe). A mysterious woman in white wanders over the river too, and kills people, and is followed by a driverless car that totes their bodies around. The family is suitably terrorized.
Present: You know the giant red bow you put on a car when you give it as a present? Get rid of the car and keep the bow. It’s kind of pointless, and not scary at all, just like this film.
Here’s an indicative scene. Leland Palmer … why?
Jack Frost (1997)
This is the horror one, not the Michael Keaton one. Imagine Spiderman, only instead of a nerdy photographer, you have a killer, and instead of the radioactive spider, you have a truck full of “genetic material” and … I guess snow? It doesn’t really make sense, but you’re not gonna see this one anyway so who cares?
Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman (2003)
The title is obviously better than the film.
Present: The two lumps of coal pulled from a still-living snowman’s eyes.
Watch at your own risk:
Worth mentioning, but hard to find:
My buddy Amanda Reyes, who pretty much knows everything about B-movies and made for TV flicks, says that To All a Goodnight is one of the best bad movies ever, so if your local video rental place happens to have it, and you like that sort of thing, check it out.
Present: Chocolate covered cherries. It looks great ‘cause its chocolate, but when you bite into it, all bets are off.
And thank you, YouTube! Here’s a seven-minute rundown of To All A Goodnight!