My favourite thing about Christmas is holiday movies. I love a classic. A Muppet Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, and all the perennials that make up the Christmas canon are always there, the comfort food of the holidays. But, like any horror fan, I like to spice up my holiday picks with flicks from the genre I love. Here are six of my top picks. So cuddle up on the couch, sit in the glow of the fireplace. But maybe, if you’re squeamish, avoid the egg nog.
Better Watch Out
This is one that I can’t recommend highly enough. It is best enjoyed without any prior knowledge. Avoid the trailers; they give far too much away. A babysitter who is getting ready to move away and is having boyfriend troubles heads over to babysit a boy who has a serious crush on her. Partway through the night things start to get awkward as he opens some champagne. And about ten minutes after that you will be knee deep in classic slasher territory – or are you? A clever slasher with amazing performances, this one will make you never be able to look at Home Alone the same way again.
All the Creatures Were Stirring
Horror anthologies are one of my favourite subgenres. They are great when you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for, and usually offer a little something for every type of fan. All the Creatures Were Stirring provides just that. While it is a little bleak, it is a refreshing change from the relentlessly happy, sugar-coated holiday film. This film uses everything from monsters, ghosts and aliens to remind us that the holidays are a time that can be full of joy, but is also full of struggles for many.
Anna and the Apocalypse
What is the staple of a great holiday movie? The songs, of course! Nothing says holidays like an upbeat song that conveys the magic of the season. Anna and the Apocalypse will do you one better and give you the delightful combination of Christmas, musicals, and a zombie apocalyse. If that sounds ridiculous, it absolutely is. But this film manages to take zombies getting their skulls crushed by bowling balls while people dance and turn it into a surprisingly heartfelt look at what people will do for the ones they love. An odd combination for sure, but a must see for musical horror lovers; I’ve been singing the songs all week!
A classic. This one needs to be on every Christmas list. A quirky father who makes bizarre inventions finds a tiny, cute furry creature on his travels, and brings it home to his son. The audience is instantly smitten with Gizmo. Unfortunately, the three cardinal rules of Gremlin maintenance are fairly quickly violated. As soon as this little guy gets wet, there’s no stopping the holiday mayhem.
A Christmas Horror Story
A Christmas Horror Story delivers on so many levels. A Canadian charmer featuring rabid elves, Changelings, an angry spirit, and a Santa vs. Krampus showdown, this one will not disappoint. Top it all off with the common thread being William Shatner as the town’s radio host working Christmas on his own and it make for a weirdly winning set of stories.
I can’t have a Christmas list and not include one of my favourite horror movies of all time, 1974’s Black Christmas. While a tiny sliver of this is loyalty to a Canadian film, this movie is still seriously creepy today. While some of it is amusingly dated (see the scene that shows how they tapped a phone call in the 70s), it is still a strong entry today. A sorority is terrorized by disturbing phone calls, that the cops are largely unconcerned about. When a young girl from town goes missing and they are unable to find one of their friends, they suspect that there is more to it. And boy, are they right. This movie stands out as a slow burn slasher, but one that truly delivers – those phone calls still make me shudder no matter how many times I’ve seen it. For my thoughts on feminism in Black Christmas, see my detailed breakdown here.
Enjoy! And happy holidays!