Top 5 Favorite Christmas Horror Films

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Gremlins

You know the rules – no bright light, no water, no food after midnight. Doesn’t seem like a good kind of pet to give your kid, teenager or not, does it? And didn’t Billy Peltzer already have a dog, Buddy the dog who was causing so much trouble with the Lady Grinch of the town, Mrs. Deagle, anyways?

Well, who cares. Rand Peltzer likes the unique and unusual, and his son Billy seems to have inherited his curiosity and kind, well-meaning heart in the bargain. Gizmo, as the cute little Mogwai creature is dubbed, is an adorable bundle of fur with giant anime eyes, who can learn and even talk a bit; seemingly the perfect pet. Yet next thing we know all three rules have been broken and soft fur and giant melty-heart eyes have given way to scales, slitted pupils and a really nasty sense of humor! 

Like his dad, Billy is smart and resourceful, and manages to find ways to defeat the Gremlins in this oh-so-very-80’s classic holiday hit. Those little scaly monsters learn to multiply way too fast, which would give any Christmas elf sent against them a run for their money!

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Apparently most of the major holidays have their own entire worlds, with like-minded denizens who inhabit those worlds and make sure their holiday gets observed in the grandest way possible every year. And who better than the always beloved king of whimsy-goth himself, Tim Burton, to bring Halloweentown to life?

As we all know, Jack is our Pumpkin King and he’s the very best at scaring the pants off of everyone in the world. But as it turns out, Jack is tired of his job and is looking for a new one, to actually bring happiness to the peoples of earth. But yknow, when you happen to be a humanoid-ish construct based around a particular holiday, trying to mix another holiday in there is simply unlikely to work. Only our patchwork princess Sally truly understands how Jack feels, and as she’s the only one who really makes sense around this insane asylum, it’s up to her to save Jack from himself! And also, because even Halloweentown has to have an actual villain, Sally is gonna have to help Jack defeat the Boogeyman!

 

Batman Returns

People have a tendency to forget that the second Michael Keaton as Batman film took place during Christmas-time in Gotham, because after all, there is so much else going on. The Red Triangle circus gang has descended in all its bloody glory on Gotham again, as has the charismatic freak-o Penguin, I mean, Oswald Cobblepot, ultimately deciding he wants to run for mayor, and a certain secretary that’s had way too much of men trying to kill her, which leads to her feline resurrection as that badass Catwoman. The movie also happens to feature Christopher Walken as the redoubtable Max Shreck, antagonist industrialist titan of Gotham.

The movie is everything my gothic Gotham-loving heart could want, and set during Christmas-time too, which makes it all the more poignant. Murder, revenge, betrayal, more murder, even rocket-suited penguins, and hey, toss some infanticide in there too!

Danny DeVito got the role of Penguin on the recommendation of his friend Jack Nicholson, who had of course played the Joker in the first Keaton-Batman film. Michelle Pfeiffer took kickboxing lessons and practiced with a whip for her role as Catwoman, once accidentally actually cutting her teacher. And for a great easter egg, the role of Penguin’s father in the very beginning of the movie went to Paul Reubens, better known as yes Peewee Herman. (Bonus easter egg twist – Reubens returned to play Penguin’s father once again on the FOX TV show Gotham!)

Jack Frost

One of the best of the worst of D-grade Horror flicks, Jack Frost boasts a mutant killer snowman antagonist, and I’m not even kidding either. On the way to his execution, the truck ferrying the serial killer Jack Frost crashes into a ‘genetics truck’, mixes the genetic sludge with the snow and turns ol’ Jack into a, wait for it, killer snowman! Of course after that nothing would do but for Jack to go hunting down the Sheriff who caught him, with some of the cheesiest bystander deaths you will ever see in any bad Horror movie.

I know – the special effects are bad, the movie is poorly shot and what story there is, is laughingly awful. Nevertheless, it’s a mutant killer snowman and the way Scott MacDonald cackles for his voice is just hilarious. For anyone who’s ever wanted to knife Christmas with the snowman carrot even once, this one’s for you!

Jack Frost spawned a sequel, Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, which yes I also own and enjoyed. The series was even slated for a third movie, but was cancelled when the actor who played the Sheriff who caught Jack in both films, Christopher Allport, died in an avalanche in 2008.

 

Krampus

The legend of Krampus, that anthropomorphic demon that is the antithesis of dear old Saint Nick himself, has been around for a long time of course, but has only really enjoyed ascendance in the last few decades. Krampus comes in the night and takes care of the naughty children, and occasionally adults too, that Santa Claus won’t demean himself to deal with, dispensing coal for the stockings and ruten bundles for the inevitable Christmas beatings about to ensue!

So, like oh so many of us during the winter holidays, the Engel family has issues. Max is a bit of a wuss, his mom and dad are a little pretentious-yuppie type, and German grandma Omi, she’s got a death-grip on traditions older than you might think. Aunt Linda and Uncle Howard, they’re a bit too down-home-y for my taste, their kids are animals that dad probably really does wish were boys, and cantankerous old Aunt Dorothy, also known as ‘eyeroll-she’s-here-too’. And inevitably as the family descends their personalities on each-other, the threat that people who are naughty to each-other on Christmas will receive unhappy visitors, becomes terrifyingly real.

Krampus stands out as a Christmas Horror movie by reminding us that there are real consequences to being assholes to people during the holidays. The things you place your faith in, even and perhaps especially as a child, can come back to haunt you as a regretful adult far too easily. And as a marvelous nod to his other glorious film Trick ‘r Treat, director Michael Dougherty snuck Sam’s lollipop weapon into Max’s Halloween stash.