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Ho! Ho! Horror! 11 spine-tingling holiday films to watch after 'Violent Night'

You better watch out... you better not cry... seriously, if you cry, the killer will hear us!

Collage featuring Black Christmas (1974); Gremlins (1984); The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993); Jack Frost (1997); Krampus (2015); Anna and the Apocalypse (2017); The Lodge (2019); Silent Night (2021); Violent Night (2022)

Most holiday movies are, understandably, nice. They're cozy or full of Christmas-y sweetness. But, as Santa knows well, in addition to nice there's also naughty. For decades, the jolliest date on the calendar has become a ripe breeding ground for horror storytelling. Violent Night, the new movie starring David Harbour as Saint Nick-turned-John McClane, is more of an action flick than a straight horror film, but there's still something scary about people breaking into your house. (People that, uh, aren't Santa, of course.) Regardless, Violent Night — which is now in theaters — is part of a rich tradition of holiday movies that turn the genre on its head. 

Why is there so much holiday horror? Perhaps because it’s so easy to flip our collective notion of scrumptious feasts, presents tucked under a decorated tree, and joy to the world right on its head with the arrival of supernatural entities and bloodthirsty maniacs. When the hacking and slashing begins, Santa's coat isn't the only thing that's red...if you know what we mean. With Chucky’s sophomore outing now over, here are 11 holiday-themed genre features guaranteed to slide down the chimney with a sack full of scares!

RELATED: Violent Night reviews: What critics are saying

Black Christmas (1974)

Four whole years before Michael Myers arrived on the scene in Haddonfield, Black Christmas got the slasher train a-rollin’. The Bob Clark-directed Christmas/horror classic centers around a group of sorority girls stalked by a vicious killer. Who could ever forget the visual of the girl in the rocking chair with a plastic bag forced over her head? Chilling stuff. Less than a decade later, Clark would helm the much more family-friendly A Christmas Story. It’s all about balance, folks!

Gremlins (1984)

Along with Die Hard, Gremlins is oft-considered the quintessential genre flick set against the backdrop of Christmas. Director Joe Dante’s love of classic cartoons certainly comes through in this B-movie sendup about a horde of diminutive creatures wreaking havoc throughout a small town. The comedy, horror, and festive atmosphere beautifully align for the perfect holiday viewing experience.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

What’s this?! What's this?! The rare movie that is appropriate for both Halloween and Christmas, the Henry Selick-directed stop-motion classic (executive produced by Tim Burton) continues to stand as an exemplar of the animation genre. Jack Skellington’s desire to escape the humdrum existence of Halloween Town makes us eternally grateful for the changing of seasons.

Jack Frost (1997)

No, we’re not talking about the Michael Keaton film of the same name that opened a year later. A schlocky masterpiece, Jack Frost is perhaps the closest thing to Chucky on this list. When the DNA of a convicted killer accidentally mixes into a patch of snow, the insular town of Snowmonton finds itself under attack by a killer snowman. It’s the definition of the word “camp” and the 2000 sequel — Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman — is even crazier. Look up the synopsis when you get a chance. It's wild!

Rare Exports (2010)

You better watch out and you most certainly better not cry. Similar to Krampus (see below), this horror outing from Finland reimagines jolly ol’ Saint Nick as a malevolent entity buried deep within the depths of a snowy mountain. We’ve seen John Carpenter's The Thing enough times to know where this is going. Some things are better left frozen.

Krampus (2015)

Molded in the same vein as Gremlins, director Michael Michael Dougherty’s take on the notorious monster from European folklore (Krampus is portrayed as Santa’s mischievous shadow) deftly blends horror and comedy for a Dante-esque romp that shines a light on the severe emotional stress of reuniting with one’s family for the holidays. Killer gingerbread men and man eating jack-in-the-boxes await!

Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

If you’re in the mood for something lighter, then consider checking out this offbeat musical, which sends roasting chestnuts hurtling into the zombie apocalypse genre. Not something you see every day, but definitely worth your time. Plus, the screenplay was co-written by the late Ryan McHenry, progenitor of those classic Ryan Gosling refusing spoonfuls of cereal videos.

Hanukkah (2019)

Horror movies inspired by Jewish tradition are hard to come by. Writer-director Eben McGarr saw a severely untapped market and seized on it, lighting all eight candles of the menorah with a brutally violent tribute to iconic slasher titles of the 1980s. To underscore his throwback intentions even further, McGarr hired Friday the 13th composer, Harry Manfredini, and a supporting cast of genre icons like Sid Haig (The Devil's Rejects), Dick Miller (Gremlins), Caroline Williams (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), P.J. Soles (Halloween), and Charles Fleischer (A Nightmare on Elm Street). Fry up some latkes, unwrap some gelt, and enjoy as the aptly-named “Hanukiller” picks off a group of sex-crazed young people.

The Lodge (2019)

Just picture it: a cozy cabin in the middle of a snowy winter wonderland. This idyllic holiday retreat takes a turn for the sinister in this chilly offering from Goodnight Mommy co-directors, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, which centers around a stepmom-to-be attempting to connect with her fiancee’s two children. “With the house, we also wanted to create this in-between world, where it’s in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of snow, so it feels a little bit surreal,” Franz explained in 2020.

Silent Night (2021)

Headlined by Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean), Matthew Goode (Watchmen), and Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo Rabbit), Silent Night unfolds on the eve of doomsday. If we’re all going to die from an unstoppable cloud of poison gas, might as well spend it with your closest loved ones, right? Writer-director Camille Griffin found herself inspired by the paradoxical nature of the holidays: “We try and think of all the people we haven’t spoken to and the friends we’ve abandoned or the family that we should take care of, all the people that don’t have homes and need food,” the filmmaker said last December. "It’s the time where everyone comes in and goes, let’s be better people. It’s a fantasy in a way because we then go back to being our kind of crappy selves for the rest of the year."

Violent Night (2022)

Now in theaters, Violent Night hearkens back to Die Hard with a badass Santa Claus (played by Stranger Things’ David Harbour) kicking the asses of a group of mercenaries attempting to rob a wealthy family compound on Christmas Eve. The project hails from director Tommy Wirkola, whose has long since proven his talents for genre mashups with films like Dead Snow and Hasnel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.

Watch Violent Night in theaters, and stream Black Christmas on Peacock.

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