The 10 best holiday horror movies

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Dec 21, 2018, 3:00 PM EST

If your favorite holiday is Halloween, you might grinch and groan as the coming of Christmas brings an excess of cheer. But fear not, horror fans!  Yuletide is a perfect time for something scary.  Jingle bells jangle for jump scares. Glistening strings of lights blind unsuspecting revelers to creeping critters. And the quiet landscapes of freshly fallen snow present perfect accents for screams and sprays of hot blood!

There's a wide and weird array of frightening and festive films from which to choose. SYFY FANGRRLS has searched through the creature features, seasonal slashers, and cult classics to single out the very best of holiday horror. Whether your wish list includes sinister Santas, slaughtering snowmen, dancings zombies, or family-friendly frights, we've got you covered.

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Jack Frost (1997)

Brandishing a wicked sense of humor, Jack Frost centers on the fatefully named convicted killer who escapes execution when a chemical accident transforms him into a slasher snowman. His slays are festive as they are funny, employing icicles, ornaments, sleds, and snowballs as deadly weapons. The low-budget effects welcome your guffaws, as do a slew of irreverent one-liners that mock the movie throughout! Keep an eye out for American Pie's Shannon Elizabeth in a ridiculous role, and stay through the credits, because there are jokes there too! 


Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I'm telling you why: Because you're not going to want this Santa to hear you! In this visually stunning Finnish film, the dark origin of everyone's favorite home invader is revealed. Follow young Pietari (Onni Tommila) on holiday adventure he'll never forget, the time he came face to face with the mighty and monstrous Santa Claus. Though the premise might seem preposterous, this holiday horror story is brewed with dread, splashed with gore, and sprinkled with wonder.  


Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971)

Two-time Academy Award-winner Shelley Winters brings heartwrenching drama to this lesser known but marvelous psycho-biddy thriller. In her glory days, Auntie Roo (Winters) was a dazzling showgirl with a wealthy magician and a darling little daughter. But something terrible happened in the mansion known as the "Gingerbread House" that's left her a lonely spinster whose greatest joy is inviting the local orphans over at Christmas for a lavish feast. Is there an evil agenda behind her generosity? That's the question at the heart of this campy slow-burn thriller that follows the trail of Hansel and Gretel. 


Batman Returns (1992)

This may be a controversial pick for this list. But Tim Burton's classic superhero movie is brimming with horror. You've got The Penguin (Danny DeVito), a beast that lives in the sewers, snatches babies, and bites the nose off of anyone who irks him. You've got the psychopathic magnate Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), who murders all who cross him, including his meek, cat-loving secretary. And you've got the vengeance-seeking Catwoman, a titillating and terrifying example of the return of the repressed trope. All wrapped up in a Christmas tale with a swooning Batman, killer clowns, ice princesses, and deadly tree lighting ceremony! Overstuffed with weirdness and wonders, Batman Returns is the holiday horror that keeps on giving. 


Anna and the Apocalypse (2018)

This Scottish indie is a mind-melting genre mash-up that's destined to be a creepy Christmas classic. Equal parts teen comedy, holiday musical, and zombie horror, Anna and the Apocalypse follows a motley crew of high schoolers through a blood-soaked holiday during which the undead overtook their small town. In the midst of grisly zombie attacks, there's teen angst, love triangles, and a heartwarming coming-of-age tale, plus a soundtrack of hard-rocking, salacious, and silly songs! 


The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

What's this!? Want a holiday horror movie the whole family can enjoy? Look no further than Henry Selick and Tim Burton's groundbreaking stop-motion marvel, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack Skellington is the king of Halloween, but he's grown so tired of this spooky routine. Stumbling into Christmas Town, he's overwhelmed with joy and excitement! So, he decides to kidnap "Sandy Claws" and pull off a holiday coup! With the help of his community of monsters, witches, and every kind of creepy critter, Jack aims to make a Christmas the world will never forget! With rousing musical numbers, a gloriously gothic aesthetic, visuals that still stun, and a tale that's heartwarming with a steady dose of spooky, this wild movie feels like a gift every season. 


Scrooged (1988)

Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol was the start of holiday horror, and director Richard Donner does right by that legacy by updating this classic fable into something modern, frightening, and fun! Bill Murray stars as Frank Cross, the Ebenezer Scrooge of this tale. A greedy TV exec who exploits the Christmas holiday for ratings, Frank questions his choices when confronted by three ghosts, including an undead cabbie (David Johansen A.K.A. Buster Poindexter), a manic pixie nightmare (Carol Kane), and the rotting, mouse-infested, re-animated corpse of his old boss (John Forsythe). Bursting with irreverent humor and ghoulish gags, Scrooged is as outlandish as it is hilarious. 



Joe Dante's iconic creature feature presented audiences with homegrown terrors that would gleefully make a mess of your kitchen, trash your favorite bar, or murder your neighbors. When Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) doesn't follow the rules of caring for his exotic new pet, the consequences are the rise of a vicious army of scaly, rude, and homicidal critters that overrun his sleepy, snow-covered suburb. Filled with creepy practical effects that still send chills, Gremlins is an undisputed classic. But once you've grown up, you realize the scariest bit happens offscreen, recounted by a haunted Phoebe Cates. 


Dial Code Santa Claus

Before there was Home Alone, there was this French thrill ride (also known as Deadly Games) about a little boy who must protect his home—and sickly grandfather!—against the mall Santa gone murderous! When Thomas (Alain Lalanne) is forced to defend himself against a seriously scary Santa (Patrick Floersheim), he turns to his toys, games, and love of action heroes like Rambo to get him through. Writer/director René Manzor cast his son to front this deranged home invasion horror tale that's spiked with whimsical humor, like weaponized toy trains and dog-tested booby traps. The result is a movie that’s so thrilling, fun, and downright bonkers that it'll make you want to punch Kevin McCallister in his screaming face for wasting our time. 



Michael Dougherty is the master of holiday horror. In 2007, he gave us the Halloween-set anthology Trick 'r Treat, which was full of tales wickedly fun and sensationally scary stories. Then, he gifted us with Krampus, which boasts a big bloody heart beating hard at its core. Dougherty gathered an incredible cast that includes Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, and Allison Tolman to tell the cautionary tale of a family who'd lost the Christmas spirit, thereby invoking the wrath of Santa's vicious colleague. Krampus is a delicious holiday cocktail that blends creature feature, slasher, comedy, and family drama to for an adventure that turns toys into terrors, snowmen into harbingers of doom, and elves into evil minions, all while reinvigorating the Christmas spirit of its audience!