Every December, families gather to celebrate the holidays. Revelers pour themselves som eggnog, queue up some soothing holiday music, and decorate their home with tinsel and twinkling lights. It's certainly a pleasant scene. But what about those dark-hearted souls among us who still yearn for horror during the holiday season?
If you're in search of the best Christmas horror movies to watch this holiday season, then we've got you covered. These holiday-themed flicks are sure to terrify while still satisfying your need for a little seasonal cheer. So if you're ready to swap out the sights and sounds of Christmas with the cackle of Jack Frost and the nightmarish sight of Krampus, then this list is for you. Settle in, dim the lights, and prepare for a night of festive fright. Here are the best Christmas horror movies you need to watch tonight.
Just as traumatizing for adults as it is for kids, you can’t go wrong with this gleeful and ghoulish Christmas horror movie of gremlins on the loose. Randall Peltzer is searching for holiday gifts when he spots a cute and cuddly creature at a Chinatown antique store. He offers to buy the animal, known as a mogwai, but the store's owner, Mr. Wing, refuses to sell it. Mr. Wing's grandson, however, is far more open to the transaction, and secretly sells off the mogwai to Randall. Before handing off the animal, he warns Randall of the three very important rules: never expose the mogwai to bright lights, never get it wet, and never feed it after midnight. All three end up happening, triggering one chaotic Christmas.
This 2015 comedy horror stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, and Emjay Anthony. The Engel family gathers for Christmas, but the mood is far from festive. The family's lack of Christmas spirit conjures the Krampus—a Yuletide monster that makes the Grinch look like a child's plaything. The sinister creature hails from European folklore and is known to hunt down naughty children and drag them to their doom. This time, however, Krampus is hungry for anyone who has lost their holiday spirit.
Anna and the Apocalypse
For all you horror fans who still love belting out a good holiday tune, this zombie apocalypse horror musical is for you. The quaint town of Little Haven is preparing for Christmas when a zombie outbreak consumes the community. Now Anna (Ella Hunt) and her closest friends must hack, slash, and sing their way through the undead horde if they hope to survive and save their loved ones.
This Christmas slasher classic has come back from the grave a number of times—most recently in 2019, with the Blumhouse Productions reboot starring Imogen Poots. Alas, critics have not been too kind to this most recent incarnation. And while the 2006 remake is surprisingly worthwhile, the 1974 original is the king of Christmas slashers. When a sorority house receives threatening calls during a Christmas party, some of the sorority sisters brush off the scare as a crank caller. Bad move, very bad move. A precursor to Halloween—and a clear influence on John Carpenter's groundbreaking slasher film—Black Christmas follows an escaped maniac who returns home only to find a sorority house in its place. It isn't long before the bodies start piling up in the snow.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
When young Billy witnesses the murder of his parents on Christmas Eve, it traumatizes him for life. Raised by nuns, he's abused by the Mother Superior, but that's not what pushes him over the edge. Years later, a now-grown Billy is working at a department store during Christmastime. Ultimately, the job triggers Billy's PTSD, pushing Billy to dress up as Santa Claus and go on a crimson-stained killing spree. After his time in retail, Billy's seen some horrors, and now he's deciding who's naughty or nice. Silent Night, Deadly Night launched a slasher horror series that now contains six horror films.
Convicted serial killer Jack Frost is on his way to the execution chamber when his transport vehicle crashes into a truck carrying hazardous genetic material. As a result of the crash, Frost fuses with the snow on the ground, and his spirit finds new life as a sinister snowman. Given another chance to kill, Frost goes after the sheriff that captured him. Frost wreaks havoc on the town of Snowmonton. There's murder, there's sex, and some interesting special effects, to say the least.
Silent Night is a loose remake Silent Night, Deadly Night and the sixth installment in the slasher franchise. It's also inspired by true events: In December 2008, Bruce Pardo went on a killing spree while dressed in a Santa suit in Covina, California, claiming nine lives before taking his own life. The film follows a mysterious masked murderer in a Santa outfit, terrorizing the town of Cryer, Wisconsin. The killer seems to be targeting all those he deems naughty. Now it's up to the local police department to unmask the killer and stop him before he strikes again.
Related: 4 Eerie Olde Holiday Ghost Stories
Don't Open Till Christmas
Don't Open Till Christmas inverts the pattern established by the Silent Night franchise; instead of a killer dressed as Saint Nick, the film centers on a killer who preys on people dressed as Santa. It's the holiday season, and a deranged killer is targeting individuals dressed up as Santa Claus. Inspector Ian Harris is baffled. The increasingly gruesome nature of the murders forces Harris to team up with the daughter of one of the victims and take matters into their own hands.
The Gingerdead Man
Gary Busey as a crazed killer/gingerbread man? Sign us up! Millard Findlemeyer, a psychotic killer who massacred the Leigh family, is arrested and sentenced to die in the electric chair. After the execution, Millard is cremated, and his ashes are sent to his mother. Millard's mother is a witch and she stirs the ashes into some gingerbread cookie mix. It isn't long before evil rises and the gingerbread comes to life, ready to torment and kill.
Two families decide to spend the New Year at a secluded home. Unfortunately, just before New Year’s, all of the children in a small town are infected by a strange virus. Soon, the virus begins showing itself in other, more violent ways. The movie taps into the image of the "demon child" by depicting the children in disturbing and creepy ways. The Children is an intense ride filled with dark humor and unpredictable mayhem focused on children that are really running the show.
Dee Wallace stars in this Christmas horror movie set in Australia. Diane (Wallace) has gathered her estranged family members in hopes of having a happy holiday together. But an unexpected guest lurks in the shadows. When the figure descends upon the holiday family gathering, Diane must face the ghosts of Christmas past and do whatever it takes to protect her family from being torn apart.
Angela is a young Manhattan businesswoman working late on Christmas Eve. After wrapping up work, she heads down to the building's parking garage to leave for the night—only to become trapped in the parking garage by a psychotic security guard named Thomas. Thomas has been secretly stalking Angela. Now, he's ensnared her in a dangerous and deadly game of survival.
Silent Night, Zombie Night
This low-budget zombie movie is set in Los Angeles, where a zombie outbreak during Christmastime transforms the City of Angels into a land of undead Santas. Frank Talbot—an L.A.P.D officer—is on the brink of breaking up with his wife and severing ties with his longtime partner. Instead, the zombie apocalypse hits. As death closes in and the zombie horde descends, the three survivors must work together if they hope to survive.
This Santa Claus horror movie stars wrestler Bill Goldberg as the not-so-jolly elf. This terrifying iteration of Santa was born of Satan, through a virgin birth meaning that Santa is the Antichrist. According to the film, Christmas was the day of slaying for Santa until A.D. 1005 when an angel defeated him in a match and sentenced him to deliver presents. That meant Santa was bounded not to kill anyone until 2005. But all bets are off during Christmas 2005. Freed from his sentence, Santa goes hog-wild, killing people around the world.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas will satisfy your need for creepy horror and Christmas joy in one fell swoop. Jack Skellington—King of "Halloween Town"—stumbles through a portal and winds up in "Christmas Town." He's charmed by the festive holiday and tries to bring it back to his realm of ghouls and goblins. Alas, things do not go as planned.
Better Watch Out
Better Watch Out elevates the babysitter/serial killer narrative by adding a dash of Christmas to the mix. Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) is settling in for a night of babysitting 12-year-old Luke Lerner (Levi Miller) one holiday night. But outside, creatures are a-stirring. When intruders break in and target the boy, Ashley must fight to protect her charge. Soon, however, Ashley discovers that this is no ordinary home invasion.
This Finnish horror movie set in the far snowy reaches of northern Finland will give you the chills this holiday season. A drilling project in the Korvatunturi Mountains cracks open an ancient burial mound. It soon becomes clear that the burial site served to conceal a sinister force—and now that force is on the loose. Soon, reindeer turn up slaughtered and children are vanishing from their communities. Could the original, monstrous version of Saint Nick be to blame?
David offers his work crush a ride home from the office holiday party, only to find himself saddled with another coworker, Corey, who insists on stopping at an ATM for cash. Corey encounters credit card problems, but when David and Emily try to help him troubleshoot, they find themselves all trapped inside the ATM lobby by a hooded figure. A simple transaction becomes a struggle for survival as the temperatures dip and the three find themselves without any mode of communication.
This horror anthology puts a unique and dark spin on some of our most beloved days of celebration. With horror shorts inspired by holidays ranging from Father's Day to Halloween, the directors of each segment manage to pull terror out of every celebration. In Scott Stewart's "Christmas," a father is desperate to get his son VR glasses, no matter the cost. A surprising twist will leave you wondering if your eggnog has affected your processing abilities.
Would it really be Christmas without Santa Claus? You know, that murderous bishop that kidnaps and murders children. Dick Maas's Christmas horror movie reimagines the chuckling Saint Nick into something more terrifying. In the film, Niklas—aka Santa Claus—was a gang leader/bishop who ruled over his village with an iron fist. On December 5th, villagers joined together to fight back, lynching Niklas. Niklas swears vengeance on the villagers' descendants. Years later, with a full moon high in the December sky, Niklas returns from the grave to get his revenge.
A Christmas Horror Story
This anthology horror movie, starring William Shatner, presents four different chapters of yuletide terror. Zombie elves and ghostly possession are just a few of the horrors that await. And let's not forget the age-old battle between Santa and Krampus, complete with action-packed battle. Still not convinced? There's a scene where Santa beheads one of his elves with his golden staff, before using that same severed head to beat another elf to death. Easily worth the price of admission.
Eyes Wide Shut
Although it may not be frequently associated with the holidays, Eyes Wide Shut's Christmas backdrop earns it a spot on our list. Beginning at a Christmas party, Bill Hartford (Tom Cruise) descends into a bizarrely sexualized rendition of A Christmas Carol. The Christmas trappings of the film signal its preoccupation with the idea of rebirth, as Hartford journeys through a secret society underworld (complete with a backward rendition of "Here Comes Santa Claus") to reconnect with his wife.
They don't make Christmas horror movies like this anymore! This film follows a young woman who uncovers a Nazi experiment. It seems the surviving fascists are still committed to the notion of a master race, and have hatched a plan to achieve their goal: force a virgin to breed with magical elves on Christmas Eve. Terrible puppetry aside, you'll find yourself gleefully entertained by this demented horror flick.
Featured still from "Krampus" via Legendary Entertainment