The holidays are here, and no matter what religion you are or how you celebrate, this is without a doubt one of the worst times of the year, up there with tax season and the anniversary of the day you walked in on your grandma on the toilet.
Yes, it’s lovely to see all the twinkly lights and holiday cheer and family togetherness, but after that, there’s nothing but trouble. You’re spending too much on unnecessary gifts, or franticly sprinting through the airport to get to your flight back home, or trying to find the perfect present for your Cousin Dan who lives in the woods and can talk to squirrels. It’s a nightmare.
So what better way to honor this nightmare of a time than with actual nightmares, brought on by watching a number of holiday-themed horror films. They may not make the holidays more bearable, but they could take your mind off of your cousin and his squirrel wife.
Forget the unfortunate remake that just opened in theaters and stick with the 1974 original, directed by Bob Clark, who went on to make the ubiquitous “A Christmas Story.” There’s much to enjoy in this tale of a Canadian sorority being stalked by a murderous stranger during winter break. It’s full of actually quite creepy scenes and a genuinely disturbing villain, who is mostly seen in silhouette. The best part of the film, though, is the breakout performance from the late, great Margot Kidder as the crass, sarcastic Barb, who hates her sorority sisters almost as much as she hates townies. (Available on Blu-ray/DVD)
Light a fire, get a cup of hot cocoa and gather your loved ones close to watch the sight of a gremlin exploding in a microwave. This PG-rated cult classic from the ‘80s, which was so violent it helped create the PG-13 rating, is set in a small town during the Christmas season when young Billy receives a strange creature named Gizmo (aka the OG Baby Yoda). Gizmo accidentally spawns the evil titular monsters, who wreak havoc on the unsuspecting townsfolk. With its clever creature effects and dark sense of humor (a character tells the story about her father dressing up as Santa and dying after getting stuck trying to come down the chimney), it’s become a nostalgic favorite for those who enjoy their Christmas stories with a little bite. (Available on Blu-ray/DVD)
“Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale”
That’s right, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he’s going to kidnap you. This Finnish comedy casts jolly ole St. Nick as an evil creature that likes to viciously punish children instead of rewarding them with presents. When he’s unleashed on a small Nordic town and the children begin disappearing, a young boy and his father set out to capture the demonic Kris Kringle before it’s too late. Like all the films listed here, it perfectly juxtaposes the naturally cheerful tone of a Christmas film with the foreboding dread of a horror movie, creating a bizarre hybrid that needs to be seen to be believed. (Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime)
And an extra bonus movie:
“The Long Kiss Goodnight”
Technically more of a thriller than a horror movie, but this bananas film —where Geena Davis plays a suburban wife and mom with amnesia who discovers she used to be a deadly assassin — is so gloriously over the top and silly that it’d be a shame to leave it off this list. Plus, there’s a scene where Davis uses a Christmas lights as a pulley to hoist herself in the air to kill a bunch of bad guys in a helicopter — and that’s all I need in order to classify this as a Christmas classic. (Streaming on Netflix)
Michael Hunley is a copy editor at E&E News in D.C. He previously worked as a copy editor for The Frederick News-Post. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @mhunley85.