Nine Christmas horror movies to haunt your holidays

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

PETALING JAYA, Dec 4 — For a holiday associated with cheer and joy, there has been no shortage of darker-themed Christmas movies.

The latest addition is the upcoming action-thriller Violent Night, which reimagines Santa Claus as a vigilante eager to mete out violent justice.

Whether you’re an avid horror fan, or are simply looking for something different this holiday season, here are nine movies to watch for a festive fright:

1. Dead End (2003)

Filmed at a time before smartphones and map-apps were common, Dead End is a cautionary tale of taking unknown shortcuts - and bickering with your family members while you’re lost.

While driving to a Christmas Eve gathering, a family decides to take a shortcut through a forest to save some time.

The "shortcut” not only seems to go on forever, the family also finds themselves dealing with unexpected ghostly hitchhikers and various grisly roadside accidents.

Pairing schlock horror with witty dialogue, Dead End manages to pull off its brand of dark comedy on a limited budget.

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Produced and written by Tim Burton, this stop-motion animated musical is one for both children and adults.

The film tells the tale of Jack Skellington, the ruler of Halloweentown, who has grown tired of his regular routine of scaring people in the "real” world.

Upon discovering the wonders of Christmastown, Jack hatches a scheme to kidnap Santa Claus and take over Christmas - naturally, this plan soon goes awry.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a gorgeous visual treat, with meticulously designed sets and characters brought to life through stop-motion animation.

3. P2 (2007)

P2 is almost built for Malaysia’s driving culture and abundance of creepy carpark complexes.

The film stars Rachel Nichols as an ambitious career woman who finds herself trapped at her office’s parking garage after working late on Christmas Eve.

Making matters worse is the fact that the parking garage is manned by a security guard with an unhealthy obsession with her.

What ensues is a cat-and-mouse game as the protagonist tries to outwit her stalker to survive the night.

Although the film’s Christmas setting has nothing to do with its plot, which is straightforward to a fault, P2 is still good for those looking for a fuss-free watch with some cheap thrills.

4. Black Christmas (2019)

The 1974 horror-thriller Black Christmas was a pioneer of the slasher genre, pre-dating films such as Halloween and Friday the 13th.

This remake - not to be mistaken with the 2006 remake - attempts to modernise the familiar plot template into a commentary on systemic misogyny.

Black Christmas is based on a similar premise as its source material: a group of sorority sisters need to defend themselves from a crazed serial killer murdering women on campus.

With "woke” language peppered through the dialogue (a sample being "white supremacist patriarchy”), the film has been criticised for sledgehammering audiences with its political messaging.

Despite this, Black Christmas manages to retain some charm as a fun and silly addition to the genre.

5. The Invitation (2015)

While not exactly Christmas-themed, The Invitation takes the slight uneasiness that sometimes comes with family gatherings and dials it up to a 100.

The movie’s plot centres around Will (played by Logan Marshall-Green) as he goes to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife Eden and her new husband David.

Although the evening seems to be an ordinary one, Will slowly begins to suspect that the hosts have more sinister plans in store for their guests.

Eschewing the usual overt scares for the most part, director Karyn Kusama opts to create an atmosphere of tension through Will’s perspective - leaving audiences to wonder whether he’s really on to something, or is a wholly unreliable narrator.

6. Gremlins (1984)

While Gremlins is by now a cliched addition to Christmas movies lists, it’s hard to hate on this 80s classic.

The film follows Billy Peltzer, a young man who receives a strange Christmas gift from his father - a small, adorable creature called a "mogwai”.

When Billy inadvertently breaks several cardinal rules in caring for his new pet, he finds his town overrun by a horde of mischievous creatures set on wrecking destruction and havoc.

Directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg, this dark comedy blends the best of old school creature-feature effects with a sly satirical take on sentimental children’s movies.

7. Krampus (2015)

No compilation of Christmas horror films would be complete without this Hollywood take on an old European folktale.

Starring Toni Collette and Adam Scott, the film’s plot revolves around a young boy who loses his zeal for Christmas due to his parents’ constant bickering.

By letting go of his holiday spirit, the boy unknowingly awakens a demonic entity which preys naughty children during the Christmas season.

While Krampus is never actually scary and sometimes even amusing, this depiction of a bloodthirsty demon is not one for children.


8. A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

Another film featuring Krampus, A Christmas Horror Story’s title is a bit of a misnomer as it is actually an anthology of four short tales.

From a group of teens trying to solve a double-murder, to a zombie outbreak in Santa’s workshop, the film is set in a small town suddenly besieged by all manner of evil.

Presiding over the four stories is a radio DJ (played by William Shatner), who slowly devolves as he unpacks the true meaning of Christmas on air.

As with many anthologies, the overall film is an uneven mix of stories, but is still well-worth a watch for its ludicrous final boss-battle between Santa and Krampus.

9. Red Snow (2021)

With vampires being a popular horror trope, why not include them for Christmas as well?

Red Snow tells the tale of a struggling romance writer who is spending the holidays alone at her late mother’s cabin by the lake.

After she decides to nurse an injured bat, she finds that the wounded animal has transformed into a handsome vampire.

She soon learns that she needs to protect her new vampire friend from not only vampire hunters, but also other bloodsucking fiends.

Red Snow’s mix of comedy and horror has made it a hit at various horror film festivals, with one film critic describing it as "Home Alone meets The Lost Boys".