13 Best Holiday Horror Movies

Sunday, September 13, 2009 at 5:33 pm
By Shane Rivers

What are the 13 best holiday horror movies? That’s a question I thought I’d dive into since this Friday sees the release of Rob Zombie’s latest flick, Halloween II. The following list covers any movie which takes place during one of the recognized world holidays, and I was frankly surprised by the number of films I had to choose from. Christmas seems an especially popular option, but I guess there’s something about standing in long shopping lines which makes people want to see someone get dismembered. While the actual holiday of Halloween may be a few months away, here’s hoping you enjoy this list of the 13 best holiday horror movies.

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Black Christmas - Horror MovieBlack Christmas (1974) – Margot Kidder plays a sexy drunk, and Olivia Hussey is just plain sexy in this Canadian masterpiece from Bob Clark, the same director responsible for the yuletide classic, A Christmas Story. While the girls of a sorority house prepare for the Christmas holidays, a lunatic creeps into the attic and starts picking them off. In addition, he places some of the creepiest prank calls you’ll ever hear, complete with screaming, moaning and just downright incoherent babbling. Black Christmas emphasizes suspense over gore, and it used the killer point-of-view shot prior to the popular Halloween (which came four years later). While it never received the credit it deserved for helping to kickstart the slasher genre, there’s little doubt that Black Christmas is one of the 13 best holiday horror movies.

Halloween (1978) – John Carpenter directed this genre classic which was responsible for the later success of such franchises as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. As you no doubt know, the film revolves around the psychotic Michael Myers and his quest to track down and murder his sister, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), after his 15-year exile in a mental institution. Donald Pleasence really amps up the creep factor as the harbinger of doom known as Dr. Sam Loomis. With his raspy voice and dire omens, he’s defiantly a guy nobody wants to see coming. Still one of the most successful independent films of all time, Halloween has spawned a multitude of sequels.

My Bloody ValentineMy Bloody Valentine (1981) – What was it about Canada and early slasher films? While Black Christmas was made there in 1974, the country known for giving us Alex Trebek also provided My Bloody Valentine in 1981. After a shaft cave-in, a trapped miner goes crazy when he has to eat the flesh of his co-workers to survive. Following a year-long stint in an asylum, he escapes and cuts out the heart of the man he believes responsible for the accident. He also warns the town that he’ll return if they ever again hold their annual Valentine’s Day celebration. Twenty years later, a group of miners and their friends decide to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and guess who shows up wearing mining gear and wielding a pickaxe? Considered incredibly graphic for its time, the folks at the MPAA forced three minutes to be cut in order to obtain an “R” rating. This missing footage wouldn’t be restored until Lionsgate released a uncut version on DVD and Blu-ray disc in 2009.

Inside (2007) – In this French horror film, an expectant mother sits at home on Christmas Eve and prepares to give birth the following day. But a mysterious woman has other plans, which include grabbing a huge pair of scissors and cutting the baby from the mother’s belly. As we’ve come to expect from recent French horror flicks, the violence is completely hardcore, and the film pulls no punches. It is, however, great fun for horror fans, and people just keep showing up to get murdered by the strangely attractive chick known only as La Femme in the credits.

Silent Night, Deadly NightSilent Night, Deadly Night (1984) – After his mother and father are murdered by a criminal in a Santa suit, little Billy and his brother are sent to live in an orphanage. When he’s all grown up, Billy’s childhood trauma resurfaces and drives him to punish those he considers naughty. This was a highly controversial film for its time, and large crowds of parents gathered to protest its release. Siskel and Ebert even read the film’s production credits on the air and gave a “shame on you” to each person mentioned. Despite all this, the movie spawned four sequels.

Gremlins (1984) – A young man receives a small creature known as a mogwai for Christmas, but there are certain responsibilities which come with owning the little fella: don’t expose him to sunlight, don’t let water touch him, and never feed him after midnight. Of course, two of these rules are promptly broken, and this results in the creation of several more aggressive mogwai who later turn into “gremlins” and go on a murder spree during the holidays. Howie Mandel provided the voice for Gizmo the mogwai, and Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates and Corey Feldman also starred.

The Wicker ManThe Wicker Man (1973) – An uptight and thoroughly devout policeman (Edward Woodward) travels to a Scottish island to investigate the reported disappearance of a local girl. What he finds shock his Christian sensibilities, as the island is populated by hedonistic pagans who aren’t the least bit ashamed of their bodies or their beliefs (especially a dancing and completely nude Britt Eklund). Christopher Lee is great as the lord of the island, and Woodward’s portrayal of the stiff Sergeant Neil Howie really makes this one a classic. And in case you’re wondering about the holiday tie-in, the film’s climax takes place during the island’s annual May Day celebration. One of the greatest horror movies ever made, and it certainly deserved better than the awful Nicolas Cage remake.

Happy Birthday to Me (1981) – Birthdays aren’t really considered holidays, but they’re more important to most people than “holidays” such as St. Patricks’s Day and President’s Day. For that reason, I’m going to go ahead and include Happy Birthday to Me on this list of the 13 best holiday horror movies. After a young girl suffers some manner of brain damage, the wealthy kids in town all start getting murdered in really sadistic ways. Melissa Sue Anderson (from Little House on the Prairie) plays the lead character, and veteran actor Glenn Ford also appears as her doomed psychiatrist. Another classic from Canada, and be prepared for a twist at the end of the film.

Christmas Evil (1980) – This film can count director John Waters among its fans, and he’s called it the “greatest Christmas movie ever made.” After suffering a childhood trauma during Christmas Eve, a man grows up to work at a toy factory. As he becomes increasingly delusional, he begins to believe that he’s actually Santa Claus, and he has a duty to reward the good kids and punish the bad ones. My favorite scene comes when the delusional Harry drives a van off a bridge and imagines that he’s flying through the air in Santa’s sleigh.

Thanksgiving (2007) – This one wasn’t even an actual movie, but it still earns a place on the list for being so damned cool. Eli Roth directed this faux trailer for the intermission of Grindhouse, and it proved far more entertaining than, say, Death Proof. In Thanksgiving, a young man goes insane after witnessing his favorite turkey getting butchered for the family’s annual feast. After killing his family and getting sent to an institution, the psycho eventually escapes, dresses up like a pilgrim, and begins a bloody rampage through his hometown. A young woman unknowingly performs oral sex on a headless corpse, a cheerleader strips naked and does the splits right onto a butcher knife, and Michael Biehn looks especially stoic as the local sheriff. Completely over the top, and better than most full-length horror movies.

Santa's SlaySanta’s Slay (2005) – This bizarre horror film starring Bill Goldberg as Santa Claus features a number of recognizable faces. In fact, the opening scene sees Santa come down the chimney and kill such actors as James Caan, Rebecca Gayheart, Chris Kattan and Fran Drescher. It seems Santa is the child of Satan, and he’s only been delivering presents for the past 1,000 years due to losing a bet with an angel (over a curling match, natch). Now that he’s free from the terms of the bet, he’s once again given free reign to murder people on Christmas Day. Naturally, it’s up to a kid to stop his rampage, but can anyone really stop the muscular terror that is Bill Goldberg/Santa?

P2 (2007) – Rachel Nichols (Scarlett from the G.I. Joe movie) plays Angela, an attractive corporate type stuck working late on Christmas Eve. This brings her into contact with Thomas (Wes Bentley – the creepy guy from American Beauty who liked to film airborn garbage), the building’s lonely security guard. After an innocent-enough beginning, we learn that Thomas is a raging psycho with a king-sized crush on Angela. From that point on, it’s a cat-and-mouse chase through the building’s cavernous parking garage. Solid performances from the two leads make this a great option for your holiday horror movie viewing.

Terror TrainTerror Train (1980) – Yet another Canadian horror classic from the early ‘80s, Terror Train begins during a New Year’s celebration, but later scenes admittedly have nothing to do with the holidays. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch, but it still technically qualifies, so give me a freakin’ break. After a college prank leaves poor Kenny Hampson in a mental ward, we skip ahead three years and find a group of students celebrating their impending graduation with a costume party aboard a train. But a killer has also slipped onboard, and he’s picking off students left and right. Jamie Lee Curtis stars as the final girl, Ben Johnson is the shovel-wielding conductor, and Vanity and Hart Bochner (Ellis from Die Hard) also make appearances.

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