Ah, the holidays! ‘Tis the season for holly, jolly, merriment, and good tidings! A roasted turkey for Thanksgiving, a delicious ham for Christmas, twinkling lights, and … unbridled chaos, grotesque carnage, and macabre butchering. Oh, yes, that’s right — the holidays are no longer about family and presents, they’re about horror.
For 50 years, we’ve had excellent horror movies themed around the holidays, and within the last decade, we’ve seen an explosion in the subgenre. Most recently, Eli Roth has released his long-awaited film Thanksgiving, which began its life as a fake trailer in the 2007 cult classic Grindhouse. Finally, after more than 15 years, the film became a reality. If you’re a fan of Roth’s newest bloodfest, you should check out these other holiday horror movies as well.
Before Toni Collette became a horror legend thanks to Hereditary, she starred in 2015’s Krampus. In the movie, a family that loses the Christmas spirit is visited by the ancient and legendary European entity Krampus. According to folklore, while Santa rewards good children with presents, Krampus punishes those who have been naughty.
Unfortunately, the family finds that out the hard way when the beast arrives to punish them for forgetting what the holiday is truly about. Armed with an arsenal of holly jolly horrors, Krampus and his minions pick off the family one by one as a giant blizzard blankets the neighborhood under an inescapable storm. Krampus is an incredibly fun movie that, despite all the bloodshed, reminds us that love and family are important parts of Christmas. And if you forget that … well, then Krampus might come knocking.
Krampus is streaming on Peacock.
Silent Night (2021)
In this sadistic British holiday movie, a group of friends hold a lavish Christmas party. But something dark looms over the festivities. A sense of ennui and dread fills the room and it’s slowly revealed that a gaseous substance is slowly filling the planet’s air and is causing the sixth mass extinction event.
Silent Night will feel familiar to anyone who’s seen Lars von Trier’s masterpiece Melancholia. Combining such a dire event like the apocalypse with the otherwise jovial vibe of Christmastime is totally morbid, making the movie hit so much harder and feel so much scarier. Despite being a smaller indie film, the movie has an impressive cast, including Kiera Knightly, The Idol‘s Lily-Rose Depp, and Annabelle Wallis.
Silent Night is streaming on AMC+.
In the low-budget movie ThanksKilling, a group of college friends decide to head home for Thanksgiving break. But when their car breaks down in the woods, the friends find themselves fighting for their lives against a maniacal and deadly turkey. Raunchy, perverse, and wisecracking, the killer turkey is an incredibly likable villain that you spend most of the movie rooting for.
Despite its low-budget origins, ThanksKilling was a hit at horror film festivals thanks to its absurd and campy humor. It later went on to be very successful in the DVD market and eventually spawned two sequels. In 2014, ThanksKilling was even adapted into a musical that played off-Broadway and in select cities around the country. For a tiny, low-budget horror movie, ThanksKilling has had one hell of a legacy, and it’s all thanks to its surprisingly enjoyable premise and nefariously fowl lead.
ThanksKilling is streaming on Tubi.
A Creepshow Holiday Special (2020)
The horror movie streaming service Shudder has become a hit largely thanks to its series adaptation of the anthology film Creepshow. Whereas most episodes feature numerous stories, in 2020 Shudder premiered a full-length holiday special. In it, a man starts to notice odd changes in his life and decides it’s time to find help. In a moment of desperation, he attends a meeting for shape-shifters anonymous, hosted by a were-cheetah (Anna Camp). There, he finds the courage to admit that he too is a shape-shifter.
At the start, it’s unclear how any of this is related to the holidays, but soon the secret is revealed. The world’s greatest were-hunter is none other than Santa Claus. On top of being hilarious and bloody, the special does a great job of making sure the audience never really knows who to root for. We all love Santa, so we’d be naturally drawn to root for him, but because we spend the first half of the special getting to know the were-monsters, we also can’t help but root for them. It’s a surprisingly well-made holiday special that is worthy of a watch (and rewatch).
A Creepshow Holiday Special is streaming on Shudder.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
In this controversial classic, a down-on-his-luck store employee with past trauma is triggered into a homicidal rampage shortly before Christmas. The film was released on Nov. 9, 1984, the very same day that another horror film called A Nightmare on Elm Street premiered. (Perhaps you’ve heard of it?) Even wilder is that in its opening weekend, Silent Night, Deadly Night actually outperformed Nightmare, grossing well over a million dollars despite its limited release.
But watching a man in a Santa outfit brutally murder everyone in sight was too much for many prople during the highly conservative Reagan era, so TriStar, the film’s production company, pulled the movie after its second week in theaters. Since then, it has developed a massive following thanks to its brutal and creative kills. Plus, its notoriety for being pulled from theaters has turned it into a favorite of hardcore horror fans. In the decades since its release, Silent Night, Deadly Night has received four sequels and a low-budget 2012 remake starring Malcolm McDowell, proving that pulling it from theaters couldn’t stop its popularity.
Silent Night, Deadly Night is streaming on The Roku Channel.