Friday, December 20, 2013

Scary Movies for the Holidays

As we head into the final weekend before Christmas, many of you will be exhausted from long days of shopping, decorating or other yuletide shenanigans. It's time to kick back and watch a holiday-themed scary movie! Many of the holiday horror movies came from the 80s when serial killers and bad taste were in fashion. Some films veered towards the sleazy (1984's Don't Open Until Christmas), or unwatchable (1980's Christmas Evil) but they're were meant to offer counter programming for the excessive cheer and goodwill.

Below is a list notable (but not necessarily great) scary movies for the holidays. Some are family-friendly fare, while some really should only be seen by hardcore horror enthusiasts. Watch at your own risk.



1. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) – This Finnish film is probably the single best holiday-horror hybrid. It tells the story of the "real" Santa and his demon elves. It's also a strangely touching coming-of-age story and feels like a lost early-Steven Spielberg/Tim Burton collaboration. It's beautifully shot and a well-made movie. Highly recommended.



2. Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)  Speaking of Tim Burton, his 1993 masterpiece does double duty on both the Halloween and Christmas fronts. However, during the holidays, the Christmas elements seem to stand out so much more. It has incredible heart and the perfect ending for a warm, fuzzy holiday.



3. Sint (or Saint Nick) (2010)  This Dutch horror-comedy depicts St. Nicholas as a much darker spirit, who goes on a revenge-fueled killing spree on the 5th of December (the day many European countries celebrate Sinterklaas). It's a little over-the-top by American standards, but it's fascinating to see how another culture celebrates and melds Christmas with horror. The DVD version with subtitles is better than the poorly-dubbed version available on streaming.



4. Black Christmas (2005) – Many fans will argue that the 1974 version was a superior film, but this version removed the sleaze and made it feel more  Christmas-y, if that's possible. It still has a serial killer involved, and there is a gory ornament impaling, but feels a little more accessible and modern.




5. Silent Night (2012)  This very loose remake of 1984's Silent Night, Deadly Night is unfortunately also based on a real life massacre that happened in 2008. It's got everything you'd want in a rampant serial killer movie, and it's well-produced throughout but seriously bleak, brutal and dark. This left a very sour taste in my mouth, although in all honesty it could have been Nana's fruitcake. 



6. Gremlins (1984)  One fuzzy and cute critter turns into many malevolent and mischievous creatures when fed after midnight! Hijinks ensue once hundreds of gremlins terrorize a small town on Christmas. It's not specifically a Christmas film, but it's set during the holidays and manages to capture the spirit.



7. Jack Frost (1997)  Ridiculous, silly and full of pun-y one-liners this is the B-Movie of the holiday season. A serial killer is genetically mutated into a living snowman and continues his killing spree on an unsuspecting town.  For full effect, watch this one drunk on eggnog.




8. Santa's Slay (2005)  What if Santa were actually a demon who lost a bet and forced to deliver gifts and joy against his deepest wished. Well at some point, hell is going to break loose. This horror comedy is in the category of so bad its good. 



9. Edward Scissorhands (1990) – Granted this is not a scary movie,  BUT it's a dark and weird fantasy directed by Tim Burton and features a Frankenstein-like creature with razor sharp fingers (sort of like Freddy Krueger). Okay it's a stretch, but the idyllic Christmas setting has made it a family-friendly, lite-horror, holiday classic in our house. 



10. Disney's A Christmas Carol (2009)  The perennial ghost story is re-envisioned with motion capture CGI and features an almost unidentifiable Jim Carrey. It's much darker, somber, and creepy take on the classic story. Set in a desolate and cold Victorian mansion, there's a weird candle person thing and the scenes with the ghosts are downright scary.  The international posters set the tone for the film much better than their American versions that tried very hard to sell the jolly, heartwarming tale (which it still is). This is a great movie to watch with your younger nephews and nieces – it will scare the Christmas right out of them – and you won't be that weird uncle that keeps pushing horror films year-round.


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