By Vaughn Trudeau Schoonmaker
There are so many holiday movies out there, one could conceivably spend the rest of one’s life watching them back to back… and it’s often tempting to give that a shot. For many — myself included — there’s nothing better than laughing through the first two hilarious installments of “Home Alone” or sobbing through “It’s a Wonderful Life” to snap them into the Christmas spirit.
Not everyone is a sucker for feel-good Christmas movie clichés, however. And once in a blue moon, Hollywood (or a VERY independent film company elsewhere) pops out a Christmas flick that doesn’t feature clumsy burglars falling down stairs or James Stewart tearfully embracing his family. I’m talking about scary Christmas movies, or at least holiday movies that are meant to be frightening but come across as comically ridiculous. The seasonal red and green colors take on new meaning when the red is gushing blood and the green is monster skin.
This is a list for those of you who like your cinematic holiday feast served with a side of horror, gore and perhaps some unintentional comedy: the 10 scariest Christmas movies of all time.
10. “Jack Frost” (1997)
Not to be confused with the 1998 family drama starring Michael Keaton as a reincarnated snowman, this “Jack Frost” is about what happens after an accident turns a criminally insane killer into a criminally insane killer snowman. Complete with horrific acting and bizarre one-liners (“Blow me!” or “I think Jack is about to make an entrance”), this Academy Award-snubbed film is sure to take you on an emotional roller coaster.
9. “Elves” (1989)
The budget may have been low, as evidenced by its poor sound design, “Elves” sure had a masterful screenplay (sample dialogue: “I had a rough day at work. Santa got murdered.”). The film is about Santa’s elves, (think Dobby the house elf meets Lord Voldemort), who set out to “mate with a virgin and conquer the world as a pint-sized master race,” killing anyone that stands in their way. As awesome as it sounds.
8. “Silent Night, Deadly Night” (1984)
After little Billy witnesses his parents murder at the hands of a man dressed as Santa Claus, he grows up thinking Santa is more about picking off the naughty people than rewarding the nice. So, as a young adult, he throws on a Santa outfit and goes after people with an ax whilst shouting “Naughty!” “Silent Night, Deadly Night” brings quite a steady flow of blood, as well as some truly vintage and memorable look-at-the-camera-and-scream-bloody-murder moments.
7. “Black Christmas” (2006)
In this remake of the 1974 version, a lunatic who murdered his family (and then made cookies out of them — seriously!) escapes an insane asylum and beelines it for a sorority house that used to be his house. Michelle Trachtenberg stars in this, um, poignant psychological thriller that follows the snow-stranded sorority sisters as they’re stalked by the killer whose phone riddles include the challenging verse: “All is calm, all is right. Who is in my house tonight?”
6. “Black Christmas” (1974)
More convincing in its haunting and realistic portrayal of the above scenario, the original version of “Black Christmas” follows the same psychopathic storyline with an ’80s flavor that includes pre-cordless phones and hammy acting. The psycho screams inaudibly when stalking his prey over the phone, but it’s when he finally gets into the house that his convincing I-am-so-crazy-I-can’t-even-speak-real-words act becomes truly frightening.
5. “Santa’s Slay” (2005 — but might as well be the early ’90s)
“I’m just trying to spread a little Yuletide fear!” Santa tells a man dressed as Santa before punching the guy’s lights out and stealing his sleigh. The mind-blowing back story to this killer Santa is that he lost a bet with a demon way back when; ever since, Santa has been forced to give toys and happiness to the world. But once the bet is off, the Kris Kringle of “Santa’s Slay” gets to spread his own unique brand of Christmas “joy,” throwing bombs shaped like presents and chasing after the likes of Fran Drescher and Emile de Ravin while yelling “Ho ho ho!” way more often than a typical, less mentally deranged Santa might.
4. “Gremlins” (1984)
Way before Furbies and way, way before Justin Bieber dolls, there were Gremlins. Adorable little Gizmo the fuzzy Mogwai is a Christmas gift cuter than any kitten in the history of the world. But apparently Mogwai don’t react so well with water, and a little spill causes Giz to spawn Gremlin offspring that are not as soft and cute as the original. They are green, snake-eyed and, most of all, thirsty for blood.
3. “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” (2010)
“He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, and he doesn’t give a s***.” This year’s Finnish subtitled film — a playful, yet horror-ridden film about a Santa that has been buried in a secret tomb for years — has actually achieved the most critical success of any Christmas movie on this list. The Santa of “Rare Exports” does not care if you’ve been good, as he is only out to do some serious damage to the naughty, including all of the townsfolk who unearthed the not-so-gentle giant.
2. “Child’s Play” (1988)
As a kid, I owned a Buddy doll. He used to sit atop the plush animal couch in my room, not because I loved him, but because I needed to have my eyes on him in the event that he tried to kill me. This intense fear was born out of the “Child’s Play” franchise, in which a not-so-cute Chucky doll is given as a Christmas gift to the poor Barclay family. Who would have suspected that a doll could contain the soul of a serial killer? I suspected… and that is why Buddy cost me many sleepless nights.
1. “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964)
It is with great pleasure that I announce that the most horrifying holiday movie of all time is the family-favorite Christmas classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” OK, so this isn’t technically a movie; it’s a Christmas special. And at first glance the charming, happy holiday special doesn’t seem particularly scary. But what if you were a kid watching it? How would you react to seeing a pre-dental-operation Abominable Snow Monster climbing over the snowy mountaintops for the first time, poised to kill the first reindeer, elf or spelunking adventurer he can get his claws on? We’re pretty sure you’d soil your shorts (figuratively speaking, of course).
Do you agree with our picks? What do you think is the scariest holiday movie of all time?