best christmas horror

(In The Rank Off, Rob Hunter and Matt Donato come together to settle once and for all who is better at ranking movies on the internet. Hunter, the wily veteran with years of movie blogging under his belt. Donato, an up-and-coming youngster poised to snatch notoriety from the “seasoned” journeyman. Who wins this round? You decide.)

For our inaugural The Rank Off topic, we’ll be ranking our favorite Christmas Horror films. What’s better than corrupting holiday innocence and yuletide cheer with a little murder, bloodshed and gore? Gingerbread houses splattered with spilled guts and what have you. Christmas is just too easy – and enjoyable – a target. Who’s ready for a little holiday genre stack-up?

Here’s how it works. After you read over our Top Fives and choose a side, hit the comments with the name of the writer with the superior list. We’ll tally up at the end of the week and announce a definitive loser who must face an awful dare, the details of which will be disclosed soon.

Two writers. Five selections. One winner. Let’s get ranking!

Matt Donato’s Top 5 Christmas Horror Films

 

5. Santa’s Slay (2005)

You’re at the mercy of my personal tastes, and any movie that opens with WCW/WWE Superstar Bill Goldberg murdering James Caan by shoving a turkey leg down his throat has my attention. Dress Golberg as Santa and trot him out with jingling bell details? Even ‘effing better. In the first scene alone, Satan Santa carves his way through a dysfunctional family dinner (victims played by Jewish actors) after busting through a brick chimney – everything you could want in a gleefully offensive holiday horror comedy.

OH, BUT IT GETS BETTER. Apparently Santa was the result of a virgin birth produced by Satan himself. So, Goldberg is like Jesus – except he’s the Antichrist. This means jacked-up St. Nick spends his time throwing explosive presents at civilians and tearing-up strip club patrons, because EVERYONE is on his naughty list. Not in an aggressive, hard-R rated way where kills are bloodtastic and gooey, but that’s what makes Santa’s Slay such a blast. Nothing is taken seriously, Goldberg’s performance stands satanically festive, and puns are appropriately lame – in a good way.

Any movie where Goldberg Santa delivers the line “Move bitch, get out tha’ way!” and decapitates children with triggered presents certainly belongs on my “Nice” list.

Rob’s Counterpoint: I suspect your days spent re-enacting WWE wrestling matches with your imaginary friends have left you with some brain damage. Maybe it’s time to find a new weekend hobby?

4. Treevenge (2008)

Short and sweet. Treevenge is a pine-woftin’ stocking stuffer for Christmas horror fans with absurd tastes. I mean, did you think talking Gingerbread Men or serial snowmen pushed far enough? Filmmaker Jason Eisener didn’t. That’s why you can now watch Christmas trees lead a bloody revolution against the monsters who trim them, break apart their families and decorate leftover corpses.

Eisner, a provocateur by gore, holds nothing back. Kill sequences range from needle-pricking bear hugs to branches snaking their way through eye sockets and out mouths. The trees have had enough! But unlike Shyamalan’s The Happening, Treevenge brings the batshit holiday goods. Scared Douglas Firs chattering in their own language, crushing bodies while hopping as a way of movement. 16 minutes of the uprising we so deserve. What else would you want to watch on December 25th?

Rob’s Counterpoint: Eisener’s film is great fun, but it’s a 16-minute short and doesn’t belong here. It’s like including a Twix bar (one stick, not both) in a ranking of three-course meals.

3. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

When Silent Night, Deadly Night came out, Gene Siskel read aloud the film’s production companies on At The Movies as a method of public shaming. “How dare director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. desecrate the name of Santa Claus,” cried critics who assured their readers the low-budget slasher would make worst-of lists almost instantly. I mean, theaters pulled the film after only a week. Could one single movie lead a war against Christmas? America certainly thought so.

Yet, here we are. Talking about one of the most cult beloved slasher films of all time, holiday classification or not. It may not receive the infamy of some latter sequels, but that’s a good thing. Silent Night, Deadly Night is worshipped not because of “so bad it’s good” charms – well, maybe a tad – but more because the slasher elements play surprisingly well. A psycho-snapped orphan boy poisoned by the memory of his parents’ death, now killing his way through the Christmas season. The deer antler kill, Xmas lights strangle, full Santa suit…it’s all so right. Wrong? I don’t know, whatever makes me sound less insane. Not that there’s any hope for me.

Rob’s Counterpoint: It’s telling that you spend nearly as much time talking about Gene Siskel and yourself as you do the movie, because it’s a one-note flick. I guess it’s cool, though, for teens like yourself who get excited at the thought of boobies and seeing movies that other people want banned.

2. Black Christmas (1974)

Back in 1974, filmmaker Bob Clark created what now stands as one of horror’s earliest slasher films. You know the title – Black Christmas – and you might even know it better as a 2006 remake. But, as any respectable horror fan will tell you, Clark’s original stands the test of time and quality. This sorority whodunit follows a telephone creeper picks college girls off one by one – from within their own house.

As unsettling as some of the kills are – metal hooks to glass unicorns – a lack of safety permits the most terror. The killer, a deranged madman who we only know through heavy breathing, comes down from the attic whenever he wants to strike. The girls are constantly in danger, and we’re always aware of death lurking only a few feet away. Even a simple caroler’s visit permits another kill, corrupting atmosphere in the most seasonal way.

This is, in every facet, a film that makes your skin crawl and hair stand on end. In other words, a damn fine horror flick meant to run your nerves ragged.

Rob’s Counterpoint: This is a solid pick for which I have no criticisms, but I still hate your stupid face.

1. Gremlins (1984)

Save your “Die Hard is the best Christmas movie!” chuckles. There’s only one “Best Christmas Movie,” and it’s Joe Dante’s Gremlins. A puppeteered creature romp the likes we’ll never see again thanks to CGI ease and competitive pricing. Those wicked rubber demons running around Kingston Falls causing all kind of mischief, mayhem and old lady deaths. It’s beyond nostalgia – Gremlins is cinematic history that should be preserved in amber for generations to come, each watch still defying Hollywood’s age-old test of practicality much like Jurassic Park or Jaws.

We all know how it starts – Zach Galligan can’t follow three simple rules for owning a Mogwai. Gizmo tries to stay safe, but he “births” more Mogwais after getting wet and they eat after midnight. Thus Stripe and his gang transform into scaly terrors who plaster the biggest holiday smile on any genre fan’s face. Drinking in bars and singing along to Snow White – still cheerful and jolly, just a little misguided. Anyone have a copy I can borrow this year? I think my latest Gremlins Blu-ray is burned out already.

Rob’s Counterpoint: Wow, way to be true to yourself and put the most obvious choice at #1. I thought we agreed we wouldn’t play to the readers for votes, but I see you’re as bad at following rules as stupid Billy Peltzer.

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