The 25 Best Christmas Horror Movies Ranked

Christmas is inherently menacing — there, I said it. Yes, the holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ is often rife with cheer and good company, but it's also the day after a burly man in crimson red clothes stalks down your chimney, eats what sweets you have, and leaves it silent as a ghost. 

Is that not terrifying? Of course it is! Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is, too, as is the European myth of Krampus and the horse skull-filled Welsh folk custom Mari Lwyd. Though we think of Christmas as a festive and charitable time, it is (and always has been) a moment in which severe judgments are passed, from those of the innkeepers who cast out Joseph and Mary to those of Frau Perchta. That makes it fertile ground from which to make a fun or nightmare-inducing fright flick. 

Here then, ranked, are the 25 best horror movies set in the holiday season. We've taken a number of factors into account, including effective frights, fun, uniqueness, and how well they capture the yuletide spirit. Whether you're looking for a spooky twist on a cozy Christmas night or a cathartic evisceration of this oft-stressful time of year, you'll find some stocking stuffers within. 

25. Jack Frost (1997)

Two "Jack Frost" movies were released within a year of each other. One is an unintentionally horrifying 1998 family dramedy starring Michael Keaton as a touring musician resurrected in snowman form. The other is 1997's unintentionally hilarious horror movie about a serial killer-possessed snowman starring Shannon Elizabeth. Either could make a case for being on a "Best Christmas Horror Movies" list for totally different reasons. The award must go to Michael Cooney's madcap slasher, though, which defies being good in the name of ridiculousness. Example: Jack (Scott MacDonald) kills one character by wrapping lights around her neck, stuffing an ornament in her mouth, and crucifying her within the body of a Christmas tree. It's too much by design.

Jack's one-liners are barely worthy, and the movie's most infamous scene is probably celebrated on 4Chan somewhere for all the wrong reasons. Why is "Jack Frost" on this list, then? Because the "SNL" writing staff couldn't come up with anything funnier than a snowman melting into a puddle to avoid capture, then rematerializing behind the wheel of a car to run someone over. That's a lump of coal, but sometimes that's exactly what you crave at Christmas. 

"Jack Frost" is available for streaming on Peacock.

24. Santa's Slay (2005)

Bill Goldberg is a killer Santa Claus ... that's it. That's the entire sales pitch and point of "Santa's Slay," a Christmas horror movie so post-1970s grindhouse it gets that people will love or hate it simply because one of the world's most infamous wrestlers plays Saint Nick. Movies like "Santa's Slay" exist in an uncanny valley of film criticism. There are plenty of "faults" to write about (general tastelessness, a simplistic script with frequently wooden dialogue) but those faults are also the point and aims of the movie. A film is supposed to achieve what it wants to. Right around the moment Santa (again, Bill Goldberg) is running an elderly woman off the road via buffalo while screaming Ludacris lyrics ("Move, b****! Get out the way!"), it's clear "Santa's Slay" is living up to its giggle-inducing thesis. 

So, no, "Santa's Slay" isn't good, but you already knew whether it sounded naughty or nice to you. After all, "Bill Goldberg as a killer Santa Claus" sells itself.

"Santa's Slay" is available for rental or purchase on Prime Video.

23. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

The original "Silent Night, Deadly Night" is a triumph of creative ways to hype your target audience up and make your likely antagonists furious. Charles E. Sellier Jr.'s 1984 slasher wasn't the first horror film to feature a murderous Santa Claus (that honor likely goes to 1972's "Tales From the Crypt"), but it visibly placed an axe-wielding Saint Nick at the center of its television ad campaign. 

That was enough to make riled-up parents protest the movie outside of theaters — a retrospective from Dread Central has photos to prove it — and horror fanatics drove the film to a solid opening week box office. The primary competition? Wes Craven's "A Nightmare on Elm Street," which it walloped handily. Of course, that masterpiece has far outlasted "Silent Night, Deadly Night," which is more notable as a Christmas horror footnote than an actual movie. 

That said, the film delivers the formulaic '80s slasher goods in blood-soaked buckets. Furthermore, it adds one or two unique wrinkles to the fold. Slashers rarely occur from the killer's point of view, but that's exactly the tactic "Silent Night, Deadly Night" takes, inviting the audience into a kind of chilling compact with Billy Chapman (Robert Brian Wilson) and his wrathful spree against Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin). It's also proof that "Silent Night, Deadly Night" is more than its most controversial ticks, and the drama behind those, plus a helping of smart creative decisions, make it a movie worth seeking out during the holidays.

"Silent Night, Deadly Night" is available for rental or purchase on Prime Video.

22. P2 (2007)

The holidays are a time for celebration and reflection. On one hand, they're a commercialized exercise in gift-giving and indulgence. On the other — if you're lucky enough to gather with the same family and friends year in and year out — they're an emotional yardstick. Humans are always trying to figure out who they are. Deep down, we want to be the best possible version of ourselves. Christmas asks that of us. It's little wonder that horror movies, which expose the harshest truths of humanity, fit the holiday beautifully.

"P2," an underrated gem from 2007, is a case study of every creative involved trying to better themselves, Christmas-style. The film is produced and co-written by horror maven Alexandre Aja, who would go on to make the equally lean and mean "Crawl." It stars Rachel Nichols and Wes Bentley, the former of whom is testing the reach of her star power, and the latter of whom is refining the handsome menace he'd employ on the smash hit "Yellowstone." Most importantly, it's the directorial effort of Frank Khalfoun, who would go on to helm the profoundly upsetting remake of "Menace," and he hints at that project's unbearable tension throughout "P2." The unfolding horror of Angela's (Rachel Nichols) slow-burn kidnapping unfolds in brightly lit spaces, with escape just slightly out of reach. That only escalates when the actors are given room to cut loose and chew the scenery. In other words, a viewing of "P2" could better you and your holiday season immensely.

"P2" is available to stream on Prime Video.

21. Sint (2010)

On its surface, "Sint (Saint)" is John Carpenter's "Halloween" by way of both Christmas and the Netherlands. A killer is terrorizing young children and horny teens during a holiday. There are a lot of myths surrounding this killer and some extremely gory kills that raise the bar for the genre itself. 

All of this could  have make Dick Mass' horror-comedy a fun but entertaining retread at best. Luckily, "Sint" wants to be a genre mashup too. That elevates it to "must-watch" territory for Christmas horror fans. Chronologically, "Sint" works as a heavy metal historical epic (an evil bishop ransacking a village before the peasants' revolt), a period horror piece (a 1960s zombie piece to be specific), and a Christmas-themed slasher. 

Mass' signature droll humor is present throughout, and the entire cast understands the assignment from start to finish. If "Sint" doesn't quite stick the landing as strongly as other films of its ilk, it revels in both the holidays and horror genres even more exuberantly. That earns it a spot on this list.

"Sint" is available for streaming from AMC+ on Prime Video.

20. A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

Halloween has always been a banner holiday for horror anthologies. "Trick 'r Treat" is a modern-day classic, "V/H/S" has become an annual tradition, and Guillermo del Toro's Netflix chiller "Cabinet of Curiosities" was released to great acclaim. Back in 2015, however, a Canadian horror import took its own stab at loosely connected tales of terror for Christmastime. "A Christmas Horror Story" works better than discerning audiences might expect. After all, Christmas is a holiday often experienced in bite-sized doses, be it a Christmas Eve spent flitting from dinner to services or singing several carols in a row. 

When "A Christmas Horror Story" tosses out brief but satisfying tales about Krampus and zombie elves, it all tracks emotionally. It's also helped tremendously by its very game cast, including Canadian character actor George Buza playing Santa and William Shatner as DJ Dan. Even the phrase "William Shatner as DJ Dan" gives you a precise idea of the fun-first, self-aware yet sinister tone "A Christmas Horror Story" is trying to strike. It may not be the scariest or sleekest film on this list, but it translates another holiday's hallmark admirably to the yuletide.

"A Christmas Horror Story" is available for streaming on Shudder.

19. Dead End (2003)

"Dead End" is an anomaly in every sense. It's a product of the early aughts, but feels ripped straight from a mid-'90s Blockbuster horror section. There's no reason it should work, but "Dead End" works and is one of those films more people have seen than you'd ever suspect. The question is, should you see it if you haven't?

The answer is a resounding yes. If "Dead End" were a feature-length entry in the "V/H/S" series, it would be fawned over. Jean Baptiste-Andrea's story takes place on a Christmas road trip on which a family (Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Alexandra Holden, Mick Cain, and William Rosenfield) picks up a mysterious stranger (Amber Smith). 

The movie is highly stylized straight from its goofy title cards. What's more, it accrues a wealth of suspense through smart filmmaking, and it should surprise no one familiar with Wise or Shaye that both actors absolutely nail their roles as the family's bickering parents, bringing veteran talent to the film's youthful approach. Bottom line: If you don't already own a DVD of "Dead End," it's time to stream it as part of your holiday horror rotation.

"Dead End" is available for streaming on Shudder.

18. The Lodge (2019)

"The Lodge" is "Goodnight Mommy" redux, but it still deserves a top-half spot on this list. Why? Because, as anyone who's seen Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz's first movie can attest, even a redux of "Goodnight Mommy" can be bone-chilling. This is the case with "The Lodge," which also hinges on mystery, sinister children, and a titanic performance from its adult lead, Riley Keough. One of the finest working actresses in Hollywood, she's naturalistic enough to make even the most ludicrous circumstances feel plausible, and commits to scenes that would make lesser thespians blush. 

That's exactly what Keough does in "The Lodge," which subjects her to the horrors of gaslighting and strange weather before a psychological break yields stunning revelations. If the movie isn't enough of a departure from Fiala and Franz's debut to feel successful on its own terms, it's still a chilling collection of set pieces crafted with care. It feels like the cinematic equivalent of Sufjan Stevens' "The Avalanche" or System of a Down's "Steal This Album!" — B-side collections that work on their own terms and might be some fans' favorites depending on when and how they encounter them. If you haven't seen "The Lodge" yet — and especially if you haven't seen "Goodnight Mommy" — this winter could be the perfect moment for you to do so.

"The Lodge" is available for streaming on Hulu.

17. It's a Wonderful Knife (2023)

The central conceit of Frank Capra's 1946 Christmas classic "It's a Wonderful Life" — in which everyman George Bailey (James Stewart) wishes he'd never been born and sees how much worse his community would be without him — has been parodied ad nauseum. What 2023's "It's a Wonderful Knife" brings to the concept is a slasher twist. That's a unique enough concept to be worthy of some holiday season attention, and the movie itself is pretty fun.

The film opens with real estate agent Henry Waters (Justin Long) on a masked killing spree as part of his ruthless plans to cut down anyone who stands between him and his ambition of turning the quiet little town of Angel Falls into a profitable shopping district. When young Winnie Carruthers (Jane Widdop of "Yellowjackets") manages to put an end to Waters' carnage, it seems the film is wrapping up just ten minutes in. But that's only the beginning, as one year later a grief-stricken Winnie makes that same wish George Bailey did, and soon finds herself in an Angel Falls where Waters' power and his murderous reign of terror have gone horrifyingly unchecked.

Though it certainly doesn't have the heartfelt sincerity of the film it's referencing, "It's a Wonderful Knife" remains fresh and fun with its unique blend of holiday trappings, "Twilight Zone" twists, and inventively staged murder scenes. It also boasts some particularly fun supporting turns from the likes of Joel McHale ("Community") and Katharine Isabelle ("Hannibal").

"It's a Wonderful Knife" is playing in theaters for the holiday season of 2023, with a release on Shudder to follow.

16. Silent Night (2012)

"Silent Night" is meticulous. That's not a word generally ascribed to slasher movies, especially ones set during the holiday season. The mash-up of Christmas cheer and carnage is usually an excuse for directors to play fast and loose with plot points or character beats, and not in a bad way (see: "Krampus," "The Day of the Beast"). 

Despite its ridiculous central convention of a deranged killer wearing a Santa suit, "Silent Night" is somberly deliberate. The film's unsettling opening sequence marries an eerie use of the Christmas song "Ol' Saint Nick" with images of the murderer carefully trimming his nails and donning his murder attire. It would be a grimdark epic if not for characters getting murdered by ornament-adorned electric chairs.

Therein lies the secret weapon of Steven Miller's "Silent Night, Deadly Night" remake: It has a slick, sneaky sense of humor barely masked by frequently morose visuals. In essence, the look of Miller's movie teaches you how to watch and enjoy it. There's little substance to "Silent Night," but it has panache and a very game cast that includes Malcolm McDowell, Jamie King, Donal Logue, and more. You don't always get what you want on your Christmas list, but it feels like "Silent Night" gets exactly what it's going for.

"Silent Night" is available for streaming on Starz via Prime Video.

15. Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022)

"The U.S. Defense Department has spent over a trillion dollars on the most cutting-edge robot technology. Introducing Robo-Santa Plus for the upcoming holiday season," intones a voice at the beginning of the trailer for "Christmas Bloody Christmas." You'll probably know from that pitch whether or not this 2022 romp from "VFW" director Joe Begos. It's a slasher outing that pretty much does what it says on the tin, but in such an energetically stylish way that it's just about the best version of itself it could be.

Indie record store owner Tori Tooms (Riley Dandy) just wants to spend Christmas Eve unwinding and getting drunk. Those plans are interrupted when a high-tech robotic Santa in a nearby toy store goes haywire and embarks on a vicious killing spree, challenging Tori not only to survive, but to convince anyone that Santa Claus is after her. You won't find a whole lot of depth or nuance from there, but "Christmas Bloody Christmas" revels in a heavy metal blacklight nightmare aesthetic with 16mm photography that makes it feel like a throwback to a grittier time. That just might be enough to make it a new tradition for fans of '80s horror.

"Christmas Bloody Christmas" is available for streaming on Shudder.

14. I Trapped the Devil (2019)

Slow-burn horror is a difficult beast. Make a movie with too little build and it doesn't fit the genre. Make one with too little payoff and the whole thing ends up feeling insubstantial. 2019's "I Trapped the Devil," written by and starring indie horror mainstay A.J. Bowen, finds an elegant way to strike that tricky balance correctly: Set your film on Christmas Eve. 

Is any day of the year more emblematic of high-stakes waiting than December 24th? I think not — it's an entire night dedicated to anticipation! The plot of "I Trapped the Devil," which finds a couple arriving at their extended family's home for the holidays only to find Satan might be in the basement, supercharges the evening's built-in anticipation to "pressure-cooker boiling over" levels. Add in tremendous performances from Scott Poythress, Susan Burke, and the previously mentioned Bowen and you have a recent addition to both the holiday horror and slow-burn canons worth celebrating.

"I Trapped the Devil" is available for streaming on AMC+ via Prime Video.

13. Silent Night (2021)

Your eyes do not deceive you: there are three films with the phrase "Silent Night" on this list. Two of them use killer Santas as a lynchpin, whereas 2021's "Silent Night" employs a different brand of holiday horror. What begins as a horrifying black comedy of manners descends into an encroaching apocalypse with no relief in sight. It's a terror that's more in line with Lars von Trier than John Carpenter, but no less palpable for being so.

What's particularly strong about "Silent Night" is its Christmas setting. Most films on this list get their thrills from rendering merry and family-friendly imagery grotesque and only for adults. "Silent Night," by contrast, plumbs Christmas for its traditions and thematic resonance. Technically, the holiday celebrates the birth of Christ, and "Silent Night" is about dinner party guests (played by Kiera Knightly, Matthew Goode, Sope Dirsu, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and more) who are about to spend their last night on Earth. Christmas precedes Easter, a holiday that's all about Christ's resurrection, but there is no resurrection promised for any character in "Silent Night." 

Camille Griffin's movie knows that part of the reason we gather is to celebrate life and the promise of tomorrow. As it increasingly goes from cringe comedy to terrifying existential reckoning, it becomes clearer that tomorrow isn't happening. That encroaching doom coupled with genuinely discomforting family dynamics makes "Silent Night" one of the most cerebrally scary Christmas horror films ever, and a must if you haven't seen it. 

"Silent Night" is available for streaming on AMC+ via Prime Video.

12. Better Watch Out (2016)

There's a sub-genre of film whose trailer is both sales pitch and smokescreen. Think "Malignant," "The Village" or even "Avengers: Endgame." In all three instances, the audience's first taste of the movie bore little similarity to the eventual main course. It's a heck of a gamble, and only sometimes pays off. And more than any of those, the Christmas horror standout "Better Watch Out" really took a gamble with its first trailer release. It obfuscates a twist that changes the whole thrust of the movie, namely (spoiler alert): What was marketed as "'Home Alone' but make it horror" is really "babysitter attacked by home invaders hired by psychopathic child."

Slightly different, yeah? The major plot reveals of "Better Watch Out" are infamously divisive and, for my money, well worth it whether you enjoy them or not. Chris Peckover's direction is stylish enough to carry any turn of story and the film boasts several stars before their breakout, including "Stranger Things" MVP Dacre Montgomery and rising genre stalwart Olivia DeJonge ("The Visit," "The Society"). And don't worry, folks — this write-up didn't spoil "Better Watch Out" entirely. Those reveals really are worth it. 

"Better Watch Out" is available for streaming on Shudder.

11. The Children (2008)

I don't have children so I'm not confident I can fully appreciate the potential horror of parenting on Christmas. It isn't difficult to imagine, though. No holiday is higher-stakes or more rife with potential pitfalls for parents than December 25th. Did you buy the right gift for your child? If you have more than one, will both be pleased with their hauls, or will your choices instantly inspire (possibly violent) in-fighting? Hey, did you develop an ulcer just reading this?

Having children on Christmas, it seems, speedily reveals all the anxiety and tension which are consistent undercurrents of the holiday. So it's little wonder that "The Children," a British horror film released in 2008, is so brazenly effective. From its opening moments, Tom Shankland's lean chiller turns young ones into a fully realized version of the sort of nightmare they can feel like around the holiday. The story of two families gathered together whose children become sick and suddenly violent, "The Children" does not hesitate to put its young protagonists in harm's way. 

What's more, Shankland divines sterling performances from his entire ensemble, both minor and adult performers, who inexorably shift the film's premise from ridiculous to sublimely scary. "The Children" plugs audiences into a bevy of nightmares all at once — from the interpersonal to the supernatural — and its ability to do both makes it linger in the mind long after credits roll. 

"The Children" is available for streaming on The Roku Channel.

10. The Advent Calendar (2021)

A traditional advent calendar delivers a series of small, modest surprises from December 1st right up to the 25th. The movie "The Advent Calendar," by contrast, unleashes an increasing stream of delicious shocks over its two-hour run time. Patrick Ridremont's holiday horror film didn't have to borrow its structure from the nasty gift at its core, but the fact that it does (and does shrewdly) is one of the many reasons to check it out.

The story of a paraplegic former dancer named Eva (Eugenie Derouand) gifted a magically sinister advent calendar, the film is the closest audiences may get to a Christmas-themed "Saw." To its detriment, Ridremont's movie is more interested in introducing generally awful people into Eva's life who meet horrific ends than it is in exploring Eva's grief over losing the use of her legs. That winds up being fine, because Derouand's performance more than makes up for it as the film trots out sleek and beautifully executed set pieces. 

While horror films generally have a "be careful what you wish for" thesis, few of these are set during a holiday synonymous with wish fulfillment. Humanity is bombarded with ads telling it to get their family "what they want this holiday season" and children breathlessly anticipate gifts they crave under the tree. "The Advent Calendar" mines that status quo for the darkest elements of the human experience. It's an excellent recent addition to the growing canon of Christmas horror movies.

"The Advent Calendar" is available for streaming on Shudder.

9. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

Christmas and musicals pair as impeccably as milk and cookies. If it's not a musical with an iconic Christmas song or sequence ("Rent," "White Christmas"), it's a Christmas movie that has been turned into a musical ("Elf," "A Christmas Story"). The pairing is logical when you consider how often musicals rely on characters whose feelings grow so large that only the power of song can hold them. Anyone who's ever attended a Christmas event — be it a religious service, dinner, or work party — can attest that emotions run high. What "Anna and the Apocalypse" has that other Christmas musicals (or most musicals period) don't have is zombies. Lots of zombies.

Greenlit during the heart of the zombie-movie boom, "Anna and the Apocalypse" is as gleefully genre-blending as "Warm Bodies," "Cooties," or "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"; its setting and songs, however, immediately distinguish it from the pack. Especially the songs, which feel like the logical extension of the bouncy, endearing tunes which made the "Buffy" musical episode so memorable. Add in some hysterical, Yuletide-inspired gore and you have a recipe for a great Christmas horror watch that you might see on stage before long.

"Anna and the Apocalypse" is available for streaming on Shudder.

8. Violent Night (2022)

As this list proves, there's no shortage of Christmas horror movies about murderous Santas. In shorter supply, though, are movies about Santa being an absolute badass action hero (see "The Night the Reindeer Died," the fake action movie starring Lee Majors seen in the opening moments of 1988's "Scrooged"). 2022's "Violent Night" is a little bit of both, and the casting of David Harbour in the lead role is perfect enough to elevate a silly premise to a genuinely fun ride, especially when paired with a scenery-chewing antagonist in John Leguizamo as a mercenary codenamed "Mr. Scrooge."

When Scrooge and his crew hold a wealthy family hostage on Christmas Eve, they encounter two complications they didn't expect: the family's own infighting, and the arrival of a Santa with an ancient backstory as a Viking warrior. Though it's more action-comedy than horror, the sight of Harbor's Saint Nick tapping into his bloodthirsty roots to defend himself more than earns "Violent Night" a spot in any marathon of Yuletide slashers. Add in some genuinely touching character moments and class commentary that's cutting without being preachy, and you've got a cathartic Christmas to remember.

"Violent Night" is available for streaming on Prime Video.

7. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

Growing up is a series of journeys both shared and idiosyncratic. As we age, most humans can't help but wonder if our friends and family experience the same joys and fears that we do. Fairy tales, happily, suggest this actually happens. The catch of that truth is this: They age from meaningful to childish and back again, growing almost ominous by the time we hit adulthood. The lasting resonance of these stories helps us understand that the distance between youth and old age is shorter and more tenuous than we're ever prepared to imagine.

I wax poetic about all this because "Rare Exports," the fantastic Finnish horror film directed by Jalmari Helander, is presented as a sort of fairy tale. It's filled with adult content, though, from a monstrous St. Nick who gets thawed from the deep ready to kill to a surprising amount of male genitalia. (Truly, it's as if "Rare Exports" took it upon itself to restore the decades-old balance between male and female nudity in movies, and honestly, we respect it.)

Most fascinatingly, its balance of whimsy and pitch-black horror encapsulates our shared human experience of both fairy tales and the holiday season at almost any age. It's the sort of film you're surprised to discover most people like, even if it isn't their cup of tea. "Rare Exports" cuts deep — just like growing up. 

"Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" is available for streaming on Peacock.

6. The Day of the Beast (1995)

Alex de la Iglesia has made a career out of defibrillator horror. His movies are made for folks whose love of film is in cardiac arrest, who need a shock to restore their faith in what cinema and the horror genre can do. His recent breakthrough TV hit, the gothic and buck wild "30 Coins," is pitch-perfect proof of this. Each episode features sequences and creature designs that titillate, stun, and frighten in equal measure. Somehow the show is also a Telenovela riff. And if "Telenovela by way of Catholic horror" doesn't make your pulse race, well, you need Alex de la Iglesia more than you think. Why not try "The Day of the Beast?" 

Iglesia's thrilling early-career highlight features heavy metal fans, psychic priests, and an infant Antichrist all against the backdrop of Christmas. It seers crazy image after crazy image right onto your brain until its wildness is your everything. And if your family only watches, say, "The Family Stone" at Christmas, this is a film to shake up those doldrums. Shocks to the system can save lives.

"The Day of the Beast" is available for streaming on Tubi.

5. Inside (2007)

Near the beginning of the 21st century, "Artform" critic James Quandt dubbed a set of recent films the "New French Extremity." The movement's hallmarks include an unruly convergence of exploitation tropes and arthouse presentation, often in the service of body horror, slasher, and "torture porn" elements. Think "Martyrs." Think "Haute Tension." (Or maybe don't think about either, given how gnarly both films are.)

"Inside," a late "New French Extemity" offering, might somehow be gnarlier than both of the above examples. When I tell you that a scissors-induced c-section is just one of the stomach-churning horrors that writer-directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo deploy here, know that it isn't the most discomforting one. The good news, if any, is that the violence of "Inside" reaches an operatic pitch. At a certain point, the gore is more noise than not, which allows the deeply felt performances by Alysson Pardis and Beatricé Dalle to play out like contrapuntal bass lines to every bloody development, both anchoring and complimenting the distorted riffs of the plot. Through them, the film almost becomes traditional. 

That surprising classicism is what makes "Inside" a great Christmas horror beyond its bloodied holiday trappings. The holiday season is a time for both the comforting and familiar, and while "Inside" is not the former, it's enough of the latter to make horror fans of all stripes feel right at home.

"Inside" is available for streaming on Tubi.

4. Krampus (2015)

People tend to underrate the work of Michael Dougherty at first blush, and their inevitable reappreciation of his films seems to follow a pattern. By the time each new Dougherty has dropped, the last one's become a cult classic. In the case of "Trick 'r Treat," it's become utterly emblematic of Halloween. According to some, "Godzilla: King Of The Monsters" is the best and most pointed American Godzilla movie. But when the new Michael Dougherty movie actually drops, the result is a just above fresh Rotten Tomatoes score and tepid box office mojo.

What I'm getting at is this: It's unclear why "Krampus," which was the follow-up to Dougherty's beloved "Trick 'r Treat," was ever deemed a disappointment. Few Christmas or horror films employ a nasty streak with such a Cheshire Cat grin full of razor-sharp teeth. That's how "Krampus" feels for the entirely of its run time. 

The story of a family whose squabbling summons the fearsome demon of Austro-Bavarian folklore, "Krampus" makes no character indispensable and finds no holiday tradition it can't skewer. (The opening sequence, which finds a round of holiday shopping grow hysterically, uncomfortably violent, resembles peak Billy Wilder in its hysterical, bleak strain of savagery). When it isn't killing characters off, it's giving those characters room to breathe and employing dynamite actors like Adam Scott and Toni Collette to bring them life. An R-rated version dropped in 2022, but honestly, we should've been celebrating the great version of "Krampus" we had all along. Life's too short to underappreciate fun.

"Krampus" is available for streaming on Peacock.

3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

If you are between the ages of 28 and 40, "oogie" and "boogie" are two words which still might terrify you. And if you don't know why "Oogie Boogie" strikes fear in the hearts of grown adults, you need to watch "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

"The Nightmare Before Christmas" is a horror movie. It's also a Christmas movie. It's a Christmas movie in the sense that it (mostly) believes in the best of its characters. Accordingly, director Henry Sellick extends them the gift of a happy ending, and even the stocking stuffer of somewhat morbid personal betterment (looking at you, Mayor of Halloween Town). 

But here's the rub: "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is also a horror film, because only a horror film would construct the waking nightmare that is Oogie Boogie and dispatch him to such a queasy end that I still think about it every time I see an errant bug. In Christmas tales, punishment is just. Here, it's also just a little cruel. That edge makes "The Nightmare Before Christmas," like the protagonists who inhabit it, a blend of separate and wonderful worlds.

"The Nightmare Before Christmas" is available for streaming on Disney+.

2. Black Christmas (1974)

It's tempting to include "Black Christmas" on this list as a "respect your elders" gesture alone, because Bob Clark's 1974 film is the proof in the figgy pudding that holiday horror films can not only exist, but thrive at the box office. What's more, it's viewed as a major influence on the most important slasher film of all time. Failing to note it here would earn a lump of coal in /Film's stocking and mine. 

That said, it's also important to find a reason "Black Christmas" is worth celebrating that we haven't acknowledged before, so let me offer a bevy of them. For one, the cold, stark realism of Clark's vision still has few equals in either horror or the slasher sub-genre. Even the original trailer is proof enough of that — from the cross-cutting between brutal violence and ominous shots of a decoration-decked home to the reveal of a corpse amongst unhinged yet artful acting, its two minutes of transgression are emblematic of the whole. The 2006 and 2019 remakes are also worth a watch in their own right, but the original has lost none of its visceral chill, even after a blizzard of follow-ups and imitators.

"Black Christmas" is available for streaming on Peacock.

1. Gremlins (1984)

There's no wrong way to make a great Christmas horror movie. But Joe Dante, B-movie wunderkind, made the blueprint for the best kind of Christmas horror movie. Have one archetypal Scrooge (someone cynical, cruel) then add another character who definitely loves Christmas (the Nephew Fred, as it were). Find time to make a Christmas tree ominous. For mayhem, add at least one sequence anyone would feel guilty for watching on Christmas. That's the blueprint for "Gremlins," and that blueprint is perfect. 

If you've been living under a rock since 1984, here's the plot of "Gremlins." A gadget salesman buys a rare pet, a Mogwai, for his son Billy ... but he must follow three rules in order to do so. Those rules get broken, gremlins get birthed, and Dante's film shifts into overdrive to a degree that would inspire countless others to build more manic engines. 

Every set piece in "Gremlins" is more memorable than the last. That the kitchen and YMCA sequences happen back-to-back is some sort of cinematic miracle, pure kismet. More than that, the movie is transgressive, being one of two films with Steven Spielberg's name on it that led the MPAA to make the PG-13 rating two months after its release. There's no catching that sort of Yuletide lightning in a bottle again, and "Gremlins" is an enduring testament to both a genre and holiday's transformative, wicked powers.

"Gremlins" is available for streaming on TNT.