The 27 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 is fertile ground from which to make a fun or nightmare-inducing fright flick. 

Here then, ranked, are the 15 best horror movies set in the holiday season.

27. Jack Frost (1997)

Two "Jack Frost" movies were released within a year of each other. One is an unintentionally horrifying family dramedy starring Michael Keaton as a touring musician resurrected in snowman form that dropped in 1998. The other is an unintentionally hilarious horror movie about a serial killer-possessed snowman starring Shannon Elizabeth. Either could make a case for being on "The 30 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 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. 

26. The Gingerdead Man (2005)

"The Gingerdead Man" isn't the best Christmas or Gary Busey film, but it might be the most Gary Busey film ever made. The film is the petulant brainchild of Charles Band, a man who produced several "Puppet Master" films and directed a catastrophe called "Corona Zombies." It also features Busey as a walking, talking serial killer-possessed cookie. If that last sentence didn't make it clear, "The Gingerdead Man" isn't for everyone. We're not even sure anyone should watch in a state of sobriety. 

The film is messy, but so are the holidays. Beneath the veneer of Christmas cheer and gratitude lies a teeming mass of complicated feelings. The day the most breakups occur is December 11, and the holidays leave many heartbroken. The Atlantic published a piece scientifically breaking down why families fight at Christmas so often. For every "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" or "Frosty The Snowman," there should be a "Gingerdead Man." It's the cinematic equivalent of getting chipper after too many eggnogs, and it captures all the dangerous, corny energy of the troubled, disgraced, and talented artist who fuels it. 

25. 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, *****! 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 if it sounds naughty or nice to you. After all, "Bill Goldberg as a killer Santa Claus" sells itself.

24. 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 — this 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.

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 as well. 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.

23. 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 Alexander 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.

22. Sint (2010)

On its surface, "Sint (Saint)" is "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 would make Dick Mass's 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 then a Christmas-themed slasher. 

Mass's 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.

21. A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

Halloween has always been a banner holiday for horror anthologies. "Trick R Treat" is a modern-day classic, and the latest "V/H/S" installment was released to riotous acclaim, as was Guillermo del Toro's Netflix chiller "Cabinet of Curiosities." Back in 2015, however, a Canadian horror import took its own stab at loosely connected tales of terror for Christmas time. "A Christmas Horror Story" works better than discerning audiences might expect! 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. "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.

20. 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 Baptise-Andrea's story takes place on a Christmas road trip where 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.

19. The Lodge (2019)

"The Lodge" is "Goodnight Mommy" redux. 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 female 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 setpieces crafted with care. It feels like the cinematic equivalent of Sufjan Stevens' "The Avalanche" or System of a Down's "Steal This Album!," i.e. 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.

18. Treevenge (2008)

Some films' quality hinges on their subtext. "Treevenge" doesn't suffer from this problem, as there is almost zero subtext in "Treevenge." What it does include, I am thrilled to report, is a sentient Christmas tree that's brutally murdering people left and right. Its branches sever limbs. It fills eye sockets with pine needles. If someone needs to sell you on why "Treevenge" is a hysterical and transgressive time at the movies, it probably not gonna be your thing. 

That said, director Jason Eisener (who would go on to helm the equally bugnuts "Hobo With A Shotgun") is nothing if not a craftsman, and "Treevenge" is stuffed with more inventive shots and little lighting tricks than many feature-length films. The short serves as proof that runtime and theme don't necessarily guarantee a great time at the movies. As it turns out, sometimes construction and creativity are enough to get the job done. Don't watch it in view of your Christmas tree.

17. Silent Night (2012)

"Silent Night" is meticulous. That's not a word generally ascribed to horror 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.

16. 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.

15. 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-Baptise, 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 cringe-inspiring family dynamics makes "Silent Night" the most cerebrally scary Christmas horror film ever, and a must if you haven't seen it. 

14. 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 the films either linked to or listed above, 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 is 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. 

13. 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 makes young ones 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, Shanklandm divines sterling performances from his entire ensemble of 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 super-natural — and its ability to do both makes it linger in the mind long after credits roll. 

12. Black Christmas (2006 & 2019)

"Black Christmas" will appear on this list three times in three different forms. I'm as shocked as you are. Somehow, when no one was looking, Bob Clark's ice-cold slasher classic became both a template for and a time-capsule of the latest horror trends. 

2006's "Black Christmas," for example, offers a gory slice of post-Bush-era nihilism. As outlined by the "Aughtsterion" podcast (which you can listen to here), horror films of the mid-2000s (lovingly referred to by the show as "tank-top horror") are due for critical reappraisal. For few films is this truer for than 2006's "Black Christmas," which was written off as a 1970s retread but is slickly directed by Glenn Morgan ("Final Destination," "The X-Files"), offers a gorehound's paradise, and serves as a summit for some of the decade's more notable teen-movie superstars to be memorably axed off. 

2019's "Black Christmas," in contrast, inverts the focus of Clark's original chiller, honing in on the terrors women face on a daily basis more than those of evil, masked psychopaths. Don't worry: Sophia Takal's take is still full of costumed malevolent. But without getting into spoilers, the specters of macho hostility and gaslighting feel just as deadly (if not more so) in this version. Neither reimagining of "Black Christmas" can compare to the original, but taken as a triptych? They become an almost anthropologically enjoyable watch.

11. The Advent Calendar (2021)

A traditional advent calendar delivers a series of small, modest surprises from December 1st right up to the 25th. "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 sinisterly magical 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.

10. Anna & 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 form of song can hold them. Anyone who's ever attended a Christmas anything — be it service, dinner, or work party — can attest that emotions run high. What "Anna & The Apocalypse" has that other Christmas musicals or most musicals period 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.

9. Tales From The Crypt (And All Through The House...) (1989)

Yes, I've included a television episode among our best Christmas Horror Movies of all-time list, and with good reason. "All Through The House," which was the second episode of HBO's breakthrough horror anthology series "Tales From The Crypt," is an impeccably crafted Yuletide yelp yarn directed by a Hall of Fame helmer at the peak of his powers.

Excess alliteration aside, let's discuss Robert Zemeckis for a moment. In an excellent YouTube essay, noted Christmas enthusiast Patrick H. Willems observes how Zemeckis does his best work "about ambition and escape and someone's tactical process of getting there." That, it should be noted, is the story of "All Through The House," which opens on a beleaguered housewife murdering her husband and then having to survive a psychopath dressed as St. Nicholas. 

The episode also finds Zemeckis toying around in both the mediums of TV and horror right before dropping "Back To The Future Part II," and three years before his finest horror effort, the iconic "Death Becomes Her." Simply put: He's keyed in here. Every frame is impeccably composed, it's shot with verve by Dean Cundy ("Jurassic Park, "Apollo 13"), and the end result is a breathless ride from start to finish. There's no reason not to think of it as a short film and, as such, it's still better than several entries on this list. It belongs right where it's at.

8. Pooka! (2018)

The holidays transform us. Sometimes it's for the better and sometimes not. There's a reason so many films on this list are concerned with trying and failing to be your ideal self. The aspiration is always admirable and, in an increasingly fraught world, realization is almost impossible.

That's the core conceit of Nacho Vigalondo's seriocomic and sinister "Pooka!," an "Into The Dark" entry about an unemployed actor named Wilson Clowes (Nyasha Hatendi) who finds work as the mascot version of a new toy named Pooka. The performance helps the toy's popularity skyrocket, but the suit has unintended effects on Wilson's personality that grow increasingly violent. To say anything more would be to give away the many surprises of Vigalondo's film, which almost plays like a counterpoint to traditional Christmas horror entries. "Pooka" is a deep dive into how the holiday season's traumas find us year-to-year like clockwork and exact their toll, sometimes no matter how hard we try to avoid it. Aspirations will only get you so far, particularly when surreal forces are also at work. "Pooka!" is a smart, offbeat, and genuinely unsettling reminder of that.

7. Rare Exports (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. Fairytales, 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 is 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. 

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," was pitch-perfect proof of this. Every week featured sequences and creature designs that titillated, stunned or frightened in equal measure. Somehow the show was 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. 

Given that: Why not try "The Day of the Beast?" Inglesia'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 crazier 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.

5. Inside (2007)

Near the beginning of the 21st century, "Artform" critic James Quandt dubbed a set of recent films the "New French Extremity." Their hallmarks included an unruly convergence of exploitation tropes and arthouse presentation and were often full 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 writers-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 operatic pitches. 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.

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. First, Michael Dougherty makes a film. By the time the new Michael 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 our best and most pointed modern 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 horror films or Christmas 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, 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 drops next month, but honestly, we should also be celebrating the great version of "Krampus" we already have. Life's too short for underrating. 

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 is 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, olive-branch like, or 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 the Oogie Boogie man 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. It's the best.

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 is viewed as a major influence on the most important slasher film of all time. Failing to note it here would be a lump of coal in SlashFilm'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 (Watch the trailer for proof). 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. Boundary-pushing art, regardless of its quality, endures."Clash of The Titans" comes to mind, as does the previously mentioned "Back To The Future" series. Though "Black Christmas" couldn't be different than both of those films, it's an essential watch for the strains of possible art it all but introduces into cinematic language. That it's also excellent and relentlessly disturbing makes it one of the ultimate Christmas horror classics. 

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, and at least one sequence anyone would feel guilty for watching on Christmas. That is 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. It's a movie the way that Green Day's "Dookie" is an album — all hits, front to back (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.