Well, it’s that time of year again. And I don’t know what it is, but as horror fans, it seems to be in our DNA that when any given holiday arrives, we must consume and only watch horror that takes place on said holiday! So, it’s time to break out the Christmas themed horrors yet again!
You know, when I stop to think about it, there aren’t that many Christmas themed horror movies that are… well, good? I mean, of course, there are the classics. Everyone is going to break out GREMLINS, Michael Dougherty’s KRAMPUS, most likely one of the SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT flicks. BLACK CHRISTMAS is a must, and a horror masterpiece. But besides those, not much stands out as “classic.” However, there are plenty of horror suggestions to be found, such as the 5 Derek recommended earlier this week.
For me? I want to mix it up. I’m going for unlikely picks; things that either you missed, forgot about, or that skate the line of of what we’ve come to know as a traditional “horror” movie. (This is my way of warning you that I’m totally going to cheat by the end of this piece.) That said, on top of your usual crew, might I suggest 8 more unlikely Christmas movies to watch, and hopefully, at least one of these will be a new addition to your annual queue.
ONE HELL OF A CHRISTMAS
Here’s an obscure one for you. I recall there was a short period of time there when Fangoria was acquiring and putting out little indie horror features on their own DVD label. The best (and most prophetic) of the bunch was 2001’s SLASHERS. But one of the movies from that batch was ONE HELL OF A CHRISTMAS, written and directed by Shaky Gonzalez. Carlito (Tolo Montana) just made parole and is once again a free man. All he wants is to see his 5-year-old son for the holidays, but a friend approaches him with a scam for quick cash that he chooses to decline. Despite the temptation to jump back into the world of crime that he knew, he relents and somehow ends up in (what appears to be) hell! It’s not great by any means, but there was still something about it I kind of like; perhaps Montana’s sympathetic performance as Carlito. Be warned, it’s a low budget affair, but it’s (dark) heart is in the right place, and you more than likely have never heard of it!
AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT
Oh boy. This freakin’ movie! David Hess (yes, Krug from LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT) directed this holiday themed 1980 “slasher” pic that broke a lot of new ground within that sub-genre before the HALLOWEEN copy-cats came along. Among the many things this movie did first? There’s an ax wielding maniac in a Santa costume, so it’s got the first Santa killer. It also has the same killer reveal as FRIDAY THE 13TH! And this was made before Mrs. Voorhees attacked Camp Crystal Lake’s occupants or Billy raised his axe in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. The downside is it’s ridiculous. There are shots in broad daylight that are fully intended to pass for night-time. And some other nonsensical things that happen all through-out, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t thoroughly entertaining, especially with a group of friends. Brace yourselves!
Here’s a great gem of the Christmas horror variety! From [REC] co-director Paco Plaza comes CHRISTMAS TALE, an Amblin-esque feature that sees a deranged female thief on the run and dressed in a Santa outfit. She falls and traps herself inadvertently in a pit in the woods. A group of young kids, all roughly around 12-ish, find her, and rather than call the police or turn her over, decide to blackmail her into revealing the whereabouts of her treasure. Oh, and it’s set in 1985, so one of the kids has an unhealthy obsession with the movie THE KARATE KID and wears the same bandanna that Daniel LaRusso does. The little girl of the group is actress Ivana Baquero, who would after this go on to play Ophelia in Guillermo del Toro’s PAN’S LABYRINTH. It was released as part of the 6 Films To Keep You Awake package, available on DVD through Lionsgate, and while CHRISTMAS TALE is the only holiday themed movie out of the set, the whole package offers some great Spanish horror. Worth it, but in particular, this film is a must for your Christmas Horror viewing!
I COME IN PEACE (aka DARK ANGEL)
Let me boldly say that I COME IN PEACE (known in some parts of America as DARK ANGEL) is not only my favorite Dolph Lundgren movie, but it’s among one of my favorite Christmas movies too. That’s right, this sucker takes place over the holidays! Lundgren’s Detective Jack Caine is paired up with FBI Agent Smith (Brian Benben) to investigate the sudden disappearance of a huge stash of heroin that ended in a mob massacre, in which Caine lost his partner. It turns out the culprit is a drug dealer from space, of course! And he’s harvesting the world’s perfect synthetic drug by using humans as his victims. What follows is one of the most fun, ambitious and action packed sci-fi epics that kicked off the 90’s in style! Plenty of Dolph one-liners, a great comical performance by DREAM ON’s Brian Benben who was immortalized in my #RESPECT column for it, and it takes place during Christmas season!
SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER
Anyone that knows me also knows the love I harbor for SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER. Look, I have no rational explanation for it, it just struck me at just the right time when it debuted on VHS, and to me, it played like an epic live-action X-MEN movie. So, yes, I prefer it to Cronenberg’s original, and like it more than SCANNER COP! That said, it opens…. at a Christmas party!!! So, if you want to watch a movie where two telekinetic beings, a brother and sister, go head to head when one of them goes crazy and tries to take over the world, SCANNERS III is the movie for you. And since it opens at a Christmas party, it totally counts as a Christmas horror movie. Boom.
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece PSYCHO is normally one of those horror classics that’s on heavy rotation for the Halloween season. And I don’t blame you for watching it then. It was pretty high on my Halloween recommended movies list. But, the opening title card tells us that the movie begins in Phoenix, Arizona on December 11th! And then, the weekend that follows is when Marion Crane is last seen at the Bates Motel. The week after that is when Arbogast also goes missing while searching for the girl. This puts the time table of the original PSYCHO during mid-month December. While Norman and Mother don’t get to enjoy that Christmas together, it does happen roughly around that time, which means you can totally count PSYCHO as a Christmas movie.
MORGAN STEWART’S COMING HOME
One of my absolute favorite criminally underseen comedies from the 80’s has to be MORGAN STEWART’S COMING HOME, starring the “original hipster” Jon Cryer. Hey, it says it on the DVD box, so don’t look at me! In it, Cryer plays Morgan, an average kid that happens to love horror and collect some amazing memorabilia. His parents finally bring him back home, but it turns out to be with ulterior motives as they want to rebrand their upcoming political campaign around the family, even though they barely know their son. While at the mall, he stumbles upon a George Romero signing and while waiting in line meets Emily, pretty much every horror nerd’s dream girl come true. But get this, the movie begins as the students of the boarding school are gearing up for Thanksgiving break and then lands around December for the remainder of it. Morgan’s butler Ivan even dons a Santa Claus costume for a party towards the films conclusion. Even though this is a straight out comedy, at its center is a lovable, misunderstood horror lover. So, hey, not only is it a good, unlikely Christmas movie, but it might make for a good gift for the members of your family that don’t “get” your horror obsession.
BETTER OFF DEAD
Last but not least, yet another comedy, because screw it! It’s Christmas and we here at Blumhouse.com can write about whatever the hell we want to! Besides, if you ask writer/director Savage Steve Holland, his tale about a boy that gets dumped by his high school girlfriend for the head of the ski team is definitely a horror movie from the perspective of his lead character Lane! And it’s quirky enough that if you grew up with 80’s horror movies, you probably already know and love BETTER OFF DEAD. If I had to guess, the movie covers about a 2 month period, but there’s most certainly an extended portion in the middle dedicated to Christmas. Youuuu knowwww, CHRISSSSST-MASSSSS! Lane’s mom buys her Dad a winter coat made of real aardvark fur. And Lane tries one of his many suicide attempts after discovering the Christmas teddy bear he bought his ex is tiny compared to the life-size one her new boyfriend bought her. Don’t worry! Lane gets over it and finds solace in the super cute French foreign exchange student living across the street. I normally don’t need any excuse to watch BETTER OFF DEAD since it’s one of my all-time favorites, but knowing it takes place around Christmas time gives you another reason to break it out this holiday season!