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The Best Christmas Slasher Movies

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I don’t know if it’s the childlike innocence, the great mood lighting, or the long dark nights, but something about the “most wonderful time of the year” makes horror a little more titillating. When it comes to holiday horror there are supernatural standbys like Gremlins & Krampus, but the genre is also packed with films about killers lurking in a wintery setting and sneaking into houses. There’s some naughty joy to be had in seeing the mythos of Santa Claus turned on its head, so here’s a rundown of the best classic yuletide slashers! 

Black Christmas (1974)

The crown jewel of Christmas horror movies and the inspiration for Halloween, this was one of the first slashers and is regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made. Directed by Bob Clark (A Christmas Story), it’s about sorority girls during winter break and has a strong message about female body autonomy. It was released the same month as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and like that genre classic, Black Christmas also excels at ambience. Long shots of desolate snow, Christmas caroling as the soundtrack to murder, eerie POV shots that glimpse into the mind of the demented killer, and a final shot that will haunt you into the new year. This is one of the few horror movies that actually makes my skin crawl. There’s diminishing returns on each remake, but Black Xmas (2006) is a fun & over-the-top homage to the original with some truly gross twists. You’ll never think of Christmas cookies the same way again!

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Christmas Evil (1980)

Christmas Evil is a psychological portrait of a Christmas obsessed toy factory worker, and it has more in common with Joker than Black Christmas. The main character is both hero and villain as he lives out a fantasy of being Santa. He even keeps a list of good and bad kids, and that’s before he devolves into madness and murder! When he finally snaps, he plays the role of Santa to the most extreme degree, breaking into houses to punish the wicked and bring gifts to the needy. “Santa” takes jabs at consumerism and class disparity as he calls out corporate hypocrisy, chastising executives for relying on employee charitable donations rather than ponying up themselves. John Waters called this “the greatest Christmas film ever made”, and it does not disappoint.

Jack Frost (1997)

While the effects are hilariously bad, this campy horror comedy fires on all other cylinders. It was straight to video, and video is probably the only way those clumps of cotton will ever look like snow. The snowman suit looks silly and can barely move, so they have to get creative with the kills. And creative they get! This movie is cheesy and cheap but delights in the twisted Christmas-ness of it all. Shot in 18 days, you get the sense that everybody was having a damn good time making this b-movie classic. Trash cinema is at its best when the actors lean hard into the camp, and this cast does exactly that. If you want a wisecracking Snowman killer, like Chucky or Freddy, this one’s for you!

Deadly Games (1989)

Released one year before Home Alone this French film bears a striking resemblance, but with a demented twist. Deadly Games is about a kid fighting off a home invader with booby traps, only this time the invader is a sadistic Santa impersonator. The protagonist is a rich child genius who has all the toys and technology a kid of 1989 could want. He still believes in Santa Claus, so it comes as a horrifying shock when “Santa” begins gleefully hunting him down inside a vast mansion. It differs from many slashers because the killer is a full-blown character, not a mysterious figure in the shadows. But Patrick Floersheim sparkles like the north star as the deranged Santa, creeping out the audience without the typical slasher gimmicks. While it seems like a kid movie, it’s best for scaring children into being good. And what’s more Christmas-y than that!?

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

Pre-dating the earliest slashers, this film has elements of a slasher (creepy phone calls, an axe murderer) but it feels more akin to earlier horror mysteries like Psycho, or Straight-Jacket. There isn’t much about the holidays but the rural snowy setting with forests of barren, skeleton-like trees make the winter feel haunted and punishing. With so many stories of “psycho killers”, slasher films can easily demonize people struggling with mental health issues, and this one takes it a step further. It climaxes in a flashback sequence that can almost be described as mental health-sploitation, as the patients of an asylum take revenge on unscrupulous doctors. But that flashback sequence is so effectively creepy and stylized that it’s worth a watch. It’s also the final film of trans icon Candy Darling!

Maniac Cop 2 (1990)

This film happens around the holidays rather than being about the holidays. But it has nice touches like decorations everywhere, a Christmas chainsaw and tinsel lined stripper poles! Billed as horror, it is practically an action film with incredible stunts and it even goes full Terminator on a police station (watch for the Danny Trejo cameo). The corrupt cop theme is just as relevant as it was 30 years ago and spoiler alert: the whole system is guilty. If action movies are more to your taste than maniacal killers, or if you have ever wanted to drive down Market Street plowing down holiday decorations, pop this one on!

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Gabriel Moore-Topazio

Gabriel Moore-Topazio

I am a writer, illustrator, indie comic creator, screenwriter and dungeon master. An all around gay nerd extraordinaire.

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