Yes, Christmas. The time for sleigh bells, carolling, mistletoe, and...spine-tingling, blanching terror? Absolutely! At least if you see these Christmas-themed horror movies. Occasionally, some filmmakers have decided to use the most festive time of year as a setting for thrills and chills. Here are just a few examples.
1974 saw the release of Black Christmas. Starring Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder, the film centers around a group of sorority sisters stuck at college for the holiday being stalked by a psychotic killer. Here is a trailer for the film's release on DVD.
A remake was released on Christmas day in 2006 with no fanfare or box office to speak of. Another note: the director of this film would go on to direct another Christmas-themed film--A Christmas Story. Yes, THAT A Christmas Story.
Another film released in the 1990s centers around a psychotic killer (is there any other kind?) being taken to prison until a freak chemical accident turns him into a killer snowman--Jack Frost. Killer. Snowman. Read it again. At least this film doesn't take itself seriously--at all. Here's the trailer, and please, don't get it confused with the family-friendly Michael Keaton film. The young woman getting in the bathtub is none other than Shannon Elizabeth of American Pie fame.
The biggest blockbuster of the films listed here is Gremlins. I don't really need to explain this one, do I?
Several other Christmas horror movies involve a killer Santa. The earliest example is probably You Better Watch Out, aka Christmas Evil, aka Terror in Toyland. This 1980 film involves a man, obsessed with Christmas, who decides to take on the mantle of Santa Claus and reward the good---and punish the bad. I've actually seen much of this film, but not all of it, and it's notable that the film is not so much a slasher film but rather a psychological thriller. At the same time, the film also has a humorous air about itself, without getting too silly or spoofish. This scene is a good example. The movie is available this month on the on demand cable service Fearnet. Also of note: the actor who plays the psycho Santa is, according to Internet sources, the father of musician/singer Fiona Apple.
One film that does take its humor over the top is Santa's Slay, which reveals that Santa is, in fact, the son of Satan, who loses a bet and must bring cheer to the world. He then decides to Hell with that--literally. Santa here is portrayed by former pro wrestler Goldberg.
But the most notorious Christmas horror film of all is undoubtedly Silent Night, Deadly Night. A young boy, traumatized by the murder of his parents by a man dressed as Santa, grows up to be a killer Santa himself. Here is the trailer that was banned from telelvision.
Here, film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert discuss the film on their 1980s series At The Movies. To put it mildly, they don't like the movie. The sound is extremely low on this clip, so you'll need to crank the volume to 11 to hear it.
That's just a small sampling of Christmas chillers; an Internet search will find you more. I'll get back to more cheery stuff in my next post, promise!