The 20 best Christmas horror movies to scare you during the holidays

"Oh the horror of Christmas!" you might cry, imagining all the stresses and strains of the holiday season. That moment is different for everyone. For you it might be the feverish panic when you question whether you've bought everyone an equal amount of stocking stuffers, or how best to mask a hideous hangover on Christmas morning. But that's nothing compared to what the unlucky characters in this batch of films have to contend with. 

Keeping a bright, sunny outlook is much, MUCH harder to sustain when there's a psychotic Santa after you with an axe. Or a load of pint-sized goblins on your tail. The dark side to Christmas for this sad lot is drenched in blood and entrails. The halls are decked with bowels, not boughs. So if you're game for a dip into some truly macabre merriment - after devouring the best Christmas movies, that is - hunker down with this selection of the 20 best Christmas horror movies instead.  

20. Silent Night, Zombie Night (2009) 

Just because it's Christmas doesn't mean the undead take a timeout to exchange gifts. This low-budget caper dials in on that scenario. Sorry, no, not zombies swapping pressies, but what happens a week before the holiday when a viral outbreak hits Los Angeles. 

The whole thing unfolds through the experiences of an LAPD officer, whose personal dilemmas are coming to a head at the same time. Troubles with the ex are of course secondary to a horde of moaning brain gobblers, who don't just potter about but run like there's no tomorrow to find living flesh to feast on. Maybe don't watch this when you're about to fix a turkey sandwich. 

19. Don't Open Until Christmas (1984) 

Unfortunately, the title isn't referring to that TIE fighter drone gizmo you've been dropping hints about since September. The cover of the VHS features a kitchen knife jammed into a Christmas present, puddles of blood oozing into the carpet. Might there be an evil toy that's come to life inside? 

No. The unspeakable horror is a serial killer's murderous spree across London. His victims? Anyone dressed in a santa outfit, which makes his job rather easy. Before long there's a string of corpses dotted across the city, slain in a variety of brutal ways. Crammed with hammy one-liners and casual sleazy sex, this is stinkier than a wedge of Stilton: perfect Christmas entertainment. 

18. To All A Goodnight (1980) 

Nothing spells seasonal cheer like a deserted, creepy institution does it? Arriving at a time when slasher movies were ten-a-penny, this slay fest stands out by taking a festive approach. 

Set over Christmas break, the girls of the Calvin Finishing School decide to hole up inside for a boozy bash. Boyfriends are snuck in, alcohol imbibed, and that can only lead to one thing. Well, nookie, obviously, but that's not all. A serial killer dressed like Santa shows up and starts offing them one-by-one. 

What a party pooper. 

17. Wind Chill (2007) 

Is it wise to get a lift home for Christmas with a stranger? is a question that no-one asks in Wind Chill. Presumably because the alternative - staying at school alone - is worse. 

This neat thriller features an early turn from Emily Blunt, as a college girl who takes a rideshare back home with a fellow student. Their route is invariably fraught with hideous weather that leads them onto a mysterious back road. Throw in a supernatural sheriff who threatens their safe passage and a ghastly case of frost bite and it makes you wonder if it hadn't been better to fly home. 

16. A Christmas Horror Story (2015) 

The most horrifying thing about the villain of this piece is his impressive physique. Look at it. How does this Krampus find time for evil when he's down the gym kicking out crunches 24/7? 

He's not the only vessel of terror in this anthology film that spans the course of a night - and features William Shatner as a DJ in the wraparound story. There's a killer Santa, a changeling and a the pregnant ghost of a nun. The sting in the tail comes in the fourth vignette as Santa prepares to battle the evil Krampus after discovering his wife and elves have been turned into zombies. They're not members of the undead, and the Krampus is just a figment of his distorted imagination. 

15. Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) 

The Christmas in question for this giallo-inspired horror takes place 40 years before the events of the movie, when a series of strange happenings at an asylum turn into a total bloodbath. With no survivors the building is inherited by the grandson of Wilfred Butler, the last man to make it out before burning to death. 

The plot twists and turns before delivering a bit of surprise ending, after everyone in the mansion gets offed by a killer seeking revenge. It's a moody little chiller that foresaw the oncoming slasher craze by a few years, and delivered the goods on a remarkably low budget. 

14. Santa's Slay (2005) 

Treading the line between horror and comedy, in this film Santa is not the jolly rotund chappie we've come to know and love. He's the result of a Satanic virgin birth that's somewhat soured him. Instead of being content with his lot in life this Santa acts on his frustration after being forced to deliver presents for 1000 years. 

A spate of killings ensue as Santa's way of letting off steam. His first victims are the Masons, a wealthy family who fall foul of his murderous rage on Christmas Eve. No sooner is he down the chimney than they're getting drowned in eggnog, choked on turkey legs and stabbed with tree ornaments. It's one hell of an opening sequence that's got a ton of recognisable faces; James Caan, Fran Drescher, Chris Kattan and Rebecca Gayheart all meet their ends in the first ten minutes. 

13. P2 (2007) 

"The only thing more terrifying than being alone, is discovering that you're not," reads the tagline to P-2. No, the only thing more terrifying than either is realising that it's Wes Bentley who won't let you go home for Christmas. Why, Wes, why? 

Well, because he's a stalker. If movies have taught us anything about underground parking garages it's that the less time you spend in them, the more likely your chance for survival. Here, Bentley's psychopathic security guard Thomas refuses to let Angela (Rachel Nichols) go home for the holidays because he's got a crush on her. Everyone knows that a surefire way to a girl's heart is by denying her a day off work. And trying to kill her. What a charmer. 

12. Sint (2010) 

This Dutch film harks back to the origins of Saint Nick and reimagines him as a scarier version of Sinterklaas. He's not remotely bothered about what you've jotted on your Christmas list, unless you'd like to suffer a grisly end at the hands of a vengeful, seasonal ghost. 

Armed with a razor-bladed staff Sint is a "murder bishop" who visits children whenever there's a full moon on December 5th. As mentioned above, and insinuated by his title, he's all about making Christmas as unbearable as possible by kidnapping and murdering those he encounters. The fact that he's a repugnant mush of Santa and Freddy Krueger adds another level of evil to his regime. 

11. Silent Night (2012) 

Remakes are, on the whole, never as good as the original. Silent Night is far from a mere retread of the eighties classic. It takes the 'serial killer in a Santa outfit' idea and spins out an entirely new story. 

This version finds a small Wisconsin town in peril, as every Christmas the same killer takes to the streets and goes on a murderous rampage. His disguise allows him to blend in with all the other people dressed up in that iconic costume, which proves tough for the deputy assigned to take him down. The gore quotient is pretty high and no-one is safe from Santa's wrath, that he acts out with an axe and a flamethrower. Not very Christmassy is it?