"Oh the horror of Christmas!" is a suitable exclamation when imagining the stresses and strains of the holiday season. That moment of worry and desperation is different for us all. For you it might be the feverish panic when you begin to 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 during the festive season 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. Their 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 25 best Christmas horror movies instead.
25. Elves (1989)
Will Ferrell's happy-go-lucky Elf taught us that Santa's little helpers are a delight. Festive cheer is their forte, and bringing smiles to every child's heart their mission. This 1989 creature feature undoes all of that. These elves aren't your typical joymakers, instead, they bring terror to the holiday in an attempt to get rid of Santa.
These elves are ugly. Imagine one of the savages from The Descent... in a Santa hat. Not sure if it's scarier than the plot, which suggests that Hitler's original plan for world domination involved bringing about a race of half-human/half-Elf hybrids to do his bidding.
24. Holidays (2015)
The title says it all. This blood-soaked anthology makes a mess of major holidays like Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas along with a few smaller festive occasions. St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day and Easter get a look in too, and you won't think about any of these special days the same way again.
But we're here for the yuletide segment, that stars Seth Green as a desperate father in a predicament much like Arnie in Jingle All The Way. Except where Ahnald's after a Turbo-Man for his kid, Green's character is struggling to buy virtual glasses for his son. He manages to procure a pair in a nasty manner, only for the truth of his circumstances to reflect even more horrors within his family. With a definite hint of Black Mirror to the twist, you'll want to keep watching right to the end of this one.
23. Better Watch Out (2016)
Don't get me wrong, a whole season of classic Christmas movies is great. All that seasonal goodwill can sometimes leaves one hankering for... well, trashier fare. There's only so much It's A Wonderful Life a person can take, after all. Better Watch Out is the perfect holiday antidote for when the family's out and you fancy some gore and schlock.
With a simple premise you won't be too taxed. It plays like a slasher version of Adventures in Babysitting set at Christmas. You're getting a cheesy serial-killer yarn mixed up with a teenager's worst night at work ever. The flick's winning B-movie formula of blood and silliness works well with its plethora of over-the-top scenarios that'll likely having you rolling your eyes and/or shouting at the screen. Hey, that's half the fun, right?
22. Calvaire (2004)
This Belgian horror outing is equal parts grim and comic; this is a jet black Christmas comedy you have to see to believe. The film kicks off its sour predicament when Marc, a singer doing small shows at retirement homes for the season, finds himself stranded when his car breaks down.
Lost and cold and no doubt bricking it in the woods, Marc's situation lightens up when he finds shelter at a small inn run by Bartel, a deranged small-town yokel. Well, not really, but it'd be spoiling it to tell you what happens next. This is a slice of Euro yuletide madness that's bleak as hell. Part Deliverance, part Straw Dogs with a hint of Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Yeah, it's not exactly feelgood but inventive as you like.
21. Dead of Night (1945)
Everyone loves a good Christmas party. Fun and games for the kiddos and a generous spread of fancy finger foods and Prosecco for the adults. But what if your hostess fails to mention that their glorious abode, decked out for the season, is also the site of a horrific murder?
That's the hidden twist at the heart of the Christmas vignette in Dead of Night. One of the first horror anthology flicks, this 1940s chiller is most well-known for its terrifying ventriloquist segment, but the Christmas sequence is just as likely to make you soil yourself. Dripping with shadows and an eerie feeling that the abode is haunted, the big reveal is one of slow, dawning terror that'll make the hairs on the back of your arms stand up.
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.