Aaah, the old annual hunt for the best Christmas horror movies when you just can't take any more fairy lights and tinsel. That's OK, we are here for you in your time of need. The festive season can drive anyone to distraction with all this heavenly peace and it's important to balance out those elf-filled happy thoughts with buckets of viscera and fictitious murder. Isn't it good that we understand you? If you do want infinite happiness and crying at Alan Rickman's character's truly obnoxious treatment of Emma Thompson, you can head right on over to our best Christmas movies. And people say horror fans are monsters.
You can't just set a horror movie at Christmas and have it automatically make this list. Our favourite Christmas scary movies are the ones that look at the festive season and just twist the true meaning of Christmas slightly. Whether it's Santas in their natural, more animalistic state in Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, or a full blown zombie musical with a beating heart in Anna and the Apocalypse, we've got it all on this naughty list. We even checked it twice. If you don’t need to feel festive in the slightest, you check out our best horror movies but for now though, it’s time for some ho ho horror...
25. Treevenge (2008)
Let’s start as we mean to go on, kicking off this list of the best Christmas horror movies with something truly, joyously ludicrous. You might be able to tell from the pun title but this 16 minute short film - that you can find for free on a number of websites - doesn’t take itself entirely seriously. That might be because it’s about Christmas trees getting their own back on humans. Yes, this is... fir real.
Hobo with a Shotgun director Jason Eisener goes to gory town with the concept. Humans are depicted as animalistic psychopaths yanking squeaking pines from the ground, chainsawing their trunks, and murdering sweet tree-lings too small for the job. The trees themselves sound a little like Gremlins and have subtitles but unfortunately the humans just don’t notice until it’s, well, far too late. Things get truly, hilariously splattery here and not all in best taste but Treevenge is a dark festive joy. Christmas is all about red, right? You’ll never look at that innocent-looking tree in the corner in the same way again.
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 it's the yuletide segment that makes it into our best Christmas movies. It 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. 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 - and it is truly horrific - 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. It's might be older than anything you own but Dead of Night is a worthy entry to our best Christmas horror movie list.
21. The Nightmare Before Christmas
What do you mean Henry Selick and Tim Burton's stop motion gothic masterpiece isn’t a Christmas horror movie? Children are terrorised by evil dolls and murderous ducks, a shrunken head arrives in a box, and in one, particularly memorable, sequence an entire silver Christmas tree is eaten by a giant snake while a child looks on, shrieking. If that isn’t the true meaning of the festive season, I really don’t know what is.
OK, fine, it’s only a PG and not Treevenge levels of gore but The Nightmare Before Christmas makes a perfect creepier, darker tale that doesn’t need you to wait until the kids have gone to bed. Jack Skellington’s love of Christmas and his ensuing destruction of the holiday can be enjoyed and sung along by all. And it might look terrifying on the surface but beneath the ghastly creatures and removable heads there’s a heart of absolute gold and a love story that will melt even the frostiest of evil-looking snowmen. Let's live like Jack and Sally, shall we?
Read more: How to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas online this festive season
20. Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)
Unfortunately, the title really 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 and the job of Scotland Yard rather tricksy . 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.
19. 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.
18. 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. This is snow joke.
17. 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.