The Monster Under the Tree: The Best Christmas Horror Movies • Asbury Movies

Gore, splatter, body horror: international films that decline the horror genre in all conceptions, united by the Christmas setting.

The Christmas is approaching: for some it is the happiest and most exciting time of the year, for others the most depressing. The former celebrate it, cinematically speaking, to the sound of cinepattoni, Disney blockbusters and Hallmark-style television rom-coms; the latter to the sound of horror marathons and sometimes cynical television classics disguised as feel-good comedies (from SOS Ghosts to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). Our ranking in chronological order of the most gore and splatter horror films set during the holidays is aimed at the latter. We have selected them from cinema around the world and from the most disparate sub-genres, to make everyone happy. At Christmas we are really better.

A violent and silent night, David Harbor in a close-up from the film

A violent and silent night is the latest arrival in the category. Directed by the Norwegian Tommy Wirkola of Dead Snow, boasts a unique feature compared to the others on this list: it is a true Christmas film, full of good feelings and with a plot aimed at restoring the Christmas spirit to anyone who has missed it. It does so by leading its protagonist – Santa Claus himself and a former barbarian raider warrior – on a mission to rescue a little girl who was the victim of a massive home invasion on Christmas night by heavily armed robbers. An endless sequence of dead killed in the most brutal and creative ways with Christmas decorations, against the backdrop of delightful songs, is the cure for those who thought they didn’t love this holiday.

Inside – À l’intérieur (2007)

A gruesome sequence from the film Inside - À l'intérieur
A gruesome sequence from the film Inside – À l’intérieur

“Visceral” and almost dreamlike French film between body horror and splatter. part of the nouvelle vague of extreme horror beyond the Alps and directed by newcomers Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, decidedly for strong stomachs. It goes in this ranking because it is set on Christmas Eve night, and the protagonist is pregnant with a baby. Béatrice Dalle plays a mysterious woman who enters the house of the unfortunate widow Alysson Pardis to disembowel her with a pair of scissors. The rest is a film that challenges the limits of tolerance for cruelty and obscenity, the chronicle of the hunt of a predator for a prey locked up in a cage dripping with blood that in the end looks like a butcher’s shop.

Santa’s Slay (2005)

A sequence from Santa's Slay
A sequence from Santa’s Slay, a 2005 film by David Steiman

One of our favorite Santa Clauses is undoubtedly the unleashed madman with pigtails and red costume (it is said to be the real Santa and son of the devil) played by the wrestler Bill Goldberg, protagonist of one of the most delirious and bloody opening scenes of the slashers of the new millennium. Let’s just say that in this one he falls down a chimney to slaughter James Caan and Fran Drescher (Nanny Francesca) in the most imaginative ways using fans, Christmas trees and Christmas drinks. We have reservations about the dog’s fate, but this Christmas revenge movie is so shamelessly over the top, violent, trashy and rambling that almost everything is forgiven.

The day of the beast (1995)

A sequence from the film Day of the Beast
A sequence from the film Day of the Beast, by Álex de la Iglesia

One of the directors we love the most is the Spanish Álex de la Iglesia of Mutant action, which here offers its version of a Christmas film: a grotesque masterpiece – nothing else can be a film that opens with a priest killed by a giant cross falling on his head – set on Christmas Eve and centered on the birth of the Antichrist. Packed with absurd characters – visionary priests in search of virgin blood, Satanist metalheads, TV occult detectives – and the only film in this list without a murderous Santa Claus, it’s maddeningly sad and pessimistic but also delightfully gory, gruesomely comical and wildly blasphemous.

Elves (1989)

A scene from the movie Elves
A scene from Jeffrey Mandel’s film Elves

The most goofy specimen on our list (no, it’s not the 2021 Danish series), which we fondly remember is this Z-horror centered around a scientist who dreams of a world of Nazi elves. We’re not joking: the semi-incomprehensible plot talks about a crazy neo-Nazi who wants to exploit a Christmas elf summoned by a Satanist ritual to form his version of the Aryan people by making him unite with a human woman. Kirsten, author of the ritual and potential “mother” of the Fourth Reich, and a shopping mall Santa Claus also end up involved. We are talking about a horrendous film, but so perverse and cheeky as to be worth watching.

Bloody Christmas (1984)

Bloody Christmas Killer Santa Claus
The killer Santa from the movie Bloody Christmas

The heyday of slashers could not fail to decline in Christmas horror, including the chronicle of the exploits of Billy, a traumatized child – a madman kills his parents and his grandfather persuades him that Santa Claus personally punishes the bad guys. Barely of age, he is released from a Catholic orphanage full of sadistic tormentors and immediately uses his free time to celebrate his version of Christmas, that is by massacring the “bad guys” on his list and filling his pockets with axes and guns instead of candy and gifts . He also takes out the queen of scream girls Linnea Quigley, impaled on reindeer antlers by this wretched psychopathic child dressed as Santa Claus who popularized the subgenre of Santas on a murderous rampage.

Gremlins review
One of the creatures from the movie Gremlins, by Joe Dante

Christmas horror for everyone. You don’t necessarily have to be a hardcore horror fan: this classic comedy for everyone was also a solid 80s blockbuster that was decidedly mainstream. Everyone knows that you shouldn’t give the tender Gizmo a drink and offer him food after midnight if you don’t want to suffer the teasing of horrid and grinning gremlins, insane bearers of death in the most amusing, absurd and imaginative ways. Finally a Christmas massacre with a good budget for special effects in a film that shows horrid old women shot out of their homes in their motorized wheelchairs, willing dads dressed as Santa who died suffocated in chimneys and the bizarre contrast between the tenderness of the Chinese teddy bear his horrifying “children”.

Black Christmas (A blood red Christmas) (1974)

A still from the movie Black Christmas
An image from the film Black Christmas, by Bob Clark

A seminal classic of the (sub)genre but also of the major scary films in general, without which we probably would not have had theHalloween by John Carpenter. It generated two heirs in 2006 and 2019. The victims, including a crazy Margot Kidder, are members of a sorority persecuted by intimidating phone calls, subsequently transformed into helpless prey and killed one by one by the madman disguised as an evil Santa . The scene is unforgettable death by unicornbut also the sequels give some satisfaction, especially the one directed by Glen Morgan (Daryl’s brother, both famous thanks to X-Files) which deepens the figure of the villain.

Santa Claus vs. the Devil (1959)

A still from the film Santa Claus vs.  the Devil
A still from the film Santa Claus vs. the Devil

It is not the progenitor of the genre but it comes close, this bizarre and very original Mexican fantasy horror by René Cardona, champion of Mexican exploitation cinema, centered on a Santa Claus who has to save children from the temptations of the devil who wants to make them end up on the list of the bad guys. Santa lives in a station in space, instead of elves he has little boys as helpers, and the story involves the wizard Merlin, the baby Jesus, mechanical reindeer, creepy dancers and magical flowers.

His only reason for living is horror. And horror too. He would like to write only about this, but he is aware that there is not only horror.

The Monster Under the Tree: The Best Christmas Horror Movies • Asbury Movies