As the snow falls and the holiday spirit fills the air, we here at Straight Chilling are eager to unwrap the types of films that merge the warmth of Christmas with the shivers of horror. In this chilling celebration, we are happy to present to you the top 25 must-watch Christmas horror films this season. These movies definitely made the naughty list and deliver a wide variety of dark deeds, gooey gore, and more kills than you can stuff in your stockings.
For those skeptics who reckon Christmas horror is as thrilling as receiving a lumpy sweater on Christmas morning, fear not! We've meticulously combed through an eclectic mix of festive flicks to ensure that only the most exceptional make it to your holiday watchlist.
1. Krampus (2015)
Michael Dougherty is the king of holiday horror and following his Halloween classic Trick 'r Treat he turned his sights on Christmas. Krampus is the darkly delightful tale of a family Christmas gone awry, as a young boy's disillusionment with the holiday spirit accidentally summons the ancient, horned demon, Krampus. To me this is the perfect blend of folklore, contemporary commentary, festive design and scares. As a horror fan it's just so much fun seeing creepy snowmen, killer gingerbread cookies, and sinister toys that can make you laugh and scream. "Krampus" manages to keep the spirit of Christmas alive even amidst its gory chaos, reminding us that family, love, and the holiday spirit are worth fighting for, even when you're being chased by demonic holiday creatures.
2. Black Christmas (1974)
Before there was Michael Myers and Halloween there was Billy and Black Christmas. This cult classic centers on a sorority house, a mysterious killer, and chilling phone calls that bring terror to the Christmas season. This film is notably directed by Bob Clark, the same creative genius behind the beloved holiday classic A Christmas Story, and it offers similar yuletide aesthetics but this time blended with eerie suspense. Black Christmas is a top tier Christmas horror and despite its age holds up incredibly well and still goes toe-to-toe with any of the classic slashers.
3. Gremlins (1984)
Gremlins is probably one of the most accessible Christmas horror films on this list and was written by Chris Colombus of Home Alone and Harry Potter fame. The story centers on a young man who receives a cute and cuddly pet called Gizmo as a Christmas gift. But, as we all know, with great pets come great responsibilities, and when the three golden rules for taking care of Gizmo are broken, all hell breaks loose in a small town on Christmas Eve. This film is a nice blend of horror and comedy, offering some dark dialogue and violence with a healthy dose of humor and lightheartedness. The mischievous gremlins wreaking havoc while dressed as carolers or sipping on spiked eggnog is just the tip of the iceberg for holiday festiveness while delivering on some classic '80s horror fun.
4. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Nightmare Before Christmas is the absolute perfect fusion of Halloween and Christmas, offering a beautifully crafted, macabre world that's also heartwarming and magical. The film is littered with iconic songs, like This Is Halloween and What's This? and truly offers a unique perspective as a Christmas horror film. Whether you're a fan of Jack Skellington's misadventures or simply love the idea of blending two of the most celebrated holidays, this movie is an absolute delight. An essential gateway horror film for kids The Nightmare Before Christmas provides a family friendly film that brings a unique blend of darkness to the Christmas season.
5. Inside (2007)
The first of many French films on this list, Inside is a relentless and gripping horror movie that takes place on Christmas Eve. It follows a pregnant woman named Sarah, who is tormented by a mysterious woman trying to steal her unborn child. This is a kind of home invasion horror film that offers a truly disturbing premise and some absolutely brutal gore. While it may not feature the warm and fuzzy holiday cheer you'd typically associate with Christmas, Inside provides a truly memorable experience. So, if you're in the mood for a Christmas horror film that's not afraid to push the boundaries, Inside is a must-watch.
6. Christmas Evil (1980)
Christmas Evil is an obscure film that tells the story of Harry Stadling, a man who becomes obsessed with the idea of becoming Santa Claus. However, his quest to bring joy and happiness to children takes a dark turn, leading to a twisted story of holiday madness. Christmas Evil is a fantastic character study of a man who takes the rules of Santa Claus literally and implements those rules on his neighbors and their kids. The film explores the darker side of the holiday season and its traditions and makes you rethink the stories we tell children in order to make them behave. This vintage gem offers a refreshing change of pace for Christmas horror fans and is perfect for those who appreciate a bit of nostalgia with their holiday scares.
7. Brooklyn 45 (2023)
This film is a fresh addition to the list as it just came out earlier this year. Written and directed by Ted Geoghegan it is a period piece that follows a group of close friends and war veterans following the ending of World War 2. This story mostly takes place in a single room and is highlighted by some spectacular performances from all of the actors. This Christmas horror offers up a nice blend of retro scares mixed with some potent social commentary. It is a fun return to the old tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas and is a must see new horror film for 2023.
8. Rare Exports (2010)
This Finnish film takes the concept of Santa Claus and turns it on its head, transforming the jolly old man into something far more sinister. When a team of reindeer herders unearth something ancient and malevolent buried in the mountains, a local boy must work to uncover the true legend of Santa Claus. Rare Exports is a true holiday horror treat, offering a fresh and twisted take on the Christmas legend. It's a fun mix of suspense, humor, and just the right amount of festive cheer to keep you entertained this holiday season. With its unique blend of folklore and fantasy, Rare Exports gives you a glimpse into the darker side of holiday myths while maintaining a quirky charm that feels quintessentially Scandinavian.
9. Yule Log (2022)
Adult Swim’s Yule Log is truly one of a kind and is really difficult to describe. It does in fact start off as a traditional style yule log video with the log burning in the fireplace. However, the actual film quickly takes a dark turn and then delivers about a dozen out of nowhere narrative swerves that are truly unexpected and almost nonsensical. The result though is a wild and entertaining Christmas horror that will leave you wondering what the hell you just watched until next Christmas.
10. Better Watch Out (2016)
This cleverly crafted film starts off like your typical babysitter-in-peril movie but eventually takes a wickedly dark turn. Set on a snowy Christmas night, the film follows a babysitter, Ashley, who is in for more than she bargained for when she has to protect 12-year-old Luke from a home invasion. What makes Better Watch Out stand out is its ability to subvert your expectations. It’s a dark film that certainly brings the Christmas vibes and even does a fun job of working in some story beats from some other timeless Christmas classics.
11. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
This genre-blending horror flick mashes up Christmas spirit, high school drama, and a zombie apocalypse, resulting in a heartwarming and graphically blood-splattered musical. It follows Anna, a high schooler who must battle her way through a horde of the undead to reunite with her loved ones during the most wonderful time of the year. This film actually has a lot of elements that I initially thought would drive me away from the film but surprisingly a majority of the songs are really well done and this movie doesn’t pull its punches in the horror department. I was ultimately won over by the holiday fueled charm this movie has to offer and I would happily recommend it to horror and non-horror fans.
12. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
This campy '80s slasher film is the story of a young boy named Billy, who witnesses a traumatic event that forever taints his perception of jolly ol’ Saint Nick. As he grows up, he transforms from a well-behaved child to a murderous Santa-clad maniac, setting off a yuletide killing spree. Silent Night, Deadly Night is just some good old fashioned slasher horror which charmingly blends Christmas aesthetics and over the top gore, making it a fun nostalgic watch for lovers of the more campy horror films of the 80s.
13. The Lodge (2019)
This film is infamous here at Straight Chilling headquarters with strong opinions featured on all sides of the spectrum. The Lodge is a psychological horror film that follows a family as they find themselves stranded in a remote lodge during the holiday season. This one is much more of a slow burn but builds a dreadful sort of tension throughout and consistently leaves you wondering where the story will take you next. The Lodge is a little bit slimmer on the warmer Christmas aspects but instead drives home the cold bleakness of the season.
14. The Apology (2022)
A grieving mother who is remembering her daughter's mysterious disappearance two decades ago, prepares for another somber Christmas. Just as she plans to reconcile and embrace the festive spirit, an unexpected guest arrives—her estranged ex-brother-in-law—with gifts that stir nostalgic memories and unearth buried secrets. The Apology delves into the complexities of past traumas and unresolved conflicts within a limited but powerful setting and cast. Set against the backdrop of a cozy home decorated for Christmas, the film navigates the darker facets of familial bonds. This is a much slower film that is certainly dialogue heavy, but the suspense-filled narrative captures the uncomfortable feeling of grappling with the ghosts of the past.
15. Violent Night (2022)
The late 80s and early 90s were filled with some absolute Christmas classics such as Home Alone and Die Hard. Violent Night very much pays homage to those kinds of films while also taking their troupes and story beats and infusing them with a more adult and violent modern take. This movie follows David Harbour as a bitter worn down Santa Clause who ends up at the house of a wealthy family just as it is being overrun by opportunistic terrorists. While Violent Night never lives up to the quality of all of the films it's playing off of, it definitely has a lot of entertainment value as it is packed full with a ton of over the top Christmas themed fight scenes. This movie isn’t necessarily scary but plays more into the aspects of comedic violence and gore.
16. P2 (2007)
P2 takes place on Christmas Eve and follows Angela, a young executive, who finds herself trapped in a parking garage as she becomes the obsession and victim of a deranged security guard. The film is a tense chase of cat and mouse that turns into a relentless battle for survival. This film utilizes the space well as a cold dark liminal space contrast against the war glow and comfort of Christmas just outside the victim’s reach. I also think this film has some interesting takes on loneliness and isolation during the holidays and the need to have someone around who cares about you. The film's relentless suspense will have you nervously watching every shadow and corner this Christmas shopping season.
17. Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022)
If you ever wished The Terminator was a Christmas film well then Christmas Bloody Christmas is the perfect watch for you. The story centers on a robotic Santa Claus that's gone haywire and wreaks havoc on a small town on Christmas Eve. This movie actually isn’t as cheesy as it sounds and mostly plays it out in a pretty straightforward manner. This one is a fun blend of action and horror and is probably one of the more accessible films on this list especially for fans of Christmas action films like Die Hard.
18. Advent Calendar (2021)
The Hell Priest comes home for Christmas. This is yet another French horror film that follows a woman who is given a mysterious advent calendar that seems to gift her things she wishes for in life. As the countdown to Christmas progresses, the film takes a deadly turn, as it seems nothing good can come without a cost. This film has a creature that feels very much inspired by Hellraiser and I mean that with the highest form of praise. As gimmicky as the premise seems, I was actually very impressed by Advent Calendar and I found it to be a recent addition to the Christmas horror genre that excelled at delivering a horrific premise on a Christmas theme.
19. Silent Night (2021)
What if your last day in this world just so happened to coincide with Christmas? This is the heavy and somber premise presented in this recent horror release. Silent Night follows a group of friends who come together for a Christmas dinner that takes a harrowing turn when a mysterious global crisis unfolds outside. This film is quite dark and does an amazing job of capturing the dread of existential horror and convincingly roots it in Christmas. Despite its exceedingly depressing premise, Silent Night provides a healthy dose of witty British black comedy and the talented ensemble cast delivers performances that immerse you in the story and its characters. If you're seeking a fresh and relevant take on Christmas horror that also provides some food for thought, Silent Night is a well crafted albeit somber choice.
20. I Trapped the Devil (2019)
This is a scrappy independent film that unravels a tense and unsettling story about a small family gathering for Christmas. When one family member believes he has captured a malevolent force in his basement, the line between reality, paranoia, and psychosis becomes blurred. The movie explores themes of isolation, family dynamics, and the darkness that lives deep within each of us. I Trapped the Devil is a tense slow-burn that builds suspense and explores a psychological horror within each one of its characters.
21. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
This one might get a scoff from some of the hardcore horror kids but this list is already littered with various horror sub-genres so I think adding a quality Thriller film is fair enough. In truth, Eyes Wide Shut is a dark and mysterious film that has some grounded underlying real life horror baked in and it is absolutely dripping with some over the top luxurious Christmas aesthetics. This might be a good one to watch with some of your more horror adverse family members but fair warning that it is hyper sexual so it's probably not one you should watch with your Grandma.
22. It’s a Wonderful Knife (2023)
The newest film on this list It’s a Wonderful Knife just dropped in time to kick the 2023 Christmas season. As you can imagine, this is a play off the premise of the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life and follows Winnie who initially saves her town from a Christmas themed killer until she is thrown into a parallel universe where she never existed. I really enjoyed the design of the killer in this one and Justin Long stars as an over the top and entertaining business mogul bent on overtaking an entire sleepy town. This one may still be in the theaters by the time this list comes out and I think it will definitely serve to scratch that Christmas inch for all of the horror fans looking for a new festive film to add to their repertoire.
23. Calvaire (2004)
Our final French language film on this list and surprise surprise, it's another extremely disturbing film. The French sure know how to make things bleak and Calvaire is no exception as it focuses on a traveling singer named Mark who becomes stranded in the middle of nowhere when his van breaks down during the holidays. Calvaire plays with a lot of well established gender troupes and flips them on their head while also touching on some pretty interesting religious commentary. This might be the hardest watch on this list and while it is a quality film it's not a particularly pleasurable watch. This film also probably represents the least amount of Christmas aesthetic and feelings but it is a film for those hardcore horror heads that want to push their limits this season.
24. The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020)
Werewolf films are not particularly common or quality these days and so I was absolutely thrilled to find one that also just so happened to be Christmas themed as well. This movie centers on a small mountain town that is plagued by a number of gruesome murders against women that seems to be linked to an unnatural beast. The Wolf of Snow Hollow offers up an intriguing mystery surrounding the deaths but it's also filled with some pretty dry humor and an interesting character study. For the hardcore horror sleuths, The Wolf of Snow Hollow might just be one of the best Christmas hidden gems on this list.
25. Body (2015)
Three close friends who are on college break and home for the holidays decide to have a fun girl’s night out. However, their night of fun quickly spirals out of control as the women find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Body is deeply unsettling and another film that is very much grounded in some true life horrors. It’s difficult to talk too much about this film without getting into spoilers but it is quite short and once it starts going it doesn’t really let off the gas until the very end. This is one in particular that gave me quite a bit of anxiety and I think it's just overall a very underseen Christmas horror film that's definitely worth checking out.
As the final credits roll and the echoes of eerie jingles fade away, these top 25 Christmas horror films stand tall as an embodiment of the sinister allure of the holiday season. From ghastly encounters with malevolent spirits to the terrors lurking in the snowy landscapes, these films blend the merry and the macabre with unforgettable flair. So, snuggle closer to the fire, but keep an eye over your shoulder, because in the world of Christmas horror, even the most joyful moments hold a shadowy secret. Here's to a holiday season filled with spine-tingling scares and as always, until next time, don't forget to keep chillin’!