For most people, the worst violence they encounter at Christmas is arguing with someone about the latest Cabbage Patch Doll or Tickle Me Elmo at the toy store. But while the majority of holiday movies tend to aim for a warmer, fuzzier register of emotions, there’s a surprisingly robust subcategory of Christmas movies that feature much more aggressive takes on the season.
The last example is violent nightwhich is basically an even more Christmas riff on Die hard. A group of villains take a family hostage on Christmas Eve, but instead of Bruce Willis rushing to the rescue, the real Santa Claus (David Harbour) shows up to save them. He’s going to find out who’s bad or nice, and then he’s going to screw up the bad guys.
In honour of violent night, here’s 50 years of dark and violent horror and action movies set at Christmas and around. They might not do the best price for watching Christmas Eve with the family. But if you feel like a Grinch, they can really hit the mark.
Silent night, bloody night (1972)
Directed by Theodore Gershuny
“It was Christmas Eve… and in the whole house, not a creature had… remained alive.” So begins the chilling trailer for Silent night, bloody night, an early 1970s slasher about a series of murders in a small Massachusetts town on Christmas Eve. The plot involves incest, amputations and assorted murders (not sled). The movie is in the public domain due to a copyright issue, so you can watch it in full here.
black christmas (1974)
Directed by Bob Clark
One of the greatest movie anecdotes of all time: Bob Clark, the man who made perhaps the most beloved Christmas movie of the past 50 years, A Christmas storyalso made one of the darkest Christmas movies of all time. black christmas is the prototypical Yuletide slasher, featuring a series of murders in a sorority house in the run-up to Christmas. The film has become so iconic that it has already been remade twice, in 2006 and 2019.
The evil of Christmas (1980)
Directed by Lewis Jackson
This particularly unpleasant work is essentially Halloween fixed two months later. A child is traumatized at Christmas when he sees his mother having fun with Santa Claus (in fact it is his father). When he grows up, instead of putting on a William Shatner mask and jumpsuit, he dresses like – who else? – Santa, and starts hacking people between current deliveries. No wonder this film is originally titled You better be careful.
Directed by Joe Dante
You thought these tube socks were a crummy gift? At least the tube socks didn’t turn into growling, slimy, mischievous hellbeasts! This is what happens in Gremlins, where an innocent Christmas present from a father to his son almost destroys an entire town. For all the chaos caused by the Gremlins. As disgusting as some Gremlins is – like a melting death to rival what happens to the Nazis at the end of The Raiders of the Lost Ark – the most unsettling part of the whole film might be when Phoebe Cates tells why she hates Christmas – a story that involves her father, a Santa costume, a broken neck and a very clogged and very smelly chimney.
Silent night, deadly night (1984)
Directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Whether Silent night, bloody night didn’t do it for you, maybe you’d rather Silent night, deadly night. In fact, the film is closer in concept to The evil of Christmas – it’s another story of a man who was traumatized as a boy at Christmas, who then grows up to associate the holiday with darkness and terror. Forced to dress like Santa Claus at work, he breaks down and goes on a rampage. All is not calm, all is not bright as the deranged young man in a Santa Claus costume smashes his way through the city with box cutters and axes.
Silent night, deadly night part 2 (1987)
Directed by Lee Harry
The killer of the first Silent night, deadly night had a brother – AKA an extremely handy protagonist/killer for a sequel. Walk in Part 2, which follows the brother on his own Christmas-themed path of destruction. But first: he tells the story of his brother to a psychiatrist so that the film finds a way to recycle a lot of footage from the first SN, DN. Then the story of the little brother follows, as he slaughters people he deems “naughty”. Couldn’t you just give them a lump of coal or something?!?
die hard (1988)
Directed by John McTiernan
It’s almost embarrassing that people have fought so long over whether or not die hard was a Christmas movie. Of course it was! It’s violent, sure, but it definitely qualifies. Detective John McClane fights to save his ex-wife and a group of hostages when their Christmas party is disrupted by terrorists. There are shootings, explosions and, worst of all, a scene where McClane walks through broken glass barefoot, leading to consequences where he has to drag his blood and battered carcass across the floor. That’s why I always find an excuse to get out of my own company’s Christmas party. I don’t need that kind of aggravation in my life.
Directed by Jeffrey Mandel
No, this one isn’t a black comedy about Santa’s overworked workforce standing up to their jolly overseer to demand better pay and fewer hours. That would be too logical! These elves are – wait for it – linked to a secret Nazi cult and are trying to take over the whole world by impregnating a pure-blooded virgin. You know, Christmas stuff. elves also includes the immortal line “I had a tough day at work, Santa got murdered.” (Don’t you hate when that happens?)
Jack Frost (1997)
Directed by Michael Cooney
As disturbing as the other Jack Frost is, this one might actually be even more gruesome. When a serial killer is exposed to chemicals, his evil essence fuses with snow and turns him into a murderous Frosty. Once must to leave give this slasher a few points for ingenuity; rather than the traditional instruments of destruction, Jack Frost tends to favor holiday-themed murders, such as strangling someone with Christmas lights or stabbing someone with an oversized icicle. Nobody gets poisoned with a bad batch of gingerbread, but you can’t win them all, I guess.
The red-dead man (2005)
Directed by Charles Band
Speaking of gingerbread: Meet The red-dead man, which is created when the ashes of a psychotic killer (Gary Busey!) are mixed with gingerbread spice by a witch. Yes it is this old cliche worn out again; old killer reincarnated as evil food by mixing his ashes with cookies by witch gag. The thematically appropriate kills in this one include death by a variety of kitchen utensils, not just knives. While real gingerbread goes stale in a few days, The red-dead man the franchise continued for four films over a decade, culminating in the classic sequel Ginderdead Man vs. Evil bong. Yes it is this old cliché worn again: old killer-reincarnates-into-evil-food-by-mixing-his-ashes-with-cookies-by-a-witch-then-fights-with-a- bang-maleficent. Come up with new ideas, Hollywood!
black christmas (2006)
Directed by Glen Morgan
This black christmas the remake (a second follow-up 13 years later) was so upsetting to some religious groups that they actively protested the film. (“Having a film that focuses on murder and mayhem at Christmas, a time of celebration and joy across the world seems to be misplaced,” said one of those offended parties, who had no obviously didn’t pay attention to movies in the last 35 years.) Admittedly, this is an even darker version of the original black christmas premise, with even more disturbing content and at least one impalement via the Christmas tree. Ouch.
silent night (2012)
Directed by Steven C. Miller
You know the drill now: this remake of Silent night, deadly night features yet another Santa-clad slasher. This guy uses axes, wood chippers, and even a flamethrower. (Look, you gotta roast these chestnuts over an open fire somehow.) A character notes that Christmas is “the number one holiday for people who go crazy.” Which, at least according to the movies, may actually be true.
Directed by Michael Dougherty
Don’t lose that Christmas spirit, or you might be visited by Krampus, an ancient spirit that resembles the dark side of Santa Claus. He kills people with an evil hold on the boxes, sentient gingerbread men, and an assortment of other goodies. This clever black comedy with an impressive cast has quickly become a holiday favorite for horror fans. Be good, for God’s sake!
Better be careful (2016)
Directed by Chris Peckover
This list could have been titled “Movies with trailers that start with a happy holiday song that turns into a dark twist” with very minimal changes. Better be careful would certainly have been suitable. It’s about a child and his babysitter who are terrorized by a masked intruder – or so it seems at first. Eventually, the film evolves into a very dark version of Alone at home — which, come to think of it, is itself a damn violent Christmas movie. It’s just that the violence is cartoonish and not bloody and disturbing.
The advent calendar (2021)
Directed by Patrick Ridremont
We are now 50 years into the history of twisted and violent Christmas movies, and while it sometimes seems like every conceivable variation on this formula has been exhausted, enterprising directors continue to invent new ways to transform the season. parties into a bloodbath. The advent calendar is exactly what it sounds like: a Christmas horror movie centered around a magical take on the holiday favorite. In it, a former paraplegic dancer receives this mysterious advent calendar as a gift. Eating the sweets causes strange calamities. Cue the bloodshed and mayhem – just what everybody wants for Christmas.