5 Terrifying Christmas Horror Movie Monsters Revisited
Christmas is a magical season. It’s also a monstrous one. Anyone who knows the pain of sold-out gifts and cats toppling over Christmas trees (not to, um, mention mounting debt and a tenuous global economy) is aware of how the season of giving can easily, and swiftly, become a season of horror. Christmas horror is, at least in the mainstream still a nascent subgenre. Other than Krampus and two (yes, two) Black Christmas remakes, there have been few– if any– wide release Christmas horror stories.
Luckily, with the combined efforts of the indie and international scene, Christmas horror has thrived. The result is a subgenre that’s truly the greatest of gifts. Here, we’ll be counting down some of the fiercest, most monstrous Christmas creatures seen on screen. Admittedly, some of these have more of a general holiday zest to them than Christmas writ large. But all of them are monstrous, dangerous beasties anyone would shudder to come across this season.
1. Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas, otherwise known as Santa Claus, is perhaps the preeminent Christmas villain. Most Christmas horror (e.g. Silent Night, Deadly Night) usually has a homicidal maniac don Claus’ signature wardrobe. But some other horror outings have returned to the myth itself, centering the Santa Claus of yore as the principal baddie. Both Dick Maas’ Saint and Jalmari Helander’s Rare Exports, Dutch and Finnish exports respectively, make use of mythic Santas for unkempt bloodshed. In Saint, Sinterklaas, the Dutch Santa, is reimagined as a homicidal ghost who murders swaths of people when his annual celebration coincides with a full moon. In Rare Exports, Santa is a commodity, a creature to be captured and traded, though not without the rebellion of his army of terrifying elves. Both reimagine Santa, not as a loveable lump who gives, but a bloodthirsty fiend who takes lives. It’s terrifying.
Six years after release, Michael Dougherty’s Krampus still doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It’s a sensational crowd-pleaser, featuring the best practical monster mayhem this side of Gremlins. Most of that is due to Dougherty’s adroit balance of laughs and scares and the titular monster itself. Known colloquially as the anti-Claus, Krampus punishes the bad during the holidays, his mythos shifting from innocuous whips to horrific kidnappings and imprisonments. The moral being, writ large, that you’d better freaking behave. While Dougherty’s Krampus is the pinnacle of the beast’s filmic outings, Krampus similarly starred in A Christmas Horror Story’s best segment. He even made an appearance in several VOD releases and a semi-scary episode of American Dad. Krampus is a sensational monster, the perfect foil to saccharine Christmas drudgery.
Speaking of Gremlins, well, gremlins! Joe Dante’s Christmas classic follows Billy (Zach Galligan) who’s gifted a mogwai he quickly names Gizmo (spoiler: Gizmo rocks). There are sundry rules associated with Gizmo’s care, however. If they’re broken, certain doom is inevitable. Soon, rules are broken, and Gizmo sprouts several monstrous, toothy gremlins. They’re a sort of primal mogwai that intends to torment and cause general havoc. A contemporary urban legend, Gremlins is sensational, in large part of how playful the titular monsters are. They’re fun, funny, and genuinely menacing when they need to be. At one point they launch an elderly woman straight through her window. Gizmo is a holiday icon, a wise reminder to be grateful—and care—for your gifts.
4. Jack Frost
Jack Frost and its sequel, Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman (what a title), aren’t exactly good movies. But it doesn’t matter when your central beastie is a killer snowman. Serial killer Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) is fused with snow after a genetic accident. He soon embarks on a killing spree, one that continues into the sequel with the addition of tiny, killer snowmen. They’re very cute (and deadly), and both films bask in the glory of general mayhem and sensational practical effects. Luckily, neither take themselves too seriously. For those interested in some B-movie madness around the holidays, it rarely gets better than Jack Frost.
5. Zombie Children
Children are mostly awful. Well, that’s unfair. But children around the holidays– other than one’s own– seem like they’re just the worst. They’re greedy, mouthy, entitled, and a genuine chore to be around. This is expertly exploited Tom Shankland’s 2008 shocker The Children, a genuinely intense foray into the worst of what children can do. A family is traveling to spend New Year’s with loved ones, though along the way, their children are infected with a bacterial infection. Soon they develop homicidal tendencies, gnawing and slashing at all the adults. Genuinely scary, tense, and bloody, The Children is an unsung gem, a terrifying worst-case Christmas scenario. Kids are scary, full stop.
What are your favorite Christmas horror monsters? Are there any I left out? Let us know on Twitter, and as always, stay spooky this holiday season!