It’s been 50+ days since Halloween, and you’ve watched The Nightmare Before Christmas 30 times (it’s a Halloween movie, btw). You think there are only a handful of good Christmas horror movies, Black Christmas and Gremlins are agreed upon as the best, we all know this. But maybe there are some movies you haven’t given a fair chance. Whether it’s a better horror movie than you think or more of a Christmas movie than you remember, there are a ton of underrated Christmas horror movies out there.
As usual, we have you covered in showing you another angle at smaller films and a list of recommendations for the top 10 most underrated Christmas horror films. Check some of these films out to avoid Santa’s naughty list!
10. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Starting off the list is crowd favorite Silent Night, Deadly Night. Notoriously pulled from theaters after just one week following negative reviews and controversy over it’s content, the film has garnered a cult following over the years. In those years since, the franchise has spiraled into absurdity. The first is no masterpiece, but I think it’s unfairly looped in with the rest of the zany series. The original Silent Night, Deadly Night is underrated as a simple, yet very effective slasher. The premise of a killer taking the persona of such a beloved character like Santa Claus is supremely unsettling, along with Billy’s abusive upbringing. Between a low budget, bad acting, and heavy censorship from the MPAA, the film falters in execution. Most watch it for the “so bad it’s good” effect, but I think Silent Night, Deadly Night has some pretty sweet kills and the foundation for a great horror movie.
9. Jack Frost (1997)
Next up is Jack Frost. No, not the Michael Keaton film which is arguably scarier, but the 1997 train wreck Jack Frost. Even amongst B-movies this one doesn’t get a fair shake. The previous entry on the list, I was arguing a bad-good movie as being just good. This is another bad-good movie that is definitely just bad-bad, but it’s the perfect bad-good movie. So does that make it…good? Not sure, kind of lost myself, but Jack Frost should be on everybody’s Christmas watch list, regardless. Something about this movie just works, possibly how self-serious it is. The story makes no sense, the effects are cheesy, the acting is terrible, yet the movie tries so hard. And is there any world where the premise of mutant snowman is done well? The bad movie charm is what gives Jack Frost the ultimate movie participation award. It’s a horror-comedy masterpiece…sort of.
8. Good Tidings (2016)
Slowly exiting the silly into darker territory.. is the micro-budget film Good Tidings. The film centers around a group of homeless people getting preyed upon in an empty courtroom by 3 Santa-masked killers. If you can ignore the obvious low production quality, there is a tense invasion thriller here set with a Christmas backdrop. The homeless backdrop also adds empathy to the story: a group with no hope is stalked by a symbol that represents hope and pure joy- that’s terrifying. It takes a minute for the kills to start, but once they do…you’re in for a grisly sleigh ride!
7. Wind Chill (2007)
Before defending her family from sound monsters in A Quiet Place, you could find Emily Blunt starring in paranormal thriller Wind Chill 11 years earlier. Depicting a college student’s worst nightmare, this film tells a story of carpooling home for the holidays gone strange. The film is a mystery that uses the winter setting to its advantage. Like its title, Wind Chill feels cold and your goosebumps only multiply with the eerie use of Christmas music. A very slow burn, so this isn’t a Christmas party type of movie. Rather a ghost story to enjoy on a quiet night with a cup of hot chocolate. Without getting into spoilers, the end of this mind bending story will leave your heart frozen and broken.
6. Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)
This next film would be a Christmas horror classic if it weren’t for two films on this list. 1972’s Silent Night, Bloody Night is a top-notch ‘whodunnit’ throwback that is criminally underrated. This film has it all: a creepy estate, smalltown setting with unique characters, family conspiracy, and so much more. Silent Night, Bloody Night takes you through a sleepy town in New England plagued by a string of murders. One thing this movie introduced was used of creepy phone calls, which would be popularized by Black Christmas two years later. Another way it’s overshadowed is confusion with the Slient Night, Deadly Night series. Silent Night, Bloody Night is so different from both; a fun blend of eerie atmosphere and over the top drama. It’s like a gothic horror Soap Opera’s Christmas special, check it out if you haven’t!
5. P2 (2007)
If all you want for Christmas is Wes Bentley’s creepy eyes, boy do I have the movie for you! I love contained thrillers and P2 is a fantastic Christmas horror movie. Set mainly in the confines of a parking garage on Christmas Eve, a security guard (Rachel Nichols) is stalked by a creepy co-worker (Wes Bently, obviously) in a deadly cat-and-mouse game. It’s a story you’ve seen before, however the film makes brilliant use of its setting. The performances are very believable as well, with our leads duking it out in a mental chess match. With the will to get home for Christmas, our protagonist battles it out throughout the film with twists and turns culminating in a very satisfying finale. This one is mainly underrated for its obscurity.
4. Anna and the Apocalypse (2018)
The only reason this is on a list for underrated Christmas horror movies instead of simply the best is that it just came out this year and it wouldn’t be fair. But it would also not be fair to shout out your next Christmas horror staple, Anna and the Apocalypse is freakin’ rad. This british genre mash-up combines catchy songs with zombie mayhem, as a group of students sling and slash their way to their loved ones. This film is an absolute delight, entertaining from start to finish. For the many things it is, this Christmas-zombie-coming of age-musical at its core is a family movie. There’s a very heartfelt message, just have to make through all the blood and guts to get there!
3. Black Christmas (2006)
If you read any list of mine, you know I gotta throw some controversy in there. I absolutely love the 2006 remake of Black Christmas. Apart of a wave of violent remakes of horror classics, this film saw a retelling of the 1974 classic with added backstory to Billy the killer. For some, explaining the killer is an immediate red flag however in Black Christmas, it added to the grisliness of the film. I hope you are good with eye stuff, because this movie is straight-up gnarly, utilizing fantastic practical effects. Another plus to the film is the visual flair, utilizing colors (primarily red & green for a festive atmosphere) and camera angles to give the film a distinct aesthetic. Black Christmas also adds a second killer for double the body count. Lastly, the film has a stocking stuffed cast of future stars like Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Katie Cassidy adding charisma to the film’s lackluster script. This is a Christmas treat for gore fans!
2. Krampus (2015)
Runner-up for most underrated Christmas horror movie is the 2015 horror-comedy Krampus. Directed by Mike Dougherty (Trick r Treat) who knows a thing or two about holiday movies, Krampus captures the very essence of the holiday in a very realistic way. Fed up with his dysfunctional family, a little boy wishes them away bringing Santa’s demonic cousin, Krampus. The movie is very cold and atmospheric being snowed in, with a mixture of CGI and practical effects adding to the stellar production design. The film also boasts an ensemble cast of genre film alums including Adam Scott, Toni Collette, and David Koechner. Krampus is the perfect film to watch on Christmas because it’s a gothic fairy tale and you feel the magic, just not the good kind.
1. Better Watch Out (2017)
Taking the top spot is another recent film. Better Watch Out is not only an underrated Christmas movie, but an underrated horror movie in general. Which will hopefully the change over time, this film has all the makings of a classic. A boy and his babysitter are trapped home alone with a killer lurking from outside, or is he already inside? I can’t give away the big twist, but I can say this film subverts the classic babysitter home invasion in genius ways. Better Watch Out is fantastically shot, darkly hilarious, features some clever kills, topped off with a breakout performance from Levi Miller. I’ll admit a large reason this would be on an underrated list is most will argue Christmas is barely apart of it, but if someone is tied up with Christmas lights, it belongs. There are many great Christmas chillers out there, but Better Watch Out deserves to be up there with greats.
What do you think of my list, how many of these Christmas horror flicks have you seen? I know we all want to watch Gremlins 25 times, but if you’re looking to expand your horror horizons, I urge you to check out some of these smaller films. You still have a couple of weeks before Christmas to catch up!