Since the turn of the 20th Century, we have kept our spooky tales and traditions firmly attached to October. At one minute past midnight on November 1st, the pumpkins hit the trash, the trees go up and Christmas music begins playing in the background. This wasn’t always the case, however. For hundreds of years, families have gathered around the fire in the dead of winter to hear terror-inducing tales of Holiday Horror. The telling of these ghost stories is a folk custom that finds it roots in ancient Celtic traditions and was brought to the Americas by Scottish and Irish immigrants.
Jerome K. Jerome, a British writer and owner of the ultra-powerful Double Name, said, “Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood”. When the Puritans took power, however, Holiday Horror was permanently relegated to only be told on Halloween.
We here at Nightmare on Film Street are on a mission to take back the Christmas season and start telling spooky tales once again! Instead of the written word, however, we are starting the revolution by sharing five of our favorite Holiday Horror Short Films. The short film is the best equivalent we have today to the ghost stories that were told around the fireplace. All of these films have a manageable run time, so sit back and enjoy them all!
A Christmas Treat– Tim Sullivan
This one is near and dear to my heart because it is filled with mid-eighties nostalgia. Tim Sullivan, future director of 2001 Maniacs and Driftwood, made this short at the age of 21 and won himself a Fangoria Short Film Search Award. It may not be filled with state of the art creature effects, but it is a great cautionary tale about not listening to your parents. They always tell you to not try to sneak a peek at Santa while he is delivering your presents, and this short shows you what happens when little Jason disobeys that order.
My Name is Kris Kringle– Drew Daywalt
We have been told that he knows when we are sleeping, and that he also knows when we are awake. Apparently, he knows if we have been bad, or good, and we have been warned that we should be good, for goodness sake. What we were never told, however, is what would happen to us if we decided to be bad. Well, wonder no more, Fiends! This amazing short from Drew Daywalt stars Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3‘s R.A. Mihailoff as a killer who claims to be Santa Claus. Is he a lunatic that has gone on a four-child killing spree one Christmas Eve, or is he something much, much more sinister?
The Winter Stalker– Stephen Reedy
This Christmas short from Stephen Reedy is as beautifully shot as it is creepy. if you actually sit and think about it, Santa Claus is a very disturbing character. He is always watching you. He knows what you are thinking at all times. He has the ability and, even worse, the desire to reward or discipline you for your actions. To do this for every child in the world requires a certain level of obsessive behavior, and this short shows the depths of Santa’s devotion.
Treevenge– Jason Eisener
At 16 minutes in length, this one runs a bit longer than the other films on our list. Don’t let that hold you back, though, because Canadian director Jason Eisener’s 2008 short film is a delight. From the Jeremiah Johnson-esque opening to the gore-filled scenes of trees devouring children, this film is perfect for the Christmas season. Plants are living creatures, so what would happen if the Christmas trees finally had enough and decided to exact their revenge on us lowly humans? You can see Eisener’s penchant for humor and gore throughout the film and you also can see how he was absolutely dripping with talent. It’s no wonder, then, that he was then able to direct Hobo with a Shotgun and segments of The ABC’s of Death and V/H/S 2.
Santa– Manos Atzarakis
Every kid that celebrates Christmas stays up most of the night before, listening for old Saint Nick and his reindeer. Every bump and creek in the house could be him walking across your roof or him sliding down your chimney. What would happen, then if Santa is not in your home to leave presents and eat cookies? What id he is after a different type of treat? This disturbing short from Manos (The Hands of Fate) Atzarakis answers those questions and guarantees that you will be up all night thinking about it.
HUMBUG– Matt Thiesen & Justin Lee
Last, but not least, we have this beautifully done short from SiniSisters Productions starring Jessee Foudray & Milly Sanders. What do you do when your neighbor just flat-out refuses to get into the Christmas spirit? Why, you tie them up and draw the literal Hum Bug out of them, that’s what! This short has a lot of NSFW language, so be careful where you watch, but make sure you do watch this one. This is one of the most inventive Holiday Horrors that I have ever seen.
There you have it! These are six of our favorite Christmas and Holiday Horror films. Many of them are focused on Santa, and who can blame them. I was never cool with some fat dude breaking into my house and walking around while I sleep. Even as a child I had seen way too many horror films for this to be acceptable. What are some of your favorite Holiday Horrors? Join our Official Facebook Group and share your recommendations!