If you feel like you’re overdosing on festive cheer this year, the antidote could be a timely injection of festive fear. Just in the nick of time, here’s our pick of the scariest Christmas films ever made, from ’80s classic Gremlins to December 2015’s Krampus, a raucous horror comedy flick starring Adam Scott (Parks And Recreation) and Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense).
An endlessly watchable horror comedy film set against a Christmas backdrop, Gremlins centres on a seemingly adorable furry creature called Gizmo who produces a brood of evil relatives when he gets wet or is fed after midnight. Gremlins 2: The New Batch followed in 1990 and there’s talk of a threequel next year. #BringBackGizmo
2Dead End (2003)
Dead End (2003)
Made for just £700,000, this atmospheric French chiller has now raked in more than £50 million in DVD sales. When a father driving his family to Christmas at grandma’s house decides to take an unfamiliar shortcut, what could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot, it turns out, involving ghostly visions, roadside deaths and a not so happy ending…
3Silent Night Deadly Night (1984)
Silent Night Deadly Night (1984)
This film’s title is no red herring: it’s about a tormented teenager who goes on a killing spree dressed in a Santa suit. Silent Night Deadly Night caused so much controversy at the time that it was pulled from US cinemas a week after it came out, but it’s since gained a sizeable cult following.
4Black Christmas (1974)
Black Christmas (1974)
Partly inspired by a series of real life murders, this Canadian slasher flick follows a posse of sorority sisters as they’re terrorised during the holiday season by a deranged murderer hiding in the attic. Black Christmas got the remake treatment in 2006, but stick with the low budget original for superior festive chills.
5Rare Exports: A Christmas Story (2010)
Rare Exports: A Christmas Story (2010)
This brilliantly twisted Finnish film offers a fresh take on the wicked idea that Santa Claus isn’t a cuddly old dude with a beard and a bagful of presents, but a cold-blooded child murderer. Billy Bob Thornton’s Bad Santa looks kind of adorable in comparison.
6Jack Frost (1997)
Jack Frost (1997)
This low budget horror comedy film centres on a serial killer who mutates into a murderous snowman during the week before Christmas. Jack Frost is pretty much as ridiculous as it sounds, but definitely scarier than the cosy Michael Keaton movie of the same name that came out the following year.
7The Children (2008)
The Children (2008)
However irritating your younger relatives get this festive season, they have nothing on the kids at the heart of The Children, who turn on their parents spectacularly after contracting a mysterious virus during the Christmas holidays. This well-regarded Brit horror flick is definitely worth seeking out.
8A Christmas Horror Story (2015)
A Christmas Horror Story (2015)
This inventive horror anthology film features five interwoven stories that pack in ghosts, the mythological creature Krampus (more on him later) and a posse of zombie elves. Still not convinced? They’re linked together by a framework narrative starring none other than William Shatner as a radio DJ.
9Christmas Evil (1980)
Christmas Evil (1980)
Also known as You Better Watch Out and Terror in Toyland, this cult slasher film is about a man so obsessed with Christmas, he sleeps in a Santa costume and takes a job at a toy factory. After he suffers a nervous breakdown, things get a lot more twisted – put it this way, John Waters reckons it’s the best Christmas movie ever.
In eastern European folklore, Krampus is a horned and hoofed monster who punishes badly-behaved children during the holiday season. This Gremlins-inspired comedy horror film brings him to an affluent US suburb, where he terrorises Adam Scott and Toni Collette’s squabbling family as payback when they forget the true spirit of Christmas.