Andy Williams lied because December is not always “the most wonderful time of the year.” But with positivity oozing from every corner, even hinting at the possibility of having a negative emotion means you’re out of step with the entire world. It’s enough to make you want to put on a Santa Claus suit and burn it all down. This feeling — this subversion of the holiday spirit — makes Christmas horror films such a popular subgenre.
Christmas slashers are some of the most prominent, like “Black Christmas,” “Silent Night, Deadly Night,” and “Santa’s Slay.” This doesn’t even scratch the surface of how many seasonal slashers exist, but Christmas slashers have always felt like the funhouse mirror version of the Santa legend in that a mysterious intruder invades multiple locations but instead of leaving gifts … kills everyone.
The popularity of Christmas horror has expanded over the years, with transitionary horror like “Gremlins” and “Krampus,” ultra-gore fests like “Inside,” dark spins on classic lore like “Rare Exports,” killer kid flicks like “The Children,” Christmas horror comedies like “Jack Frost,” and even the beloved zombie-comedy musical, “Anna and the Apocalypse.” As varied and expansive as horror is as a genre, the subset of Christmas horror is just as diverse, which means there’s something for everyone. During a season that can serve as a painful reminder of loneliness, those tailor-made options can offer a lot more comfort than we’d normally anticipate.
One of my favorite memories was curating a marathon of Christmas horror films at the bar my wife managed on Christmas Eve, screaming and laughing along with a gaggle of patrons who, like us, had nowhere to go for the holiday. The cheap alcohol brought us together, but the Christmas horror is what kept everyone around for hours.