Holiday Horror!

Tis the season for spiced eggnog, candy canes, and of course, Christmas horror movies. Compared to Halloween, there aren’t as many options, but with multiple streaming services now available, there a few gems worth checking out this year. So warm yourself by a yule log and spend the month of December checking out some of my recommendations below.

 

Black Christmas (1974/Directed by Bob Clark) This Canadian film about a group of sorority girls stalked by a stranger is a sheer classic. Many slashers that followed this, especially John Carpenter’s Halloween, owe a debt to Black Christmas for some of the techniques it used, namely the killer’s POV. Before you see the remake later this month, watch the original. A special yuletide kudos goes to Margot Kidder for playing Barb, the sorority sister who drinks and swears with the best of them.

 

Deadly Games (aka Dial Code Santa Clause/1990/directed by Renee Manzor) This bonkers French film deserves to be seen, and now that it’s available on Shudder, it should find a wider audience. Its 9-year-old protagonist Thomas (Alain Lalanne) is reminiscent of a certain blonde-haired kid from Home AloneĀ because of the way he booby traps his house against a crazed Santa Clause, but make no mistake, this is NOT a kid-friendly movie. ThisĀ  movie features one terrifying Jolly O’ St. Nick whose facial expressions alone will give you nightmares long after the credits roll.

 

Better Watch Out (2017/directed by Chris Peckover) It’s best if I don’t spill too much about this film because it has a lot of turns. In short, the film follows 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller), who has a crush on his 17-year-old babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge). After she rebuffs him as he tries to make a move as they watch a horror movie, strange things start to happen, indicating there’s someone who has a sinister motive. This one, especially its ending, is not for the squeamish.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984/Directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr). Are there any horror fans who haven’t seen this popular holiday slasher about little Billy who grows up to be a murderous Santa? If not, what are you waiting for? Stream this one and its first sequel. Skip the later movies.

Gremlins (1984/Directed by Joe Dante) This is another one that most folks have probably seen, but it’s my favorite Christmas movie. Is there anything cuter than Gizmo wearing a Santa hat and playing the keyboard in Billy’s (Zach Galligan) bedroom? I don’t think so! Even if you’ve seen this movie 100 times, it’s always worth a re-watch. Fun fact: Joe Dante wanted the film to lean into its horror elements more. One of the initial scripts called for the Gremlins to behead the mother and bounce her head down the stairs like a basketball. What could have been….

 

Happy watching!

For your holiday viewing pleasure

 

If you’re looking for a horror movie to watch during this holiday season, then let me recommend Black Christmas (1974), one of the most overlooked slasher movies that preceded Halloween but established a lot of the techniques that John Carpenter used in his much-acclaimed film.

The premise of Black Christmas is quite simple. Directed by Bob Clark, the Canadian horror flick focuses on a group of sorority sisters who are a tormented by anonymous phone calls that put them on edge when all they want to do is make plans for their holiday break. The film is loosely based on the urban legend of a killer who torments a babysitter and tells her to “check on the children,” and it is based on murders that occurred in Montreal.

So what makes Black Christmas different than other slasher films? For one, it predates the slasher wave that started in the late 1970s and peaked in the 1980s. It is generally a more innovative and unsettling film compared to all of the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween sequels, too. Black Christmas is a film heavy on atmosphere, from the location of the house to the squeal of violins in the soundtrack. The sorority sisters are picked off one by one, but the gore is never gratuitous. More unsettling than the deaths are the unnerving phone calls that follow.

The film also established the technique of creating a point of view from the killer’s perspective, which has been used countless times since, most notably in John Carpenter’s Halloween, which opens with a shot from a young Michael Myers’ POV, as he is about to murder his older sister, Judith. Carpenter uses this technique several times throughout the film, as Michael stalks Laurie Strode (Jaimee Lee Curtis) and her friends.

If you’re looking for a horror movie this holiday season, then check out Black Christmas. The film still holds up well and is generally creepy, especially its conclusion. It plays on the worst fears of every babysitter, and it is a lot more original than the nauseating slasher wave that followed.

If you have any Christmas horror movie recommendations, feel free to share!