Tomorrow is Christmas. On the eve of this great holiday, I thought it would be appropriate to provide a guide for my fellow horror fans of what to watch for the holidays. For the child in the family: The Year Without a Santa Clause Judging by my mother's reaction to this stop-motion animated special, the presence of Heat Miser, Snow Miser, and Jack Frost will either scare a child into behaving properly at Christmas dinner or cause them to think you're the coolest adult they've ever met for all the awesome action sequences.
For the child within: Gremlins Go ahead, laugh all you want at the Christmas-hued gag sequences in the final reel. Just don't come crying to me when the closing narration sends shivers down your spine.
For the whole family: The Nightmare Before Christmas
It's fun for the whole family (the music! the humor! the fantasy!), but a more experienced viewer will enjoy the wonder of the songs while sinking further and further into dread as Jack Skellington tiptoes to the edge of insanity.
For the horror fan with a heart for Christmas: Christmas Evil Christmas Evil is an anomaly of sorts. It was heavily protested when it came out because Santa kills somebody, but it's not a slasher film as modern packaging suggests. It is the sad, weird tale of a man so obsessed with Santa Clause after childhood trauma that he has to become him at any cost.
For the horror fan who hates the holidays: Silent Night, Deadly Night You want blood on the snow and a homicidal Santa Clause? Choose this one.
For the horror fan who likes the holidays but wants an objectively good horror film: The Christmas Tale from Six Films to Keep You Awake It's a surprisingly strong cross between The Goonies and a slasher. A group of kids find a woman dressed as Santa Clause in a pit in the forest. They don't know that she just robbed a bank and will do anything to get away with her crime. You ever seen a serial killer sequence in a shut-down water park in the middle of winter? You should.
For the horror fan who can take or leave the holidays but wants an actual slasher: Black Christmas If you pick up the remake, it's your own fault. It's not a Christmas film beyond the title as it's about a group of sorority girls spending winter break on campus. The original is the first body count slasher film and holds up beautifully in spite of the breadth of copycat films released afterward (and yes, it predates Halloween; and no, Psycho was not a body count slasher).
For the masochistic horror fan: The Jack Frost Films So you're filled with self-loathing for the holidays and want to experience more pain? Pop in these two duds and you'll forget your troubles trying understand how the first one warranted a sequel and why the sequel even counts as a film.
For the slapstick horror fan: The Invisible Man It's been almost seventy years since this film's snowy visuals pioneered a new method of effects work and they're still breathtaking. Once you reach that last reel, you might think your DVD cut to a particularly dark Keystone Cops routine.
For the vampire fan celebrating Christmas: Thirst What better way to celebrate the holiest day of the year than with a moody character/suspense film about a priest who becomes a vampire?
For the non-celebrating vampire fan: Let the Right One In No, not Let Me In, Let the Right One In. As in, you'll be disappointed by horrible CGI if you don't Let the Right One In. Blood and snow is always a good match.
For the non-celebrating horror fan, black and white edition: The Curse of the Cat People This beautiful dark fantasy features one of the scariest monologues in the history of horror as well as a final act set in a winter landscape that oozes style and suspense.
For the non-celebrating horror fan, color edition: Orphan Orphan is one of those films that got a bad rap because a bunch of too cool for school kids decided spoiling the ending was funny. The joke's on them as this taut and frosty thriller works better on repeated viewings. Just let yourself go into Cold War paranoia mode and the twist ending magically becomes realistic. Or laugh at all the intentional camp. Your call.