This weekend, Krampus will deliver a terrifying message of murder, mayhem and punishment to those falling on the holiday demon’s naughty list. In some European cultures, Krampus acts as an evil counterpart to St. Nicholas, the jolly mystical figure often associated with Santa Claus. While St. Nicholas doles out presents to good children, Krampus is a horned demon who beats bad children with a cane and occasionally carries them off in a sack to eat or imprison in his hellish lair.
Krampus is the latest in a long line of horror movies (usually of the low budget B-movie variety) that subvert holiday themes and imagery to terrify and scare moviegoers. While most of these horror movies aren’t “good” per se, they do add a macabre layer to what’s usually an almost painfully festive season. To celebrate the release of Krampus, here’s five of our favorite horror movies set during the Christmas season.
Starring the famous wrestler Goldberg as an evil version of Santa Claus, Santa’s Slay was an over the top horror film released straight to DVD in 2005. Santa’s Slay explained that Santa was actually the son of Satan forced to deliver presents for 1000 years after losing a curling match (y’know, the Winter Olympics game where you push stones down the ice) to an angel. With his 1,000 year sentence finished, Santa Claus goes on a rampage, killing dozens of people in ghoulish holiday fashion. Santa and his “hell-deer” meet their supposed end when a local man shoots down Santa’s sleigh with a bazooka, but Santa secretly escaped to bide his time until next Christmas.
One year before Michael Keaton released a heartwarming movie by the same name about a man reincarnated as a snowman, A-Pix Entertainment released Jack Frost, a horror B-movie about a serial killer mutated into a killer snowman in a freak accident. Jack heads to a small town, seeking revenge on the sheriff who arrested him and racks up a large body count as he murders his way through the town. While melting his body only temporarily incapacitates Jack, the sheriff and his allies discover that the killer snowman’s true weakness is antifreeze. Jack Frost was popular enough to justify a sequel Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, this time set in a tropical setting.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
A more serious “Santa slasher” film, Silent Night, Deadly Night was about a boy who witnessed his parents’ murder by a man dressed as Santa Claus and develops a lifelong fear/hatred of the merry holiday spirit. After spending years in a dysfunctional orphanage, the boy goes insane after he’s forced to dress as Santa for a party and goes on a killing spree, murdering anyone who he feels is “naughty”. The film’s marketing campaign drew a lot of controversy due to movie posters showing Santa Claus carrying an axe and protests led to the film getting pulled from theatres after only one week. However, the controversy pushed Silent Night, Deadly Night into a state of infamy, leading to four sequels, three of which featuring the boy’s younger brother, who donned a Santa suit in memory of his family.
Nightmare Before Christmas
Although most consider The Nightmare Before Christmas to be a Christmas film, any movie from the twisted mind of Tim Burton is sure to feature plenty of scares and horror. The Nightmare Before Christmas center around the residents of Halloween Town, a magical town in charge of organizing annual Halloween celebrations. Led by the goodhearted but ignorant Jack Skellington, Halloween Town decides to turn its attention to the newly discovered Christmas holiday, leading to Santa Claus’s kidnapping by the Boogey Man and millions of children terrorized by morbid Christmas presents. While Walt Disney Studios developed and funded The Nightmare Before Christmas, they decided it would be too dark for children, leading them to release the movie through a different studio. However, The Nightmare Beofre Christmas became a hit and has acted as a sort of gateway movie for an entire generation of angsty kids looking to connect with the morbid and dark world popularized by Tim Burton.
If you were born in the 1980s, you remember Gremlins, the dark comedy movie about a Furby-like creature named Gizmo that spawns evil reptilian Gremlins when exposed to water or fed after midnight. What most people probably don’t remember is that Gremlins was a Christmas movie, as Gizmo was originally a Christmas present for Billy, the protagonist of the film. The Gremlins went on their own holiday killing spree during the film, killing dozens due to their mischievous but deadly pranks. Gremlins was a surprise hit for Warner Bros., who later produced a less successful sequel. The movie also pushed the MPAA into creating the PG-13 rating, since the film’s cute and furry creatures clashed with satiric and dark acts of violence for the film.