10 Spooky Christmas Films To Spread Holiday Fear

Artwork for "Black Christmas" (1974), Warner Bros.

Ursula Muñoz Schaefer/Opinion Director

It’s been a difficult fall semester, but thankfully the holidays are just around the corner. While many who celebrate Christmas will jump at the opportunity to rewatch old classics like “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “The Polar Express” once final week ends, those who prefer darker fare will likely find themselves rolling their eyes at the holly and ribbon triteness that comes with these iconic holiday films.

If you’re someone who prefers horrors, thrillers or just plain weirdness — fear not, because I’ve got you covered. Here are 10 spooky holiday-themed movies to watch this December, for the Grinches and the Ebenezer Scrooges.

1. Black Christmas (1974)

Often credited as one of the earliest slasher films, “Black Christmas” is also one of the movies I’ll recommend most for those seeking something creepy to watch during the holidays. This feminist horror thriller deals with a group of sorority girls who are haunted by a serial killer who breaks into their house right before Christmas break. It’s as suspenseful as it is terrifying, even among the Yuletide setting.

Available to stream on Shudder; free on Tubi

2. Gremlins (1984)

If you’re looking for a horror classic that can still be enjoyed with family this holiday season, there’s no going wrong with “Gremlins.” The 80’s Christmas flick about reptilian mutants with mammalian origins will never not be fun to drink your eggnog to. And unlike a few other films on this list, this one has a happy ending — something that would be much appreciated in 2020.

Available to rent on iTunes and Prime Video

3. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

More than two decades after its release, it’s safe to refer to “Eyes Wide Shut” as the ultimate WTF-Christmas movie. Stanley Kubrick’s last film before his passing is a mystery thriller about a man who visits an underground sex group after his wife admits to having fantasized about someone else at a holiday party. If you’ve yet to see this classic and that oddball synopsis isn’t enough to reel you in, know that there’s plenty of eerie imagery soaked in holiday aesthetic awaiting you.

Available to stream on Hulu

4. The Lodge (2020)

If this pandemic has pushed back every major film release you were excited for this year, you’ll be happy to know that “The Lodge,” which played in theaters back in February, is currently streaming on Hulu. Following a cult survivor who spends Christmas at a faraway cabin with her boyfriend’s family, “The Lodge” is an anxiety-inducing horror tale about trauma and how we deal with it. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart, but definitely captivating, and tense as hell.

Available to stream on Hulu

5. Krampus (2015)

Creature features don’t get much more creative than 2015’s “Krampus.” Based on the Eastern European horror legend who punishes children who misbehave during the holidays, this movie features demonic dolls, gingerbread monsters and the titular anthropomorphic horned figure, in a spectacular visual effects showcase. It’s also an ensemble comedy lead by ultimate scream-queen Toni Colette, but that doesn’t mean that the emotional beats don’t hit when they need to.

Available to rent on iTunes and Prime Video

6. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s popular holiday mashup is many audiences’ go-to on every Christmas and Halloween — and for good reason. Iconic songs and gorgeous stop-motion animation make it a fun watch even for those who steer far away from the horror genre, and the story of a Pumpkin King who tries to reinvent himself as Santa Claus will resonate with anyone who’s ever been too hard on themselves. “This Is Halloween” will also always be a jam.

Available to stream on Disney+

7. Batman Returns (1992)

Another modern classic from Burton, “Batman Returns” shares the stage with “Die Hard” as perhaps the greatest holiday action spectacle you’ll ever see. Fans of the Caped Crusader who’ve yet to watch this should know that this film captures the grimy aesthetic of Gotham like no other Batman movie since. With “Returns,” Burton managed to make the best action set pieces out of holiday decor, and several sequences — like the film’s captivating opening — are also pure gothic horror.

Available to stream on HBO Max

8. Better Watch Out (2016)

The less you know about “Better Watch Out” going in, the better. What begins as a by-the-numbers home invasion thriller about a boy and his babysitter, soon evolves into something much more sinister as the twists begin to turn. It doesn’t quite reinvent the wheel or cover any new ground, but it’s certainly serviceable if you’re looking for trashy fun during the holidays and your “Home Alone” DVD is scratched.

Available to stream on Shudder and Prime Video; free on Tubi

9. Tales From the Crypt (1972)

What’s better than one scary movie? A five-part horror anthology! Based on the EC Comics of the same name, “Tales From the Crypt” went on to inspire the famous HBO television series, as well as numerous spin-offs and home media. It’s safe to say that the 1972 film peaks with its first story, about a woman who murders her husband on Christmas Eve, only to meet her fate when a serial killer dressed as Santa Claus comes knocking on her door. It’s as crazy as it sounds, and a must-watch for horror cultists.

Free on Tubi

10. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

I’ll be honest; “Anna and the Apocalypse” isn’t the best movie on this list, but it’s certainly the most original. A coming-of-age zombie musical that takes place during the holiday season, this film follows a group of friends as they square off against the undead in the days leading up to Christmas break. There’s plenty of fun to be had, but a bittersweet ending dealing with themes of loss and resilience makes it the ultimate pandemic watch.

Available to stream on Hulu and Prime Video

And with that, I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year! Hopefully 2021 ends up being a lot less scary.

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