Let's talk Christmas horror films

Let's talk Christmas horror films

William S. Wilson
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Joined: 17 Oct 2004, 20:18

16 Dec 2006, 22:36 #1

With the holiday (and release of the BLACK CHRISTMAS remake) nearly upon us, it is time to discuss the subgenre of the "Christmas horror" film. There was a nice discussion of CHRISTMAS EVIL (aka YOU BETTER WATCH OUT) recently:

http://z8.invisionfree.com/MHVF/index.p ... topic=6787

I can't think of a holiday that has more horror films set around it (and that includes Halloween). So what are some of your favorites? My list would include

GREMLINS (1984) - This was probably the first film I saw that mixes the holiday and horror. Joe Dante absolutely nails the tone with the best example being the pre-kitchen fight. Where else could "Do you hear what I hear?" be so scary? Plus, you have the Phoebe Cates story about her father. Probably my favorite Christmas horror movie.

The SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT series - I actually love the first film in this series. The characters and dialogue are great (and infinitely quotable). How can you not feel sorry for Billy? After all, he was scolded by a nun for looking at nude people and forced into that Santa's outfit by Mr. Sims. That would make anyone want to punish! I could do without the sequels (I think the fourth one isn't even set on Christmas) although pt. 2 has grown on me for being insanely cheesy after I got over the rip-off shock. I seem to recall a drunk Mickey Rooney (in character only I hope) getting bashed over the head with a Jack Daniels bottle in pt. 5. Why aren't they still making these?

SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1974) - I really like this film. I'll admit that the film's twist got me and I appreciate that. But I also think director Theodore Gershuny pulls off a nice style too. The sepia flashback is great and done really well. I also like the killer's POV which is similar to Bob Clark's BLACK CHRISTMAS (which is strange as this was filmed first). Plus you have Mary Woronov and John Carradine in supporting roles.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) - This Amicus anthology has the first cinematic killer Santa Claus I believe as he attacks a housebound Joan Collins who is trying to cover up a secret of her own. This is fantastic stuff (the whole film is topnotch and one of my favorite anthologies). This was also re-done by Robert Zemeckis for the HBO series in the 80s (I think it was the first episode) and he did a pretty good job with it. It wasn't nearly as scary as his other Christmas film (POLAR EXPRESS) though. :)

I'd have to say the worst Christmas horror film I have seen would be Ted Nicolau's PUPPET MASTER VS. DEMONIC TOYS (2004), which debuted on the Sci-Fi Channel. Seriously, I wanted to kill someone after watching that.

So what are you faves?
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Marty McKee
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Marty McKee
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Joined: 17 Oct 2004, 22:44

16 Dec 2006, 22:46 #2

Funny you should bring the topic up, because I just Netflixed JACK FROST this afternoon. Yep, the infamous black comic horror movie about a killer snowman that slaughters the residents of a typical Midwestern small town. I don't know what writer/director Michael Cooney's budget was, but he could have used another million bucks. Big setpieces such as a car crash and an exploding police station take place completely off screen, and Shannon Elizabeth in one of her first roles takes a bath, but doesn't show any nudity. Cooney obviously shot someplace where it didn't really snow, so the streets are clear and shaving cream drips on the walls of buildings. The snowman is clearly made of foam, and it wisecracks like Freddy Krueger ("I'm one pissed-off snowcone!"). Still, it's a fun (and funny) movie, and Cooney does have talent. I'm not certain I should push my luck and watch JACK FROST 2 though.
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Joined: 20 Oct 2004, 16:26

17 Dec 2006, 00:52 #3

The story about the children's party in DEAD OF NIGHT takes place on Christmas Eve, with the ghost of a little boy spoiling the fun. And I'm sure Leon's birth day is a Christmas his parents would care to forget in CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF.

While not technically horror, BRAZIL has many scenes of Christmas holiday nightmares, especially in the European director's cut. The opening in particular comes to mind: a family celebrating Christmas with decorated tree and music, while the little girl asks about Father Christmas coming down the chimney, only to be interrupted by stormtroopers sliding in on their own version of a chimney and stuffing Daddy into a big bag to take him away instead!

28 DAYS LATER was equally subversive and effective by presenting an inverse of the BRAZIL scene, an armored stormtrooper beats rabid people to death while forcing people into a cheery, Christmas decorated apartment where he will strip away his terrifying disguise to reveal an utterly jolly and surreal St Nick who proceeds to pass out Creme de Menthe to Christmas carol music.

And let us not forget Cronk and the Christmas nightmares he gives little children about Father Christmas in THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN.

EDIT: Just wanted to add CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE, where a little girl gives Christmas presents to a ghost and a spooky old woman, then escapes her parents on a holiday snowstorm only to be haunted by the Headless Horseman and menaced by a psychotic and very terrifying Elizabeth Russell. How festive of her!
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Adam Tyner
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Joined: 25 Oct 2004, 00:07

17 Dec 2006, 02:16 #4

Marty McKee @ Dec 16 2006, 06:46 PM wrote: I'm not certain I should push my luck and watch JACK FROST 2 though.
Yeah, as someone who's suffered through the sequel, stick with your happy memories of the original. Nice to know I'm not the only one whose keen on the rapist snowman.
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Eric Cotenas
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Joined: 01 Nov 2004, 08:26

17 Dec 2006, 02:29 #5

Not really a horror movie but NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS is set at Christmas.
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William S. Wilson
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Joined: 17 Oct 2004, 20:18

17 Dec 2006, 03:18 #6

That reminds me that DEAD END (2003) with Ray Wise is also set around Christmas.

I also forgot ELVES, one of the worst films ever to be set around Christmas. Dan Haggerty as a store Santa Claus who must stop a Nazi experiment. Sound great right? WRONG!
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Marty McKee
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Marty McKee
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Joined: 17 Oct 2004, 22:44

17 Dec 2006, 05:54 #7

And don't forget HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS.
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Jeff Nelson
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Joined: 19 Oct 2004, 06:25

18 Dec 2006, 21:12 #8

WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO? (1971) has always been one of my favorite seasonal thrillers. A twisted little holiday treat, made in England for AIP, worked on by some of the Hammer team, and directed by Curtis Harrington. Any fans of classic British-style genre films that haven't seen this yet better get to it. Shelley Winters, Sir Ralph Richardson, and Mark Lester (of OLIVER!) are all top-notch, with a nice turn by Michael Gothard as well.

Another tradition of mine is the extremely rare CASH ON DEMAND (1961), not a thriller/horror per se, but a really intense character drama, from Hammer itself this time, starring Peter Cushing as a Scrooge-like stuffy bank clerk, and Andre Morell as someone who helps redefine his outlook on life. To explain further would ruin the film. This is on my top ten list of all time, and desperately needs to be released to DVD by Sony/Columbia.
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Joined: 20 Oct 2004, 16:26

18 Dec 2006, 22:15 #9

A shame that Hammer never actually did A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Cushing would have been a wonderful Scrooge. Just the idea of Christopher Lee as Marley's ghost freaks me out.
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Tim Rogerson
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Joined: 28 Oct 2004, 15:12

19 Dec 2006, 08:44 #10

Don't forget Edmund Purdom's (“additional scenes written and directed by Al McGoohan”) immortal Don't Open till Christmas in which a pyschopath murders people dressed up as Santa Claus.

1984 was a very strange year for Christmas trashing chillers - rather like buses you wait ages for them and then they all come at once - with this, Gremlins and Silent Night, Deadly Night.
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Eric Cotenas
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Joined: 01 Nov 2004, 08:26

19 Dec 2006, 13:37 #11

Isn't there also a David Hess Santa slasher film? I seem to remember seeing the video box several times for rental but never picking it up.

Oh, and don't forget the Joan Collins segment of TALES FROM THE CRYPT.
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Bill Picard
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Joined: 18 Oct 2004, 03:09

19 Dec 2006, 14:17 #12

Isn't there also a David Hess Santa slasher film? I seem to remember seeing the video box several times for rental but never picking it up.
To All a Good Night...comedy gold.

"You killed my dawhter...I shoulda killed you foist!"
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Bob Gutowski
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Joined: 03 Nov 2004, 17:49

20 Dec 2006, 15:38 #13

Let's go ahead and throw the Alastair Sim A CHRISTMAS CAROL up there, too. Movies with undead visitors who undo the rags which keeps their jaws closed (something undertakers did in those days) tend to creep me out. And the silent, dancer-like Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come is scary, too, especially in all that black and white. It's a film which really communicates the feeling of cold, too, in Scrooge's underheated house and office, and in the graveyard.

Maybe it's time for a Christmas-themed sequel to THE OTHERS! I'd better lay off the rum punch...
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Joined: 19 Oct 2004, 03:15

20 Dec 2006, 16:01 #14

This month I did a series of posts for the TCM Movie Morlocks blog called "A Cruel Yule," on Christmas-themed horror movies I like. I wrote about HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, BLACK CHRISTMAS, NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS and SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT but I couldn't find any images from the Amicus TALES FROM THE CRYPT vignette featuring the very scary killer Santa. Too bad, as I remember it with creeping fondness.
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Bob Gutowski
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Joined: 03 Nov 2004, 17:49

20 Dec 2006, 16:59 #15

I just read about that blog last night when I picked up the new VW, Ricardo!
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William S. Wilson
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Joined: 17 Oct 2004, 20:18

20 Dec 2006, 19:11 #16

I put some Yuletide terror trailers up on YouTube if anyone wants to check them out.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lu-v2hrMXWk

SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1cxfZhjzDc
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Todd Bowman
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Joined: 17 Oct 2004, 19:57

20 Dec 2006, 23:09 #17

I haven't seen it yet but one of the segments in the Japanese horror anthology "Kazuo Umezu's Horror Theater" is about a deranged Santa Claus that goes on a murderous rampage.

It came out on DVD in the US earlier this year and although I couldn't find any reviews online I did come across a trailer here: Trailer

Anyone see this?
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Eric Cotenas
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Joined: 01 Nov 2004, 08:26

18 Jan 2007, 22:10 #18

What's the rights situation with SILENT NIGHT BLOODY NIGHT? Its a Cannon film, isn't it? So does MGM/Sony have it?

I'd like to see what a "good" presentation of this film looks like. I know it'll never look great. From what I gather, its underlit grainy 16mm further degraded by both 35mm blow up AND post production opticals in addition to the usual transitions.
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Joined: 19 Oct 2004, 02:54

21 Jan 2007, 16:03 #19

THE EXORSICM OF COFFIN JOE (1974) is a good example. It takes place on Christmas but it is in Brazil. Thus it is also a greener Christmas than some of us are accustomed too. Actually Coffin does a great job making a Holiday a Horrorday.
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Joined: 20 Oct 2004, 16:26

19 Dec 2011, 23:35 #20

I'm bumping up this old thread for the hell of it. And the hope that some Mobian will introduce me to some creepy Christmas horror movie that isn't about yet another slasher Santa.
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