Not everyone loves sipping hot cocoa on the sofa while watching drippy Christmas movies about special shoes or big-eyed orphans or whatever. The good news is that there are buckets full of gory, blood-spewing horror movies that still have some holiday spirit. What's more festive than a serial killer in a Santa suit? Here are 12 Christmas-themed horror movies that may change the way you think about roasted chestnuts, jingle bells, snowmen and every other cloying holiday cliche for good. 

  • "Jack Frost" (1997)
    Photo Credit: A-Pix Entertainment

    What It Is: Serial killer Jack Frost is being carted off to his execution when the truck carrying him to the execution chamber crashes with another truck carting "genetic material" (because that's a thing, clearly). He subsequently melds with the snow and becomes a killer snowman, bent on getting even with the sheriff that caught him.

    Why Your Holidays Will Never Be the Same: What's really weird is that "Jack Frost" is also the name of a 1998 cuddly comedy starring Michael Keaton as a man who also comes back to life as a snowman to bond with his son, not kill him. 

    Your Secret Santa Gift: If there isn't already a really twisted mash-up of the two "Jack Frost" movies on the Internet, you know what you have to do with your holiday break, don't you?


  • "Santa Claws" (1996)
    Photo Credit: American Home Entertainment

    What It Is: The co-workers of a B-movie actress are systematically murdered by a killer wearing (what else?) a Santa costume. Because the title wouldn't make much sense without this detail, Santa kills with a claw. Get it? Get it?

    Why Your Holidays Will Never Be the Same: Erudite viewers could interpret this as an allegory for the hell of being famous and the anxiety created by being stalked by obsessive fans. Or they could be watching this while getting high and giggling at blood-spattered boobies. 

    Your Secret Santa Gift: If you end up misspelling Santa Claus once or twice, you now have a completely unacceptable excuse. 


  • "Christmas Evil" (1980)
    Photo Credit: Edward R. Pressman Film

    What It Is: You know that song, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"? Yeah, this movie (originally titled "You Better Watch Out") suggests that seeing such a thing can make you weirdly obsessed with acting like Santa and administering your "naughty or nice" verdict with a hatchet. John Waters called this the greatest Christmas movie ever made, so you know it's gotta be good. Or sick. Or both.

    Why Your Holidays Will Never Be the Same: This is a dark, dark movie, but hardly typical horror – it's about one man's descent into madness and isolation, spurred in part by the crappy behavior of those around him. They may not have deserved to be hacked up, but a few of them definitely deserve a lump of coal for their lack of empathy.

    Your Secret Santa Gift:  Be nice to anyone in a Santa suit this season. It's just good insurance.


  • "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" (2010)
    Photo Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

    What It Is: From Finland we have, not a deranged serial killer in a Santa Claus suit, but an actual evil Santa. He knows who's naughty – and the consequences are so, so awful. Oh, and the elves? They capture the naughty children and deliver them to Santa. And the reindeer are dead.

    Why Your Holidays Will Never Be the Same: Santa is not only evil, he's buried in what's referred to as a "sacred grave." So, add together all the creepy cemetery horror movies you can remember plus your sublimated fear of mall Santas, make it Finnish, and you've got a brand new nightmare.

    Your Secret Santa Gift: Do not be naughty. Ever.


  • "Don't Open Till Christmas" (1984)
    Photo Credit: 21st Century Film

    What It Is: In the world of horror movies, some kids crushed by bad Santa memories grow up to kill while wearing Santa outfits, others grow up to kill people in Santa outfits. This U.K. import is about the latter. 

    Why Your Holidays Will Never Be the Same: Santa getting knifed in a peep show should mess with your Christmas memories for a while.

    Your Secret Santa Gift: If you're trying to kick a freshly-roasted chestnuts addiction, this movie will do it for you.


  • "Black Christmas" (1974)
    Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

    What It Is: Sorority sisters get picked off one by one during the holidays. Merry Christmas! The 2006 remake is markedly different, in that it has an extremely gross backstory for the killer(s) that involves incest, eye-gouging and matricide. This one has Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). So, up to you. 

    Why Your Holidays Will Never Be the Same: What's truly scary is that the movie was supposedly inspired by a series of real murders that happened in Montreal. Plus, because it's an old horror movie, it drags out that hacky trope about a killer calling from inside the house (which was super scary back in the days of land lines).

    Your Secret Santa Gift: A reminder to go the hell on vacation and get away from school during the holiday season. Jeez. 


  • "Santa's Slay" (2005)
    Photo Credit: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

    What It Is: So, you've heard of the virgin birth? Well, Satan orchestrated something similar, and thus we got a kill-happy Santa. There's more to it than that, but it's all fully ridiculous.

    Why Your Holidays Will Never Be the Same: You will wonder who had blackmail material on Emilie de Ravin ("Lost," "Once Upon A Time") to cast her in this pine-scented abomination. 

    Your Secret Santa Gift: A buff Santa (the part is played by retired wrestler Bill Goldberg).

  • "Silent Night, Bloody Night" (1972)
    Photo Credit: Cannon Productions

    What It Is: A series of murders take place in a small town on Christmas Eve, and all seem to involve a mansion that was previously an insane asylum. Guess what? Someone's making a mess of the place. 

    Why Your Holidays Will Never Be the Same: Most of the supporting cast will be familiar to anyone who was able to sit through the films of Andy Warhol, or to anyone who watched Elvira's Movie Macabre.

    Your Secret Santa Gift: No matter how nice the mansion, you should probably tear it down if there's been too much killing inside.


  • "Silent Night, Deadly Night" (1984)
    Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures

    What It Is: After a criminal in a Santa suit slaughters his mom and dad, Billy tries to have a normal life. Doesn't work out so well after he's forced to wear a Santa suit for work (because of course that happened) and he finds a guy trying to rape his crush. Let the killing begin!

    Why Your Holidays Will Never Be the Same: Even though this wasn't even the first Christmas-themed slasher movie, the decision to put Santa in the advertising brought out the picketers. The bad reviews probably would have happened either way, however. 

    Your Secret Santa Gift: Never make a guy who saw his parents killed by Santa wear a Santa suit. Getting called in to HR will be the least of your problems.


  • "Silent Night" (2012)
    Photo Credit: Anchor Bay Films

    What It Is: Remember 1984's loudly-protested "Silent Night, Deadly Night"? Well, this is more-or-less a remake. Amazingly, after all the fussing over the original (which resulted in crappy box office numbers at the time), it became a cult hit that spawned a number of sequels.

    Why Your Holidays Will Never Be the Same: The cast is better than you'd expect – including Malcolm McDowell ("A Clockwork Orange") as the sheriff.

    Your Secret Santa Gift: The movie borrows from the 2008 Covina mass murder, in which a guy bursts into his in-laws' house wearing a Santa suit and bearing a flame thrower. So your nightmares will be extra realistic!


  • "Sint" (2010)
    Photo Credit: A-Film

    What It Is: This Dutch movie (which was also released under the title "Saint Nick" in the U.S.) puts an evil twist on the Sinterklaas story. In 1492, Niklas was the name of a murderous former bishop who is slaughtered (along with his gang of marauding henchmen) when a group of villagers have had enough. When the anniversary of the murder coincides with a full moon, the bad guys come back to life to slaughter hundreds of kids-- and even though this happens every 23 years, somehow the Roman Catholic church sweeps it under the carpet so kids are still excited for Christmas. Or something.

    Why Your Holidays Will Never Be the Same: While this is a dark comedy/horror hybrid, watching kids get killed, even in ridiculous ways, may be too dark for some.

    Your Secret Santa Gift: You can tell people you saw a foreign film and just let them think it was something classy. 


  • "To All A Goodnight" (1980)
    Photo Credit: IRC

    What It Is: A psychopath in a (you guessed it!) Santa suit bumps off a bunch of teenaged girls and their boyfriends during a Christmas party.

    Why Your Holidays Will Never Be the Same: There are two deaths by propeller in this. Don't say you weren't warned.

    Your Secret Santa Gift: If you decide to enroll in a snooty finishing school for girls (do they still have those?), make sure the house you live in isn't weirdly isolated from, well, everything.

Liane Bonin Starr is an author, screenwriter and former writer for Her byline has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety and a lot of other places. Her last book was called "a scandalously catty, guilty pleasure" by Jane magazine. Expect the same from Starr Raving.