In the event that you’re looking for something scary on New Year’s Eve.
Back in November I made a little list of Thanksgiving-themed genre fare to get help you with your post-October horror fix. I followed that up with a list of Christmas-themed horror films to get you through the season of giving. So naturally I’m now going to give you list of horror films to help ring in the New Year, which is something I know we’re all very much eager to do.
New Year’s Eve/New Year-themed horror movies are an interesting bunch. There’s not really a ton of them but there always seems to be more than I remember. I think the tricky part is that New Year’s Eve doesn’t involve the same sort of decorations one gets with Christmas or Halloween. So unless a movie takes place at a New Year’s Eve party it can be a little tricky to actually realize it is happening on New Year’s Eve. Fortunately there are some pretty good options out there, so if you want to have a little New Year’s Eve horror marathon, I’ve got you covered!
The Phantom Carriage – 1921 – Dir. Victor Sjöström
I bet you didn’t anticipate seeing a silent Swedish horror film from 1921 make this list, did you? If you didn’t you anticipated wrong because you can’t have this list without Victor Sjöström’s The Phantom Carriage.
Based on Selma Lagerlöf’s novel Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness!, The Phantom Carriage is the story of a drunk who is picked up by a supernatural carriage on New Year’s Eve and his forced to reflect back on his life by the eerie driver. It’s kind of like A Christmas Carol but set on New Year’s Eve and on a carriage.
Not only is The Phantom Carriage a great film but it’s also wildly influential. The special effects were groundbreaking for the time and the structure with which the story unfolds was unheard of in 1921. It was Ingmar Bergman’s favorite film and played a large role in shaping his films. The Phantom Carriage’s influence can be seen in a number of horror films, most notably in the axe through the door scene in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
In 2001 the Criterion Collection released a beautifully restored version of The Phantom Carriage on Blu-ray. Get that and watch it on New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s Evil – 1980 – Dir. Emmet Alston
New Year’s Evil is the one New Year’s Eve-themed horror movie that everyone always remembers, probably because it has the best (or worst) name. In addition to the title the plot of New Year’s Evil also makes the best use of New Year’s Eve as the plot resolves around a killer who vows to kill one girl at the stroke of midnight in each timezone, with the final murdered planned for 12:00 AM PST.
There’s a lot about New Year’s Evil that appeals to me. I love that we know we’re dealing with a ticking time bomb right off the bat. I enjoy the attempt to give us a nice 80’s punk/New Wave vibe – unfortunately the filmmakers didn’t or couldn’t get a real New Wave band to participate in the film, which would have pushed it over the top. The problem is that the film is oftentimes wrongly, at least in my opinion, classified as a slasher.
Slasher elements are present, of course, but as a whole this isn’t a slasher, at least not as we know them today. Instead New Year’s Evil plays more like a gritty 70’s thriller much akin to what Clint Eastwood was pumping out at that time. The result is still a good movie, but not really a slasher so it’s best to have your expectations in check.
Terror Train – 1980 – Dir. Roger Spottiswoode
Next to New Year’s Evil, Terror Train is likely the next go-to film for horror fans wanting to celebrate the New Year. This one opens with a terrible prank played on a pledge to a pre-med student fraternity on New Year’s Eve. Three years later the pranksters celebrate the coming year with a costume party on a train and one by one they’re each picked off. Is the victim of the prank out to get his revenge? Probably.
I think there’s a lot to love with Terror Train. For starters it takes place on a train, which I happen to think is pretty cool. Then you’ve got Jamie Lee Curtis and if you don’t like Jamie Lee Curtis you’re a goddamn monster. And it features a ton of great costumes including a Groucho Marx costume. All that adds up to love.
Oh and about 25 minutes in the movie basically pauses to allow us to enjoy a David Copperfield magic show. Rad.
End of Days – 1999 – Dir. Peter Hyams
End of Days is the story of how Satan tries to impregnate a woman to force her to give birth to the Antichrist on New Year’s Eve 1999 just in time for the new millennium. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as an alcoholic ex-cop named Jericho Cane (awesome name) who blames God for the death of his family.
I first saw End of Days when it came out in 1999 when I was 13 years old. I saw it one more time a year or so later. Back then I thought it was pretty freaking awesome. Having not seen it since then I’m going to proceed as if it is indeed pretty freaking awesome knowing full well that it could actually be terrible.
End of Days is Good vs Evil, Schwarzenegger vs Satan but really it’s about Y2K potentially destroying mankind which was the big fear back in 1999. Turns out we were right to fear Y2K too, it did eventually destroy humanity it just took 16 years longer than any of us were expecting.
Side note: if you were a wrestling fan in the late 90’s-early 2000’s how awesome is it that there’s a movie that deals with Y2K with a hero named Jericho?
Antisocial – 2013 – Dir. Cody Calahan
Antisocial is in my opinion a really fun, modern day Canadian infection flick. A group of friends gather for a New Year’s Eve Party when seemingly random displays of brutal violence pop up all over the world. It’s soon discovered that this violence is the result of an infection that is being spread via social media, most notably through a Facebook-like site known as the Social Redroom.
Some really good ideas are at play in Antisocial, it’s like a millennial attempt at social commentary. Unfortunately those ideas never quite pay off and turn into something bigger and better like you want them to, but there’s a lot of gory fun to be had along the way. It’s an infection movie that morphs into a slasher. That’s awesome.
Bonus: Ghostkeeper – 1981 – Dir. Jim Makichuk
I’m including the Canadian film Ghostkeeper here as a bonus entry. I’ve never seen Ghostkeeper and from what I can tell not a whole lot of people have, but it has developed a cult following over the years. The best story appears to be about a group of friends that decided to celebrate the New Year by taking a trip in the Rocky Mountains for some snowmobiling fun. The fun ends when they get trapped in by a blizzard. At the point it sounds like the film either turns into a slasher or a creature feature about a wendigo or maybe both.
I think this sounds like it could be kind of cool and I think it’ll be my New Year’s Eve movie for this year. But what’s really cool is that Jim Makichuk, the man who wrote and directed Ghostkeeper, went straight from making this movie and into writing episodes of Heathcliff & the Catillac Cats and that’s amazing.