Welcome to Alt-Christmas — articles dedicated to movies that we like to watch this time of year that might not quite fit the usual definition of a Christmas movie.
The idea of not only listing every Christmas horror movie in one place — but also ranking them — will strike some as an exercise in pure madness. Some of us live at that intersection of folly and holly, though, and for Chris Coffel, Kieran Fisher, and myself it represented a challenge we couldn’t resist. Watching them, either as a first-time viewing or a re-watch, was time-consuming, and the ranking process saw both insults and punches thrown between us, but the biggest challenge was probably the first.
Figuring out what does and doesn’t count as a Christmas horror movie.
We decided on the following criteria. A Christmas horror movie should be feature-length — so no shorts or anthology segments — set on or around Christmas day, and feature some combination of terror, villains, and/or the threat of death. We also put no limit on tone so horror comedies count every bit as much as torture porn. A handful of titles that fit these guidelines still managed to slip by us due to a lack of availability, but those stragglers aside this remains a holiday miracle and the most comprehensive ranked list of Christmas horror movies ever assembled. Especially now that we’ve updated it through Christmas 2018 with new titles and more votes from our FSR elves.
99. Krampus 2: The Devil Returns (2016)
Plot: The bum brothers return as Krampus and Santa come looking for more kiddies for their respective sacks.
The filmmakers behind Krampus: The Christmas Devil are back with a sequel that improves a single area — more dead kids! — while doubling down on what didn’t work the first time around. The film once again leaves the supernatural as a subplot while focusing on the gun-play between cops and thugs instead. We get it. You’re proud NRA members. Can we get a damn Krampus movie already? – Rob
98. Krampus Unleashed (2016)
Plot: Some treasure hunters accidentally awake Krampus, and he’s angry about that.
This is the second Krampus movie on this list from director Robert Conway (Krampus: The Reckoning). You would think if one director was going to make two different Krampus movies that Krampus would have the same mythos, but that is not the case. This film does offer up some practical effects with the creature which makes it far better than Conway’s previous film. It’s still not good at all, but I’ll take the slight improvement as a step in the right direction. – Chris
97. Krampus: The Christmas Devil (2013)
Plot: A cop who escaped Krampus as a child believes the mythological creature has returned to snatch more kids.
When is a Krampus movie not a Krampus movie? When it’s a movie about two bums — Krampus and his brother Santa — who pass through a town populated by gun-toting citizens and felons. Krampus action is kept to a minimum in favor of gun fights, bar fights, and people yammering. – Rob
96. Silent Night Dead Night (2016)
Plot: A play on the classic Charles Dickens’ novel but in this version Ebenezer Scrooge is a pimp.
As silly as it sounds that’s a premise that I think could work. Unfortunately, what we have here is an embarrassment to pimps everywhere. This isn’t funny, it isn’t clever, it isn’t scary, and it isn’t good. No thumbs up, ho ho hoes down. – Chris
95. Ugly Sweater Party (2018)
Plot: A serial killer possesses an ugly sweater, and its new owner heads to a camp for a holiday celebration.
This is a fantastic premise for a holiday horror film — think a Christmas-themed riff on Wes Craven’s Shocker — but it executes the idea so terribly and inefficiently that you’re left despising the filmmakers for wasting such a great concept. The sweater angle is sorely underused as the “story”is instead hijacked by a disgruntled employee returning to the camp for bloody revenge. And when I say bloody I mostly mean cheap-ass CG blood and pixelated splatter. Toss in a strangely heavy theme of “gay stuff is funny” and you’re left with an aggressively obnoxious dud that fails at entertainment, shock value, and purpose. – Rob
94. Mother Krampus (2017)
Plot: A witch returns to haunt a cursed family and steal some children.
The original title of this movie is 12 Deaths of Christmas, but it was obviously re-imagined to cash in on that Krampus star power. The film is actually based on the legend of Frau Perchta, an Alpine legend who deserves better than this. – Kieran
93. Bikini Bloodbath Christmas (2009)
Plot: A killer chef returns to stalk a group of bikini-clad ladies on Christmas.
The final chapter in the “exciting” trilogy of Bikini Bloodbath “movies” sees the series close with a holiday “spectacular.” I honestly don’t know what this movie is about and had to grab a plot synopsis from IMDb. I do know there are lots of fart jokes and girls in bikinis. The highlight of this film is the brief appearance of a Guarding Tess DVD. If you ever want to make fun of me feel free to mention how I paid $2.95 to watch this. – Chris
92. The Elf (2017)
Plot: An elf doll is set free and sets out to kill the people on its naughty list.
I love a lot trash, but whoever thought The Elf was a good idea deserves a lump of coal this Christmas. The opening prologue hints at potential, but it doesn’t take long before watching it feels like a method of self-harm. – Kieran
91. Caesar and Otto’s Deadly Xmas (2013)
Plot: A pair of half-brothers moonlighting as Santa Clauses see a co-worker flip his Santa hat.
Comedy, more so than any other genre, is subjective as hell, and while I find this film to be unfunny your mileage may vary. So where does that leave the rest of it? The story never amounts to much, the performances are loud, and the visuals are on your TV screen. But like I said, maybe you’ll find it funny. – Rob
90. Slaughter Claus (2011)
Plot: A psychotic Santa and his bipolar elf accomplice go on a killing spree.
Charles E. Cullen is a director who specializes in micro-budget trash that aims to shatter the boundaries of good taste. Kids get killed in his movies and there’s usually some vomit. I enjoy many a homemade cinematic atrocity with similar ethos, but Cullen’s movies are too gutter dwelling even for my sensibilities. This one is no different. Fans of disreputable cinema might think Slaughter Claus sounds great on paper, but despite a couple of mildly entertaining child deaths, it’s a dull experience to endure. I respect Cullen’s hustle, but his craftsmanship needs some work. – Kieran
89. Christmas Cruelty (2013)
Plot: Santa Claus is coming to town and he’s going to take a buzzsaw to your baby.
It’s essentially a series of torture and murder set-pieces as we witness a serial killing Santa goes nuts, but just know that the victims have it easy compared to anyone who decides to sit through this dreck. – Kieran
88. Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming (2013)
Plot: A man attempts to sell the home his grandfather left him, but a crazed lunatic shows up with different plans.
This is a remake of a good, low budget film that works by being atmospheric and moody. Unfortunately, the remake gets rid of that moody atmosphere and replaces it with some sex and mediocre gore. Just like high school, this homecoming was nothing more than an utter disappointment. – Chris
87. Christmas Slay (2015)
Plot: Three friends head to a cabin in the Bulgari–err Scottish woods where they’re terrorized by a psycho in a Santa suit.
As low budget Santa slashers go this is a British one. – Rob
86. Silent Night, Bloody Night 2: Revival (2015)
Plot: A pair of siblings learn all about the dark history of their dead brother’s hometown, which runs much deeper than the scary legend of Black Peter.
When the most interesting parts of a film are scenes featuring re-used footage from the first installment — released 43 years prior — then don’t expect a holiday classic. But there are some interesting elements at play here to keep things interesting for the most part – Kieran
85. Darkest Night (2012)
Plot: A family reunion on Christmas day takes a dark turn when an earthquake, a power outage, and pure evil descend on the fun.
Do you have seventeen dollars, a camera, and a valid passport? Congrats! You too can make a faux-documentary horror movie in the Philippines. – Rob
84. Secret Santa (2015)
Plot: College friends celebrating the holidays with a secret Santa gift swap discover too late that someone else is in the giving mood.
The premise here has potential, and you can easily picture a 90s slasher populated by attractive CW stars being offed one by one with the very gifts they’ve received from their mysterious Santa. Unfortunately, that never happened leaving us instead with this poorly acted and shoddily shot romp. Some laughs do squeeze through, but their scarcity just makes the jokes that fall flat that much louder. – Rob
83. Follow (2015)
Plot: A man awakes to discover a terrible Christmas present left my his girlfriend.
Writer/director Owen Egerton would go on to find more success with 2018’s Blood Fest, but while that film delivers some fun this one seems to drag on far longer than its 74 minute running time would suggest. Neither the script nor lead Noah Segan are able to engage viewers leaving us with a tale that thinks it’s far more clever than it is. Don’t follow this one… retreat. – Rob
82. Once Upon a Time at Christmas (2017)
Plot: Psychos dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus target a small town over the twelve days before Christmas.
It’s clear that thought went into the script as there’s an engaging nature to character interactions and connections, but those strengths are repeatedly squashed by two of cinema’s most over the top and obnoxious antagonists. – Rob
81. Killer Christmas (2017)
Plot: A group of real assholes trespass in an abandoned hotel where they’re stalked and killed one by one by a guy in a third-rate Santa mask.
It’s simple really. Non-comedic horror movie should have at least one likable character to give viewers a reason to care. This one gives us zero. Worse, the assholes are all killed in the same bland way — mostly bloodless stabbings — and the filmmakers think repeating Christmas songs by a children’s choir every few minutes is creepy rather than repetitive. – Rob
80. Mercy Christmas (2017)
Plot: A chubby loner is held captive by a family of cannibals who want to make him their Christmas main course.
Mercy Christmas is another entry in the festive cannibal comedy subgenre. And while it’s attempt to blend the holiday family comedy with torture porn is admirable, it never quite gels. But there is a great scene where a granny gets punched with an iron at least. – Kieran
79. Infinite Santa 8000 (2013)
Plot: Set in a post-apocalyptic world, it’s up to cyborg Santa to fight the robots, mutants, and the 100-foot tall Easter Bunny if he wants to keep the Christmas spirit alive.
Infinite Santa 8000 isn’t the holiday animated adventure the whole family can enjoy, but kudos to director Michael Neel for trying something different and original. – Kieran
78. Krampus: The Reckoning (2013)
Plot: An abused foster child befriends Krampus, the dark companion to Saint Nicholas that punishes those that are naughty.
I’m pretty sure this is an allegory for child abuse with really bad digital effects and a creeper police detective. This film does score some bonus points for having a scene take place in Seamus McCaffrey’s, an Irish pub in downtown Phoenix that I used to frequent. If you’ve never been to McCaffrey’s, though, there is no bonus for you. – Chris
77. Santa Claus (1959)
Plot: Santa teams up with the wizard Merlin to prevent Satan from ruining Christmas.
This is a bizarre family-friendly offering courtesy of the late René Cardona. That’s right, the director behind Mexploitation gems like Night of the Bloody Apes and Doctor of Doom made a family flick and it is freaking bizarre. – Kieran
76. Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman (2000)
Plot: The killer snowman returns to finish what he started in the first movie, and he’s still one cold son of a bitch.
How do you make a movie about a homicidal snowman even scarier? You have it take place in a sunny, tropical holiday resort and make the antagonist impervious to melting — that’s how. This movie is stupid. I love it. – Kieran
75. Red Christmas (2016)
Plot: As a family tries to enjoy their Christmas together a disfigured stranger knocks at the door with plans to tear them apart.
I want to love this movie, but unfortunately I am only able to like it. It has its heart in the right place and wants to create a new seasonal slasher, but it stumbles a bit and never truly takes off. The first kill in this movie is awesome, and you want it to escalate from there but it never does. The film does make great use of vivid Christmas colors, and Dee Wallace is always appreciated. – Chris
74. ATM (2012)
Plot: Three co-workers stop off at an ATM after an office Christmas party and discover this bank charges exorbitant fees.
Single location aside, this is a wholly generic-feeling slasher. The three characters, our main connections to the story, are various degrees of annoying, and their actions don’t exactly feel natural given the situation. What makes it watchable, though, is the cast which includes Alice Eve, Josh Peck, and Brian Geraghty. Watch it for them if you have to watch it. – Rob
73. Santa Claws (1996)
Plot: A B-movie starlet is stalked by a deranged fan.
This movie was written and directed by John Russo, which is cool, but Russo isn’t known to direct good movies and this isn’t good. This is the sort of sleazy low budget fare that plans to win you over with boobies. I’d recommend doing what I did and bring this movie to a Christmas party to show to a bunch of friends that have no idea what they’re about to see. – Chris
72. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)
Plot: Madness runs in the family when the killer Santa’s little brother suits up for some slaughter of his own.
This follow-up to the infamous slasher is notorious in its own right for completely different reasons. A full half of the movie is recycled footage from the first film — half the damn movie! — and what’s leftover is just loony shenanigans. It’s undeniably entertaining, but we can’t in good faith reward it too highly knowing that what’s new here amounts to basically a short film (which aren’t eligible for this list). It’s fun, but it’s also too damn naughty. – Rob
71. Psycho Santa (2003)
Plot: To pass time on their drive to a holiday gathering, a husband tells his wife a series of horrifying stories about the legend of Psycho Santa.
While micro-budget films have limitations we have to accept, seeing Santa stalk the woods and junkyards in broad daylight hardly sets the tone for a Christmas-themed slaughter yarn. Unfortunately, that’s the least of this film’s problems and you should avoid it like laxative-laced eggnog. – Kieran
70. Stalled (2012)
Plot: A janitor gets trapped in the bathroom during an office Christmas party thanks to a zombie outbreak.
Single location horror thrillers aren’t very common, especially in such small spaces, and this one finds some real ingenuity in its antics. There are some laughs and fun bloodletting too, but it’s not quite able to justify its feature length. – Rob
69. Inside (2016)
Plot: A pregnant widow is stalked by a killer on Christmas Eve.
Remakes aren’t inherently bad, but it’s far too common to see an American remake lose the energy and urgency of its foreign inspiration.That’s what happens here as this otherwise competent thriller pales beside the French original. That film is dumb but absolutely intense in its violence and bloodletting. This one keeps the dumb characters and tones down the rest. Why bother? – Rob
68. A Cadaver Christmas (2011)
Plot: Cadavers at a local University mysteriously come to life just before Christmas and begin to wreak havoc leading an unlikely group of heroes helmed by the school’s janitor to attempt to save the day.
This one comes really close to being a must-add to the Christmas horror rotation but ultimately falls a bit short. It’s mostly campy fun that borrows heavily from better movies, most notably Re-Animator and Evil Dead II. The mostly practical effects are great appreciated and easily the best part of this holiday splatter fest. The downside is the script — dialogue mostly — which leaves a bit to be desired and many of the jokes fall flat. Down a couple eggnogs, though, and you can have a lot of fun with this one. – Chris
67. All Through the House (2015)
Plot: A young woman returns to her hometown for a holiday visit just in time to be targeted by a Santa Claus mask-wearing killer.
Rough acting aside, this low budget (yet attractively shot) slasher finds some interesting turns in its seemingly straightforward story alongside some bloody demises. Gardening shears will do that. But did I mention the rough acting? – Rob
66. Don’t Open ’til Christmas (1984)
Plot: A police inspector runs around London trying to find the culprit who’s been murdering men dressed as Santa.
The murderer in question here doesn’t like Christmas because, when he was a child, he witnessed his father, dressed as Santa, kill his mother. He grows up to be quite mean-spirited and sadistic, which is reflected in the movie with aplomb. If you’re feeling cynical this holiday season you could do far worse than seek out Don’t Open Till Christmas. – Kieran
65. The Gingerdead Man (2005)
Plot: A killer becomes a cookie that kills.
Serial killers are always hunting for new hosts to occupy. You might gravitate more towards Mitch Pileggi as the boob tube hopping Shocker, or Brad Dourif as the good guy doll killer in Child’s Play, but for my money, the greatest body-jumping maniac is Gary Busey, The Gingerbread Man. His voice is a siren song for the insane, and it will make you mad for Cookie Crisp cereal. Charles Band has no delusions as to what kind of cinematic dreck he’s baking here, and that shameless lack of pretension frees the B-movie mogul to embrace the basest of lame-brain kills. The Gingerbread Man demands to be dunked in a great big glass of warm, sour milk and left out for Santa to spoil his stomach. – Brad
64. Feeders 2: Slay Bells (1998)
Plot: Aliens invade Earth during the holidays and it’s up to Santa and his helpers to save the day.
I’m a big fan of the Polonia Brothers and I admire their brand of DIY, homemade genre fare — or trash as most people call it. Like most of their movies, Feeders 2: Slay Bells isn’t good by conventional standards nor is it one of their better efforts, but there is entertainment to be had watching Santa conquer paper mache alien puppets. – Kieran
63. Nixon and Hogan Smoke Christmas (2010)
Plot: A pair of stoners help save Christmas after Santa smokes a bad batch of zombie weed.
There’s a reason why movies like this are targeted towards people that like getting baked, but even the most undemanding stoner deserves better than this. There’s an art to comedies about getting blitzed. Let’s just say Nixon and Hogan are certainly no Cheech and Chong and leave it at that. – Kieran
62. Dismembering Christmas (2015)
Plot: A group of high schoolers visit a cabin for the holidays and attract a madman with murderous habits.
If you’ve seen a slasher film before then you know what to expect here. – Kieran
61. Trees 2: The Root of All Evil (2004)
Plot: Genetically enhanced, flesh-hungry trees are causing chaos in a small town and it’s up to a pair of brave heroes to save Christmas for the residents.
I haven’t seen the first Trees movie, but it sounds like something I’d enjoy and apparently it did well enough to warrant this moderately entertaining sequel. Still, there needs to be more movies about killer Christmas trees, because they can do better than this. Until then, Jason Eisener’s short Treevenge remains the pinnacle of homicidal Christmas tree romps. – Kieran
60. Cannibal Claus (2016)
Plot: A mall Santa gets fired from his job and embarks on a spree of murder and cannibalism.
This little nasty was produced by The Sleaze Box, a company that specializes in ultra low-budget exploitation movies packed with gore and nudity. Basically, their movies live up to their name. – Kieran
59. Two Front Teeth (2006)
Plot: A journalist and his cheating wife must put their differences aside to protect a magical reindeer nose from the evil vampire Clausferatu and his army of bloodsucking elves.
This silly, micro-budget caper was written and co-directed Jamie Nash, whose other writing credits include Lovely Molly, Exists, and V/H/S 2. We all have to start somewhere, right?. – Kieran
58. Santa Claus Versus the Zombies (2010)
Plot: A family find themselves barricaded in their house following a zombie outbreak. Santa and his elves are also there.
You know how Santa punishes naughty children with coal? Well, if he really wanted to punish them he’d give them a copy of Santa Claus Versus the Zombies. This is the cinematic equivalent of laxative-laced eggnog. Not even fully grown elves with moustaches can make this one even mildly amusing for a second. I hated myself after watching this. Avoid like a Christmas zombie plague. – Kieran
57. Silent Night, Zombie Night (2009)
Plot: Two LAPD officers get caught in the middle of a zombie outbreak a week before Christmas.
This movie is much better than it has any right being. It’s a standard zombie film with average people getting caught in an outbreak with no understanding as to why any of this is happening. The only new addition is setting it during Christmas, but even that is done with just a few decorations and talk of Christmas. The film isn’t good, but it manages to be pretty fun with effects that aren’t bad when they’re practical. Unfortunately, they do mix in some pretty bad digital effects, and the ending is kind of stupid. – Chris
56. Lucky Stiff (1988)
Plot: A down on his luck fool assumes he’ll be spending Christmas alone because no woman could ever possibly love him, but things start looking up when he meets a gorgeous woman who invites him over for Christmas dinner.
This was written by Pat Proft of Police Academy and Naked Gun fame, and it’s very much a comedy boasting that slapstick spirit… minus the funny gags. – Kieran
55. Mrs. Claus (2018)
Plot: A psychopath goes the extra mile and wears a Mrs. Claus costume while slaughtering college kids.
Points for mixing things up a bit in the costume department as that alone makes it stand out from the pack. We also get some bloody kills, and while the low budget is evident there’s just enough freshness here to get by. – Rob
54. To All a Goodnight (1980)
Plot: It’s the old “prank goes horribly awry and a few years later those responsible begin being slaughtered by a killer Santa Claus” chestnut.
Sleazy thespian David Hess directs this traditional slasher with an eye for whatever the camera’s pointed at, but there’s nothing here to distinguish it from the pack. On the bright side, folks who like T&A in their holiday films will be satisfied. – Rob
53. The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas (1996)
Plot: Eddie Munster isn’t feeling festive, so his monster family go out of their way to get him into the holiday spirit.
Any movie targeted at kids which includes a reference to the Marquis de Sade is alright in my book, and that’s not even the cutest part of this forgotten TV movie. – Kieran
52. P2 (2007)
Plot: A young woman working late on Christmas Eve is trapped in a parking garage and stalked by a madman.
This is mostly a one woman show with a solid turn by Rachel Nichols, but one of the very few supporting characters is played by Wes Bentley — and yes, it is perfectly normal for you to immediately suspect him the moment he appears onscreen because come on, it’s Wes Bentley. It’s an okay little thriller about a woman fighting for her life and the chance of seeing Christmas morning, and it’s absolutely worth a watch for the swivel chair death alone. – Rob
51. Christmas Blood (2017)
Plot: A psychopath in a Santa suit enjoys killing people.
This Norwegian entry into the crowded Christmas horror field chooses the most obvious and well-tread of plot lines, and the result is… competent? The kills are bloody and occasionally part of engaging set-pieces, and the dogged detective on his trail is something new, but it never really makes its mark as a must-see. – Rob