Spectacular Optical turns their attention towards Santa slayings, Krampus killings, and evil elves, with their new holiday horror compendium.
Christmas-themed horror movies are a sub-genre unto themselves, and while most casual film goers might expect there are no more than a dozen or so examples the truth is far greater. That dozen can be multiplied several times over as there are over a hundred horror films featuring the holiday as part of its centerpiece. A few of us here at FSR actually put together a ranked list of Christmas horror films late last year, and it’s a project that’s still growing. We’re not alone in our affection either as the fine folks behind Spectacular Optical Publications recently released on an entire book on the subject.
The Canadian small-press publisher, named after a twisted organization in David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, is no stranger to releasing tomes about genre cinema with their three previous titles delivering insight and education on various themes. Kid Power!, Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s, and Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin are all well-written, smartly-crafted books covering kid cult movies, films about devil worship, and Rollin’s filmography, respectively, but it’s their fourth release that has touched our sociopathic Santa-loving hearts.
Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television delivers exactly what the title promises as it brings together twenty-five essays covering various Christmas horror films, television episodes, and shorts. The back of the book offers a fairly exhaustive list of every example they could find including 147 movies (theatrical, DTV, and TV). Fans of the genre will find that detailed listing complete with synopses and/or reviews to be worth the price of admission alone, but the real meat of the book comes in the essays penned by Spectacular’s editors Kier-La Janisse and Paul Corupe as well as numerous other genre journalists.
It’s a Canadian publication so of course it opens with an essay on Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974), but rather than suspect some form of literary nationalism it’s instead paying homage to the most terrifying Christmas horror film of all. Our massive list here at FSR ranked it at #2 behind Gremlins (1984) overall, but while Joe Dante’s comic gem is a family-friendly entry Clark’s is all about the scares, atmosphere, and foul language. The essay is from the always reliable Stephen Thrower, and he offers plenty of interesting history behind its production and release.
Fangoria’s Michael Gingold follows with a look at the Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) franchise including the three initial films, the two unrelated sequels, and the surprisingly solid reboot (Silent Night, 2012). He explores the nationwide controversy surrounding the first film’s release including the eternally hilarious observation that after railing against the indecency of Silent Night, Deadly Night Mickey Rooney happily accepted a role in Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991). It’s a great read.
Later chapters focus on both widely-known films like Eyes Wide Shut (1999), Gremlins, and Rare Exports (2010), and under-appreciated chillers like The Children (2010), Cash on Demand (1961), and Dead End (2003). Most chapters deal with a single film or franchise, but a few group titles together by themes like ghost stories and Santa’s horror-filled roots in European folklore. Christmas horror episodes from anthology TV shows are highlighted as well.
It’s a heavy book with glossy pages pairing the text with hundreds of black & white stills and posters from the films at hand. Fans of old-school movie novelizations will also appreciate a section in the middle consisting entirely of color photos from the films and their marketing materials. Images throughout work both to remind readers of the films they’ve seen and to excite them for the ones they’ve missed.
Yuletide Terror is a fun and educated read on a sub-genre of films that deserve to be talked about year round instead of just during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Some of the titles being explored are full-on horror classics, and the book affords them in-depth dissections as well as a nudge towards visiting others you may not have seen yet. Buy it for yourself. Buy it for someone close. Buy it so these lovely Canadians can continue releasing beautifully-produced love letters to genre cinema.
Buy Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television directly from Spectacular Optical.