25+ Best Christmas Horror Movies: An Advent Calendar of Holiday Terror

Count down the days until Christmas with 25 fantastic and fun Christmas horror movies!

Few holiday horror movie marathons are complete without Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984).

What is it about the Christmas season that makes it such a perfect fit for cinematic murder and mayhem? Some may argue that it’s about juxtaposing joyous celebrations with horrific scenarios. But really, it’s a lot more simple than that. For horror fans, watching a scary movie is a joyous celebration.

Table of Contents

Black Christmas (1974)
Black Christmas (1974) was a seminal film not just for Christmas horror, but also for the emerging slasher genre.

Watching Christmas-themed horror movies in December is a decades-old tradition. Filmmakers have understood the appeal of scary movies set during the holiday season as far back as the 1940s with movies like The Curse of the Cat People (1944) and the horror anthology Dead of Night (1945). But it wasn’t until the 1970s that the format really took off. Home for the Holidays, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo, and Silent Night, Bloody Night were all released in 1972. Then, Bob Clark’s Black Christmas came out in 1974, forever cementing the connection between Christmas and horror.

A steady stream of Christmas horror movies has reached audiences just about every year since the 1970s. To help narrow down your yearly holiday selections, we’ve collected the best and most interesting Christmas horror movies along with a few new movies that may become future holiday traditions. Rather than ranking the movies, we’ve arranged them in the style of an advent calendar. Watch one movie each day from December 1st to 25th for twenty-five terror-filled treats as you count the days until Christmas.

A Christmas Horror Advent Calendar

1. It’s a Wonderful Knife (2023)

It's a Wonderful Knife (2023)
It’s a Wonderful Knife released in theaters on November 10th, 2023 before setting its streaming date as December 1st.

It’s a Wonderful Knife is a perfect title. It’s a slasher movie that uses the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) as the inspiration for its story. Winnie (Jane Widdop) stops a killer on Christmas Eve, but one year later her life is in shambles. She wishes she’d never been born, and she is then whisked away to an alternate timeline where she sees just how many people would have died if she never existed. This is a fun way to start the countdown to Christmas.

2. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Upon its release, parents were outraged at the film’s association of Santa Claus with a murderer.

Silent Night, Deadly Night is a must-watch classic of the Christmas-horror genre. Five-year-old Billy Chapman witnesses the assault and murder of his parents by a man in a Santa Claus costume. Thirteen years later, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) gets a job at a toy store where he is asked/told to fill in for the store’s Santa. The Santa suit, combined with an event that triggers memories of his trauma as a kid, causes Billy to snap and begin a Christmas Eve murder spree.

3. Gremlins (1984)

Gremlins (1984)
Gremlins was released on June 8, 1984, the same day as Ghostbusters.

Gremlins is about a young man, Billy (Zach Galligan), who adopts a mysterious new pet, a fuzzy and docile creature called a mogwai, which was given to him as a Christmas present. Billy is given three strict rules about caring for his new pet, but when the rules are broken, the original mogwai spawns multiple other creatures who become scaly menaces that terrorize Billy’s town. While Gremlins is a film fit for family viewing, it does contain some rather frightening scenes, including the classic sequence when Billy’s mother heroically takes out multiple gremlins when they attack her.

4. The Advent Calendar (2021)

The Advent Calendar (2021)
The Advent Calendar provides some great supernatural chills in its eerie story.

Eva (Eugénie Derouand) is a former dancer who now uses a wheelchair due to an accident. With her personal and professional life in ruins, Eva has little motivation to be happy during the holidays. However, an antique advent calendar gifted to her by a friend may turn things around. As Eva opens each compartment, she quickly learns that the treats inside are causing real-world effects, some good, some not so good. Is the advent calendar the answer to Eva’s wishes, or is it a curse she can’t escape?

5. There’s Something in the Barn (2023)

There's Something in the Barn (2023)
Martin Starr and Amrita Acharia star in There’s Something in the Barn.

The world needs more movies about killer elves, and There’s Something in the Barn helps fill that need. The film is about a family who moves to a remote home in Norway. Unknown to them, they have elves in their barn. There are rules to appeasing barn elves, and when those rules aren’t followed, the elves can becomes quite violent.

6. Krampus (2015)

Krampus (2015)
There are many films about Krampus, but Krampus (2015) is the best of them.

If getting gifts for being good isn’t enough incentive to be nice, Krampus exists to absolutely terrify young children who misbehave. In the movie Krampus, young Max (Emjay Anthony) loses his Christmas spirit when his feuding family members make the holidays a complete disaster. Max’s anger summons the beastly Krampus who arrives at Max’s house to terrorize everyone inside.

7. The Lodge (2019)

The Lodge (2019)
Riley Keough stars as Grace, the lone survivor of a suicide cult, and a soon-to-be-stepmom.

At every family gathering during the holidays, there’s bound to be at least one relative you’d rather not be around. For young Aiden and Mia Hall (Jaeden Martell & Lia McHugh) in The Lodge, that relative is Grace (Riley Keough). Grace is Aiden and Mia’s soon-to-be stepmother, and the children are forced by their father into spending quality time with Grace during a trip to an isolated lodge during their Christmas break. They may all have to put their personal feelings aside when strange occurrences being plaguing their vacation, stranding the Grace, Aiden, and Mia in the lodge with no electricity and no food.

8. The Sacrifice Game (2023)

The Sacrifice Game (2023)
The Sacrifice Game is directed by Jenn Wexler who previously directed the 2018 horror movie The Ranger.

The Sacrifice Game is about a pair of students who are left behind at their boarding school during the Christmas holiday break. The two girls are taken care of by their chaperone Rose and her boyfriend, but their attempts at making the best of a bad situation are thwarted when a murderous cult arrives with a sinister plan in mind.

9. P2 (2007)

P2 (2007)
P2 was the first feature film directed by Franck Khalfoun (Maniac, 2012). (pictured: Rachel Nichols as Angela in P2)

In P2, Angela is working late on Christmas Eve when she finally decides to head home. She is the last to leave except for one person… the security guard in the parking garage. The guard, Thomas, wants to spend the holiday with Angela, and he won’t take “no” for an answer. P2 is a surprisingly tense and effective thriller.

10. Calvaire (aka The Ordeal, 2004)

Calvaire (aka The Ordeal, 2004)
Calvaire is a disturbing horror movie from Belgian director Fabrice Du Welz. (pictured: Laurent Lucas)

While on his way to a gig during the Christmas season, musician Marc Stevens’ (Laurent Lucas) van breaks down. Marc finds himself in an isolated region, and he ends up relying on locals for help. The problem is, the local owner of the inn Marc stays at has some disturbing obsessions, and the locals aren’t any help either. Calvaire is not recommended for family viewing during the holiday season, but it is recommended for fans of harrowing experiences.

11. Blood Beat (1983)

Blood Beat (1983)
Blood Beat is easily the most odd Christmas movie on this list.

Blood Beat is difficult to describe without making it sound completely nonsensical. It is about a guy and his girlfriend who visit the guy’s family for Christmas. Right away there are some strange supernatural happenings affecting the girlfriend and the guy’s mother. One thing leads to another, and much later in the movie there is a magical glowing samurai. Trying to explain how get from point A to point B is useless, so just trust that Blood Beat is a Christmas movie, it’s full of supernatural horror, and it’s really fun for fans of strange films.

12. A Creature Was Stirring (2023)

A Creature Was Stirring (2023)
A Creature Was Stirring stars Chrissy Metz (pictured) and Scout Taylor-Compton.

A Creature Was Stirring is about a mother who personally watches over her daughter. The daughter has a mysterious affliction that is kept secret by the mother, but a pair of strangers seeking shelter from a storm threaten to reveal what has been hidden. Christmas-themed chaos and bloodshed ensue.

13. Letters to Satan Claus (2020)

Letters to Satan Claus (2020)
Letters to Satan Claus is a light and silly break from the violent action of many Christmas horror movies.

Letters to Satan Claus is a horror comedy best described as a mash-up of Hallmark movies and horror. When returning to her hometown for the holidays, Holly (Karen Knox) goes through the typical holiday romance movie tropes, with the added hurdle of coming face to face with Satan. See, years ago Holly meant to write a letter to Santa, but she mistakenly addressed it to Satan. It’s an easy mistake to make, but a costly one.

14. Santa’s Slay (2005)

Santa’s Slay (2005)
David Steiman wrote and directed this slasher comedy, with Santa’s Slay being Steiman’s only credited work as either a writer or director. (pictured: Bill Goldberg)

In Santa’s Slay, Santa Claus is a demon who used to travel the globe and viciously murder people on Christmas day. After losing a game of curling with an angel, Santa was forced to deliver presents for 1,000 years. But that time has passed, and Santa is now free to go back to his gratuitously violent murdering ways. Pro-wrestler Bill Goldberg stars as the demonic Santa in Santa’s Slay, adding another layer of ridiculousness to an already outlandish scenario.

15. Jack Frost (1997)

Jack Frost (1997)
This bloody horror is not to be mistaken with the family friendly classic Jack Frost (1998), which was released one year later.

When a murderer named Jack Frost is exposed to genetic research chemicals in an accident on the way to his execution, he becomes one with the snow covering the ground. With his newfound ability to become water, ice, and snow, Jack disguises himself as a snowman in order to get revenge on the sheriff who arrested him.

16. Black Christmas (2006)

Black Christmas (2006)
Black Christmas (2006) can’t compare to the 1974 original, the 2006 movie is old enough now that it is already becoming nostalgic in its own way. (pictured: Michelle Trachtenberg)

Two versions of Black Christmas made it onto the list this year. The 2006 version of Black Christmas, a slasher about a killer stalking women in a sorority house, isn’t a good movie, but it’s fun in lots of campy ways. If you’ve dismissed it in the past because it’s not the original, maybe give it another try this year. If nothing else, it will probably be your second favorite movie titled Black Christmas.

17. Dead End (2003)

Dead End (2003)
Lin Shaye and Ray Wise (pictured in the foreground) lead the fine cast of Dead End.

For many people, the Christmas season includes a road trip with your family. For the family in Dead End, it’s the last road trip they’ll ever want to go on. On Christmas Eve, the Harrington family takes a shortcut on their way to grandma’s house. The shortcut never seems to end, and the family is subjected to a series of increasingly bizarre and deadly events over the course of the night. Dead End is a great underseen movies that is gradually being discovered by new fans over the years.

18. A Christmas Tale (2005)

A Christmas Tale (2005)
A Christmas Tale is a Spanish movie which was released in 2008 in the United States on DVD packaged with five other movies. The 3-Disc set was titled 6 Films to Keep You Awake.

A Christmas Tale might be the best hidden gem on this list. It is a Spanish film from director Paco Plaza, the director of Rec (2007), Verónica (2017) and other superb horror films. The story in A Christmas Tale is about a group of children who discover a woman in a Santa costume trapped in a well hidden in the woods. The kids find out that the woman is a thief who just stole a large sum of money, and that gets them to thinking about the money and how they can best take advantage of the situation they’ve found themselves in.

19. The Day of the Beast (1995)

The Day of the Beast (1995)
The Day of the Beast is a Spanish black comedy about a Christmas-time search for the Antichrist.

In The Day of the Beast, a priest discovers that the Antichrist will be born at midnight on Christmas Eve. Making the discovery mere days before the event, the priest travels to Madrid where he intends to commit as many sins as he can. His plan: to sin enough to sell his soul to the Devil, thereby allowing him to find the location of the Antichrist’s birth. The priest struggles in his quest, so he enlists the aid of a heavy-metal fan (since metal is the Devil’s music) and a charlatan who hosts a supernatural TV show. The Day of the Beast is a delightful fish-out-of-water movie that is also one of the relatively few religion-based Christmas horror movies.

20. Deadly Games (aka Dial Code Santa Claus) (1989)

Deadly Games (aka Dial Code Santa Claus) (1989)
Though it was first released in French theaters in 1990, Deadly Games wasn’t screened in the North America until 2018.

A young genius makes a less-than-brilliant move when he attempts to contact Santa Claus, only to attract the attention of a dangerous vagrant instead. After losing a job as a department store Santa, the deranged man makes his way to the young boy’s house with bad intentions. The boy must then defend himself with a security system of his own devising. Deadly Games is a beautifully shot movie that feels like a much darker version of Home Alone (1990). In fact, the director of Deadly Games, Rene Manzor, threatened to sue the makers of Home Alone, though nothing seems to have come from his threats.

21. Better Watch Out (2016)

Better Watch Out (2016)
Director Chris Peckover was influenced by the movies of John Hughes, including Home Alone (1990) with was written by Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus. (pictured: Olivia DeJonge)

Better Watch Out is a darkly humorous psychological horror movie. If John Hughes and Wes Craven collaborated on a film, something like this might be the result. During the Christmas season, Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) is babysitting 12-year-ol Luke (Levi Miller). Luke has a crush on Ashley, but his plans to get closer to her are put on hold when an armed intruder breaks in. Not everything is as it seems though, and the terror Ashley experiences this holiday night is already a lot closer than she thinks.

22. Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022)

Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022)
Joe Begos describes his movie as a “neon-soaked robot fever dream.”

From writer/director Joe Begos (director of the John-Carpenter-esque VFW), Christmas Bloody Christmas is about a robotic Santa Claus that goes on a vicious killing spree on Christmas Eve. Tori (Riley Dandy), the owner of a local record store, just wants to get drunk and have a good time when robo-Santa violently changes her plans. Expect lots of grindhouse holiday fun in this one.

23. Christmas Evil (1980)

Christmas Evil (1980)
Though Christmas Evil may look like a typical slasher movie from the outside, it’s really one of the better Christmas horror movies of its time.

In a scene that could be the beginning of just about any generic slasher movie, Christmas Evil begins with a young boy being traumatized by witnessing his parents engage in romantic acts while his father is wearing a Santa suit. However, the movie plays out as more of a psychological horror movie rather than a typical stalk-and-slash plot. Three decades later, the boy, Harry (Brandon Maggart), is grown and working in a toy factory. Harry is taken advantage of and seen as weird by everyone around him, and his unhealthy obsession with Santa Claus leads him to commit some truly horrible acts as Christmas approaches.

24. Inside (aka À l’intérieur) (2007)

Inside (aka À l'intérieur) (2007)
Inside (2007) was remade in Spain and released in 2017 under the same English title.

On Christmas Eve, a pregnant woman, Sarah, fights to survive a home invasion by a woman who wants to steal Sarah’s unborn child. Inside is a French horror film released during the wave of New French Extremity which also includes films such as High Tension (2003) and Irreversible (2002). Like the films it’s associated with, Inside is brutally violent. Even though it might seem like Inside is only superficially linked to Christmas, when you consider the idea of enduring a trial on Christmas Eve followed by a type of birth in the early-morning hours of Christmas day, you can feel secure in knowing that watching Inside on Christmas Eve is a perfectly acceptable way of celebrating the holiday.

25. Black Christmas (1974)

Olivia Hussey in Black Christmas (1974)
Black Christmas is the best Christmas horror movie ever made.

Black Christmas is everything a Christmas horror movie should be. For starters, the glow of the multi-colored lights set against a bleak and frigid winter sets a perfect holiday mood. Additionally, the various characters (led by Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder) are instantly likable, making the fear of their possible deaths more emotional. Also, the plot is based on the popular urban legend of a killer calling from inside the house, giving the movie a nostalgic appeal even if it’s your first time watching it. But more than anything, Black Christmas is perfect because it’s also one of the greatest slasher movies ever made.

More Christmas Horror Movies

American Psycho (2000)
American Psycho happens to take place around Christmas, but that’s enough to qualify it as a Christmas movie for some fans.

Still looking to bring more joy to your horror-filled season? Collected here are a few more horror movies related in some way to the Christmas season. Some are good, some are strange, and some are only barely related to the season, but they’re all worth watching.

  • The Curse of the Cat People (1944) – A loose sequel to Cat People (1942), much of the action in this psychological thriller takes place on Christmas Eve.
  • Santa Claus vs. The Devil (1959) – The Devil sends a demon to Earth to turn children against Santa, but Merlin helps Santa overcome the evil. Also known by the title Santa Claus.
  • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) – A Martian leader orders the kidnapping of Santa.
  • Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972) – An American widow living in the English countryside has a big Christmas party at her home for local orphans, but Christmas murder and mayhem ensue.
  • Tales from the Crypt (1972) – One of the stories in this anthology horror movie is about a serial killer dressed as Santa (which was also the subject of the first episode of the Tales from the Crypt television series).
  • Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) – A series of mysterious murders begins when a man inherits a house that used to be a mental asylum.
  • To All A Good Night (1980) – Directed by David Hess (star of The Last House on the Left, 1972), this slasher movie is about a killer in a Santa suit slaughtering students at a school for girls.
  • The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1982) – College students staying at school over Christmas break become the target of a killer in this slasher.
  • Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984) – A killer targets anyone dressed in Santa’s suit in this British slasher movie.
  • Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman (2000) – A serial killing snowman goes on a rampage in a tropical location.
  • American Psycho (2000) – A satire of 1980s yuppie culture, American Psycho stars Christian Bale as the titular psycho who is a businessman by day and a serial killer in his free time.
  • The Gingerdead Man (2005) – A witch who revives a dead serial killer played by Gary Busey. However, the killer is turned into a gingerbread man and sets out for revenge.
  • Caesar and Otto’s Deadly Xmas (2012) – A comedy-horror about two brothers hired to play Santa and his elf at a store. However, a fellow store Santa develops a vendetta against them.
  • Mercy Christmas (2017) – A man meets the perfect woman and celebrates Christmas with her family. However, it turns out he’s meant to be their dinner in this cannibal holiday flick.
  • I Trapped the Devil (2019) – A man and his wife visit the man’s brother for the holidays, but the brother has a secret: he’s trapped the Devil in his basement.

Further Reading

Meet The Author

Chris has a degree in film studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan. He is a renowned expert on horror cinema.