Have Yourself a Very Scary Christmas…

Posted by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on December 16, 2014 in Guest Blog tagged with

Growing up in Australia, my childhood memories of Christmas are dominated by a pervasive sense of heat. While I envy a climate more suited to turkey-and-pudding eating, it is the Christmas tradition of telling ghost stories that I covet most of all. While we in Australia have bewilderingly embraced the whole snow thing, this more climate-appropriate, supernaturally-themed tradition has no real legacy here today beyond the ubiquitous television reruns of Diet Dickens.

It is in this spirit that I wish to share some of my favourite Christmas movies of an altogether darker nature, but blog reader – beware! My predilection for the glorious perversities of exploitation film strays well beyond the more savoury terrain of the BBC’s Christmas ghost story. But if you are brave, I invite to you to join me on this brief tour through my favourite seasonal shockers…

Christmas Evil (1980) 

Christmas Evil (1980)

The premise of Lewis Jackson’s Christmas Evil makes sense in a disturbing way: a young boy who is traumatised by the discovery that Father Christmas does not exist grows up to become a deranged murderer. Fans of this surprisingly tragic take on Christmas include cult director John Waters, who provides an excellent commentary on the 2006 DVD release. Recommended stocking filler.


Silent Night Bloody Night (1974)

Sex, immoliation, sex, death by axe, sex, cemetery killing, sex, psychiatric hospital, sex, shoot out: these may not be the traditional ingredients for yuletide cheer, but Silent Night Bloody Night is irreverent, disgusting fun. Co-produced by Troma co-founder and Toxic Avenger director Lloyd Kaufman, the trash credentials of Theodore Gershuny’s Silent Night Bloody Night are elevated also by the inclusion of cult legends Mary Woronov and John Carradine. Forever solidifying the heart-warming bond between Christmas and serial killers that would prove a durable exploitation film staple, what Silent Night Bloody Night lacks in reverence for the festive season it makes up for in its legacy, its name along proving an enduring model that the similarly named Silent Night Deadly Night franchise (more on that soon).


 don't open til christmasDon’t Open Till Christmas (1984)

Felt Silent Night Bloody Night could have done with even more sex? The British film Don’t Open Till Christmas is for you, with the notable additions of a film studio where adult movies are made and a few strippers thrown in for good measure. A masked killer roams London disposing of Santas, the most notable offences including roasting Father Christmas alongside some chestnuts in an open fire. Highlights include seeing a surrogate Santa offed in the London Dungeon, and Hammer Horror starlet Caroline Monroe’s brief cameo.


Black Christmas (1974)


Directed by Bob Clark of Porky’s fame, Black Christmas is one of the best horror films of the 1970s. One of the first North American slasher films that would flourish later that decade, Black Christmas is superficially typical of the sorority house dames-in-distress trope that would become the norm in the subgenre. But underneath this runs a terrifying backstory, all the more disturbing for the fact it is never fully articulated or explained. Highlight: outrageous perversion of Christmas lights aside, the asthmatic Margot Kidder being murdered with a glass unicorn must be seen to be believed.



Treevenge (2009)

A more recent addition to the bad taste Christmas horror film canon, the short film Treevenge is a gory, carnivalesque delight (emphasis on the gory). As director Jason Eisner has noted, his short film about sentient Christmas trees was sparked by his own family rituals around the holiday: “this must be the most horrifying experience from its perspective. It’s cut down and taken away from their quiet home in the forest, then sold off to these strange humans”. Garnering an honourable mention at the Sundance Film Festival and receiving a number of other accolades, Treevenge is as fun and as clever as the film that inspired it, Joe Dante’s Gremlins. But don’t let that holiday family favourite give you the wrong idea: I mentioned it was gory, right?


Honourable Mention:

Silent Night Deadly Night 5: The Toymaker (1991)


Like yourself no doubt, I too have often found myself sitting around the Christmas dinner table with my loving family – warmed by the colonial obsession with eating roast meat in a hot climate – and debated the merits of the Silent Night Deadly Night franchise. We join hands and smile, because we know there is no real debate: Silent Night Deadly Night 5: The Toymaker was of course the best of the series. Amongst many of its charms was the fact that it marked the return of the legendary Mickey Rooney to the franchise: this was despite his publicly denouncing the series the year before after appearing in Brian Yuzna’s almost- as-good Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation.

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