Courtesy of our own Dr. AC. Feel free to rate, berate, and second-guess.
BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)
This groundbreaking proto-slasher, produced four years before John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN, focuses on an escaped maniac taking refuge in the attic of the local sorority house. With stars Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, John Saxon and Keir Dullea, it’s a terrific mix of well-realized characters and stylish sequences of suspense and terror. Director Bob Clark would later helm the more family friendly holiday classic, A CHRISTMAS STORY.
BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006)
This ill-advised remake follows the modern trend of providing a ludicrous backstory for its crazies, with the results being an exercise is unpleasant splatter without a fraction of the original’s intelligence or wit. Andrea Martin, who played one of the sorority sisters in the 1974 classic, returns as the house mother this time around.
CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)
Writer/director Lewis Jackson’s low budget holiday card to the masses features Brandon Maggart as a mentally unstable toy factory worker who loves Christmas so much, he keeps a “Naughty and Nice” book and come the Yuletide season, he dons his suit of red and proceeds to paint the town the same color.
DEAD OF NIGHT (1945)
Highly influential British horror anthology (the first of its kind, in fact) is best known for its closing sequence with ventriloquist Michael Redgrave matching wits with his dummy, but there’s also a dandy Christmas ghost tale that will send a shiver down your spine.
DON'T OPEN 'TIL CHRISTMAS (1984)
In a twist, rather than a psycho in a Santa suit, this English slasher flick features a serial killer who is targeting the jolly elf himself, or at least anyone dressed like him. If you ever harbored ill will toward a department store Santa for some traumatic childhood shopping mall experience, this is the film for you.
Joe Dante’s instant classic features the cute fuzzy Mogwai, who must be kept away from water, out of the sunlight and never, ever fed after midnight. When these rules are inevitably broken, they multiply and become the malevolent reptilian “Gremlins” who set about bringing Zach Galligan’s small town to its knees, cackling all the while. Terrific creature design (Chris Walas, who would win an Oscar for David Cronenberg’s THE FLY in two years) combined with Chris Columbus’ razor sharp black comic script make this one for the ages. Phoebe Cates’ chimney monologue haunts us still.
JACK FROST (1996)
A killer snowman movie? Yep. Haven’t seen this one personally, but here’s the plot summary from IMDb: “A serial killer is genetically mutated in car wreck on the way to his execution. After which, he becomes a murdering snowman hell-bent on revenge for the sheriff who caught him.” The film’s tagline? “He’s chillin’ and killin’.” Niiiiiice.
NEW YEARS EVIL (1980)
During an L.A. New Year's Eve concert broadcast, "First Lady of Rock n' Roll" Roz Kelly ("Pinky Tuscadero" from HAPPY DAYS!) gets a phone call saying that when New Year's strikes in each time zone, someone will be murdered--and she will be the last one. Sadly, it's not nearly as much fun as it sounds, the acting is pretty awful, and the whole thing is padded out with exhaustingly lame musical numbers.
NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, THE (1993)
Masterful fantasy film from producer Tim Burton (who also provided the screen story) and director Henry Selick . Through wondrous stop-motion animation, the tale is spun of Jack Skellington, the king of Halloweentown, who inadvertently discovers ChristmasTown but seems a little unclear on the concept. Simply sublime.
A businesswoman (Rachel Nichols) is pursued by a psychopath (AMERICAN BEAUTY’S Wes Bentley) after being locked in a parking garage on Christmas Eve. Slickly made, so-so thriller.
SANTA CLAWS (1996)
Genre fave Debbie Rochon plays a scream queen (now that’s casting!) with a couple of problems: her marriage is falling apart and her nice guy next-door is obsessed with her and eventually begins dressing up like Santa Claus and killing people with a claw.
SANTA'S SLAY (2005)
Pro wrestler-turned-actor Bill Goldberg plays a killer Santa in this farcical black comedy starring every B-and-C lister available for a cameo, including Dave Thomas, Chris Kattan, Fran Drescher, Rebecca Gayheart, and Robert Culp. Worth watching for the first five minutes, which are a lot of fun, but quickly loses steam.
SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1974)
This underrated atmospheric chiller starring Patrick O’Neal, Mary Woronov and horror icon John Carradine lacks the polish of Bob Clark’s BLACK CHRISTMAS, but does share several similarities (menacing phone calls, decent body count). Worth checking out, and available on many of the bargain basement multi-packs.
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)
The film’s notorious ad campaign is the stuff of legend. The movie itself? ‘S okay. After his parents are murdered, a young tormented teenager goes on a murderous rampage dressed as Santa, due to his stay at an orphanage where he was abused by the Mother Superior. In one of the most memorable sequences, oft-topless scream queen Linnea Quigley shows off her bountiful assets before being impaled on a set of antlers.
Followed by four sequels, only the first two of which carry on the Killer Santy storyline in any fashion whatsoever. The first follow-up, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 (1987), utilizes a highly exorbitant amount of flashback footage from the original - nearly half its running time!
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 3: BETTER WATCH OUT (1989)
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 4: INITIATION (1990)
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 5: THE TOY MAKER (1991)
Haven’t seen any of these yet, although the last of these stars none other than Mickey Rooney. Now that’s scary.
TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972)
One of the best Amicus anthologies kicks off with “All Through the House,” a story about a spouse-murdering Joan Collins being terrorized by an escaped lunatic in a Santa suit on Christmas Eve. Talk about being ahead of your time.
TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT (1980)
Rare as all get out, this low budget effort bears the dubious honor of being one of the first Santa Claus slashers and features David Hess (star of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT) in the director’s chair.