Black Christmas (All 3 of them)
I know with the exception of the original these movies tend to be polarizing, but they feel like my children. I may not love them equally, but that’s also because I find it so hard to compare them. Instead, I appreciate each Black Christmas for different things. And I’m delighted to have three of these movies to revisit every year.
Black Christmas 1974 is a bonafide classic that quietly created a blueprint for slashers while featuring a groundbreaking abortion subplot, chilling moments that unnerve me to this day (the uncanny and perverted phone call followed by the monotone/matter of fact “I’m going to kill you” before the hangup), and the music design with its clever use of the water phone instrument.
I was not a fan of Black Christmas 2019 when I first saw it, but my second and third rewatches have caused it to grow on me significantly. Yes, it is still cringy and ham-fisted in its messaging (it was made in only 5 months!), but Sophia Takal’s directing is engaging and inspired. The bonus New Year’s movie on this list was also directed by her, and really drives home the squandered potential of this one. Still, I love the sincerity of this one (it has a lot more of the original’s tone than the 2006 version), how much it surprised me in terms of reimagining the story, and how intense it felt at times despite being PG-13. I’ll take some Twitter-thread level dialogue and plot holes in exchange for getting another fresh spin on Black Christmas.
While 1974 is the best, Black Christmas 2006 is my guilty pleasure favorite. Have you ever had a eureka moment? Because I had one when director Sam Wineman compared this movie to a drag performance of the original. That is a perfect way to explain why I love its bombastic reimagining of the first film. It shares a lot of mean “let’s be cynical about this holiday” DNA with My Bloody Valentine 3D. I must have seen it over ten times now, and still some of the line deliveries (*hands someone a glass unicorn figurine* “I know you like the Bible and stuff” ?!) made me cackle even on my most recent rewatch. It will forever be the most “Christmasy” horror movie to me with its constant Christmas music and mise-en-scène that looks like it just vomited Christmas spirit everywhere.
Oh Gremlins. Before I had Black Christmas 2006, this was my defacto “Christmasy” horror movie. From the bold “Baby Please Come Home” to setup the smalltown at Christmas spirit to the brilliant use of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” while gremlins scuttle around the house on the attack, this movie also oozes Christmas (and melted gremlin guts). Also Gizmo is adorable with his lil Santa hat and keyboard.
Anna and the Apocalypse
Sometimes you need a (dare I say?) feelgood Christmas horror film that doesn’t leave you in the dumps despite a lot of carnage and death. It seems strange that a Christmas zombie apocalypse musical would do the trick, but it does. This features a hilariously unaware of the 2004 Dawn of the Dead-level suburban zombie apocalypse happening around you number that rivals Shaun of the Dead. The songs are catchy, and even the flawed characters are relatable or at the very least understandable in their motivations. There are also some great life lessons amidst the chaos too.
Better Watch Out
I went into this not expecting much and being so surprised by the nasty twists and suspense. You can’t start watching this and not need to know what happens. It is a little too mean to incorporate into my annual Christmas schedule, but it’s a great little movie that, if nothing else, answers what would happen if you “Home Aloned” someone by swinging a full canister of paint at their head.
Silent Night, Deadly Night series
Watching one of these every year has become a tradition of mine. I don’t really have a specific one to recommend, but these wacky little movies are great if you have a Christmas horror movie sweet (?) tooth. The first one at least seems like an earnest slasher and the second is mostly a recap of the first with the iconic Garbage Day scene. The next two really lean into direct to video 80s/90s sleaze.
I just watched this one for the first time year, and while it may not enter the upper echelon of Christmas horror movies like the other ones on this list, it was fun in its own way. Like the first Silent Night, Deadly Night this movie follows a man with some issues with Christmas from growing up (although Harry’s is decidedly less traumatic than Billy’s!). This is apparently a John Waters favorite, and it really does make you feel for Harry and even root for him when he goes after his absolutely shitty coworker. Moreover, this has a hilariously ridiculous ending you will never forget, and a vigilante mob even more ineffectual than the one in Halloween Kills.
New Year, New You
It’s rare I like a movie so much, I immediately write a post about it but that is exactly what I did last New Year’s Eve when I watched this for the first time. This is the second movie on this list directed by Sophia Takal, and really shows her skill when given a normal production timeline. I’m usually not a fan of stories dealing with long-standing tensions in female friendships, but I love the twisted, dark places this movie goes. It gets to the point (and you will definitely know it when you see it!) where we question who we are rooting for in this situation. Definitely a dark one, but it really kept me glued to the screen.
It’s really fun watching new holiday horror movies each year, and finding gems to add to the rotation. Happy holidays and stay safe.