Christmas and classic holidays are always fun, of course, but sometimes you just want something a little more exciting. This is where Christmas horror movies come in.
While it may seem counterintuitive to celebrate a joyful holiday with something scary, remember that ghosts are the cornerstone of some of the most classic Christmas stories.
Below, take a look at some of the best Christmas horror movies to watch during the holiday season.
Silent Night (2021)
The most recent entry in the genre, this dark comedy stars Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode as a couple hosting a lavish Christmas Eve party for friends and family. At first, the charming group seems to be having a relatively normal night, until it becomes clear that they’re going all out because the world is about to end as the result of a climate change disaster. If it hits a bit too close to home, it helps that the formidable ensemble cast also includes Lily-Rose Depp, Annabelle Wallis, Lucy Punch and 14-year-old Roman Griffin Davis, who earned a Golden Globe nomination for his work in Jojo Rabbit.
Black Christmas (2019)
The second and more recent remake of the 1974 Black Christmas follows a similar plot to the original—sorority girls terrorized by mystery man—but adds a twist appropriate for the #MeToo era. In this version, the villain stalking the women gets help from a fraternity whose former president sexually assaulted one of the Mu Kappa Epsilon sisters. Though director Sophia Takal worked to make sure the film got a PG-13 rating so a wider audience could see it, the movie still packs plenty of scares.
The Lodge (2019)
This slow-burning thriller stars Riley Keough as Grace, a young woman who travels to Massachusetts with her fiancé Richard (Richard Armitage) and his children so she can get to know the kids better. Things quickly take a turn when Richard leaves her to go back to the city for a work obligation and the children amp up their aggression toward their potential new stepmother. Grace’s struggle with her own past as a cult survivor also helps to set the scene for a claustrophobic, bone-chilling tale of winter survival.
For those unfamiliar with darker Christmas lore, Krampus is a horned beast of Alpine origin who visits poorly behaved children during the month of December and swats them with his birch rod. The movie Krampus, starring Adam Scott and Toni Collette, takes things in a slightly different direction. In this version, Krampus is a demonic presence who punishes people who have lost the Christmas spirit, and he sets the Engel family in his sights. Krampus is more about setting a spooky scene than jump scares and gore, but it still makes for a fun watch on a cold winter night.
Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
This is somehow the only movie on this list that’s also a musical, though in Christmas horror’s defense, it is hard to combine comedy, violence and showtunes in one work. Ella Hunt plays Anna Shepherd, a young woman who’s gearing up to start college when a zombie outbreak starts spreading in her hometown. She and her friends must work to save themselves and their families from the chaos when all they wanted was a nice holiday break.
Better Watch Out (2016)
Though Better Watch Out is set during the holidays, it begins the same way so many non-seasonal slasher films do: with a babysitter guarding her young charge. Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) is watching 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller) when she starts to worry that they’re not alone. At first, she thinks they’re being pranked by one of Luke’s friends, but she soon finds out that something more nefarious is afoot. It’s also a great choice for fans of Home Alone—it contains several (decidedly more sinister) references to the beloved family film.