Without Black Christmas, a groundbreaking 1974 Canadian horror film there might never have been a Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers. These characters owe much to one film made in Toronto, a movie Film Threat magazine calls “the first modern slasher movie.”
The film enters its fourth decade this year, a milestone celebrated with the release of Black Christmas, the Season’s Grievings Edition in late November. The story of a sorority house terrorized by a murderous stranger has been given the deluxe Blu-ray treatment, packed with a Santa’s sleigh of new features. It is one of the great Christmas horror movies, but it isn’t the only one.
Here’s a look at holiday films without an ounce of tinsel treacle.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
Originally called Slayride, this movie about a teen who goes on a murderous rampage dressed as Santa after his parents are killed, changed its name for release. In its first weekend it out-grossed Nightmare on Elm Street, but then parents angry at Santa’s portrayal as an axe murderer picketed theatres, and the box office dried up.
K. Gordon Murray was a film producer best known for snapping up the rights to foreign films, dubbing them into English for American audiences. His best-known pick-up was Santa Claus, a strange Yuletide flick about St. Nick and Merlin doing battle with Lucifer.
Originally produced in Spanish and featuring a Santa Claus who doesn’t live at the North Pole, but above it, in a magic castle in outer space, it isn’t exactly scary, but may be the weirdest movie on this list.
When most people think of Dan Haggerty visions of the gruff but kind-hearted mountain man from the 1970s TV show The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams come to mind. B-movie fans, however, remember him as Mike McGavin, a down-on-his-luck department store Santa who does battle with a bloodthirsty Nazi elf in Elves. It suffers from cheesy dialogue — “I had a rough day at work… Santa got murdered” — and the fact that a movie called Elves features only one elf, but it’s so ho-ho-ho-horrible it’s fun to watch.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Imagine if our collective image of Santa Claus had been shaped by Allegory of Gluttony and Lust painter Hieronymus Bosch instead of some nameless commercial artist at Coca-Cola and you’ll get an idea of the dark edge of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
The jolly fat man in the red suit is gone, hijacked by a skeleton in a pinstriped suit. The story of the mayor of Halloweentown who kidnaps and impersonates ‘Sandy Claws’ to bring his own brand of good will to the world is a Disney release but it is one of the rare ones that isn’t meant for the entire family.
Silent Night, Zombie Night
Walking Dead fans might get a charge out of Silent Night, Zombie Night, a Christmas viral outbreak movie so realistic a concerned citizen called the police during filming, citing gang violence. The LAPD showed up by foot, car and air only to find movie zombies battling with prop weapons.
Christmas Evil is the best of the Santa as serial killer movies and before you ask, there are quite a few of them. In this one a boy is traumatized after walking in on his parents in flagrante with dad dressed as Santa. He develops daddy issues and a Santa fixation and one Christmas Eve brings murder home for the holidays.