With December finally here, it’s time to load up on the holiday horror. It’s the time to celebrate yuletide terror, killer Santa’s, and spilling massive amounts of blood in the snow. So I scoured Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix for your streaming horror watchlists to help you have a scary little Christmas. What I’ve discovered is that Hulu opts for surprising offerings, Amazon nails it on quantity, and Netflix really likes anthologies. There’s a surprising lack of a lot of definitive classics across the streaming platforms, though you can count on Amazon to offer micro-budget films like A Cadaver Christmas, or Krampus cash-ins like Krampus Unleashed. Luckily there’s enough selection to load up this holiday season, and here’s your guide on what to watch this holiday season:
Angela Bridges (Rachel Nichols) learns a harsh lesson of the importance of letting go of work and spending time with family over the holidays when she’s locked in the office garage by a psychopath on Christmas Eve. Written by Alexandre Aja (High Tension) and Franck Khalfoun (2012’s Maniac), who also directed, this is one holiday horror movie that deserves more love than it’s gotten over the years. I concede that it’s not necessarily the most memorable of plots; however, Kahlfoun and Aja have an uncanny knack for delivering tension and uncomfortable moments. Wes Bentley nails his character as the somewhat sympathetic psychopath obsessed with his prey. This one is also scheduled to leave Hulu at the end of the month, so jump on this.
Both the title and plot should indicate what kind of mindless B-movie this is, and that’s not always a bad thing. This Christmas time set thriller sees a stockbroker, David, taking his crush Emily and another co-worker, Corey, home from the office Christmas party. Corey forces David to stop by an ATM booth, where the trio gets trapped inside while a killer in a parka lurks outside, murdering anyone nearby. Yeah, it’s about as silly as it sounds. Which means it’s the perfect thriller to watch with a group of friends and spiked eggnog. The cast is surprisingly strong, like Alice Eve as Emily, despite a core of characters that make the dumbest choices. ATM isn’t the greatest holiday horror film by any stretch, but in the right setting it can be an entertaining watch.
New Year’s Evil
Originally released on December 26, 1980, this New Year’s Eve set slasher follows a Los Angeles radio DJ that receives a phone call from a killer who calls in to state they’ll be killing someone every time the clock rings in the New Year in a different time zone. A bit more sleazy and schlocky in tone, this slasher does take the Hitchcockian bomb theory approach in that you see who the killer is early on, setting up some great cat and mouse tension. It also offers a ton by way of gore and punk rock. Plus, with Christmas hogging the spotlight, New Year’s doesn’t get near as much love.
What if Jack Frost wasn’t the personification of ice, sleet, and freezing winter, but a serial killer on his way to his execution that crashes into genetic material, causing him to mutate and fuse with the surrounding snow? Intentional low-budget cheese-fest, Jack Frost opts for borderline offensive humor (I’m looking at you, sexual assault by carrot scene), silly humor, and over the top kills by a murderous snowman. Because of that, it’s the perfect antithesis to the holiday spirit. Really, though, it’s the definitive holiday horror film that has to be seen at least once to be believed. The special effects mostly fall in line with the small budget, but they do spend most of it on the gruesome, great transformation sequence of Jack Frost from human to snowman. If you’re team Jack Frost, Amazon also offers the non-Christmas follow up, Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman.
All Through the House
A throwback to ‘80s slasher featuring a deranged Santa-masked killer, this micro-budget slasher should tick off a lot of boxes on the yuletide terror watch list. It’s not the most original, nor perfect, but it totally delivers on the gore. Slashing, slicing, dicing, and buckets of blood, this Santa delivers. All Through the House also nails the nods to other slasher classics, like Black Christmas or Deep Red. It may be low budget, but it doesn’t skimp on the practical effects. At least not with the copious amount of blood flow. If the concept of Santa getting brutal with his kills appeals to you, this should make your must list. This Santa loves hedge clippers and violence, to give you an idea.
Technically, this is only available on Amazon video through a Tribeca Shortlist subscription, but they offer a 7-day free trial, so there’s your loophole. This killer Santa slasher is a very loose remake of definitive holiday horror classic Silent Night, Deadly Night and features a horror worthy cast featuring Malcom McDowell, Jaime King (2009’s My Bloody Valentine, Sin City), and Donal Logue (Blade, Zodiac). McDowell plays the scene chewing Sheriff on the trails of the serial killing Santa on Christmas Eve, and Logue is the cynyical jerk Santa turned red herring. The movie doesn’t stick its landing, but it does make excellent use of a wood chipper, its killer Santa, and a ton of blood. The cast makes this loose remake a lot more fun that it probably could have been otherwise.
A Christmas Horror Story
A holiday-themed anthology that intertwines its stories via a radio DJ played by William Shatner, produced by the people behind the Ginger Snaps trilogy. As with nearly all anthologies, not all segments work, but for the most part this Christmas horror movie works. The segment featuring the changeling that’s swapped with a child during a family Christmas tree outing is surprisingly creepy, and the segment featuring Santa versus zombie elves is a lot of fun. Of course, having someone like Shatner tie the tales all together probably tells you all you need to know about this one.
What else is left to say about Joe Dante’s classic, holiday and otherwise? It’s one of the absolute best, and thanks to Dante and practical effects, still holds up decades later. It’s a great gateway horror film for kids, making this the perfect family horror film for the holidays. Phoebe Cates’ Kate has a disturbingly dark background with Christmas, while Gizmo’s so adorable that kids won’t even notice the adult moments. For those that want their spiked eggnog and their cookies, Gremlins is the perfect pairing.
This anthology covers a wide range of holidays, but it’s the last two segments that make this applicable to this list. Scott Stewart’s (Legion, Dark Skies) approach to Christmas sees Seth Green’s Pete contend with a deadly holiday gift of virtual glasses. The real highlight, though, is Adam Egypt Mortimer’s helming of New Year’s Eve, written by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes). Serial killer Reggie has the tables turned when he picks up an awkward girl for a New Year’s date on a dating website. Lorenza Izzo nails her awkward turned ruthless character, making this uneven anthology end on a strong note.
The first segment in this female-helmed horror anthology, adapted from a Jack Ketchum story by Jovanka Vuckovic, is set during Christmas time. A young boy, Danny, peers inside a man’s gift box while riding home on a train and what he sees causes him to stop eating. It’s unsettling, psychological, and delivers some jarring visuals. Not only is it arguably the strongest segment of the film, it’s also appropriately holiday themed for the season.
What’s on your Holiday watch list this season?