Another holiday season is upon us, which means a vast wave of holiday-themed programming heading our way. Almost every television series tends to get in on the holiday spirit and deliver Christmas themed episodes, but our favorite, of course, is when they focus on horror.
We love it when Santa gets homicidal, as he does in Tales from the Crypt’s “And All Through the House,” and American Horror Story: Asylum’s “Unholy Night.” Or even Pagan spins on the holiday, like Supernatural’s “A Very Supernatural Christmas” and the upcoming Netflix special Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Midwinter’s Tale.
For those looking for even more macabre twists to the holiday, these five Christmas specials not only bring the yuletide terror, but they’re all available right now to stream.
Inside No. 9 – “The Devil of Christmas”
British dark comedy anthology series Inside No. 9 is a much watch on its own (episodes like The Harrowing are amazing horror TV), and this Christmas special episode proves why. The season three episode is a recreation of ‘70s anthology progamming, complete with authentic filming equipment that lends that grainy, full screen aesthetic. As for plot, it follows a family vacationing at an Austrian Alpine chalet who are soon plagued by the presence of Krampus. The viewer soon learns that this is a film within a film, though, as voice-over narration from the director gives insight to the making of the episode, and we discover that there’s something far more sinister happening for the unwitting star. It’s truly dark stuff.
Where to stream: BritBox subscription on Amazon Prime Video (they offer a 7-day free trial period).
X-Files – “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas”
This season six monster-of-the-week episode sees Mulder call on Scully to investigate a haunted house on Christmas Eve. He explains to his skeptical partner that a pair of lovers haunt the house every Christmas Eve after having killed each other in a lovers’ pact on Christmas in 1917, just so they could spend eternity together. Once inside they’re trapped by the ghosts of Maurice (Ed Asner) and Lyda (Lily Tomlin), who turn the agents against each other, building to a very bloody Christmas finale. Though much more darkly mischievous than overtly scary, this episode is a throwback to the forgotten tradition of holiday ghost stories and its guest stars revel in their twisted roles.
Where to stream: Hulu
Doctor Who – “Last Christmas”
The long-running British sci-fi series Doctor Who has an annual, highly anticipated Christmas tradition; the Doctor Who Christmas special. Every year since the revival series began, you can count on the Doctor and his current companion to travel through time and space to battle imaginative foes in a holiday-themed episode. For horror fans, “Last Christmas” is a ghoulish delight. This episode is what happens when you combine Alien, a smidge of The Thing, a lot of Inception, and jolly old Saint Nicholas (played by Shaun of the Dead’s Nick Frost). The Doctor, his companion, and Santa Claus team up to save a research station at the North Pole from facehugging aliens that send their victims into a deep dream state while they feast on their brains. It’s creepy, weird, and so much fun. You don’t have to be an invested fan of the series to enjoy this episode.
Where to stream: Amazon Prime Video
Black Mirror – “White Christmas”
This British sci-fi anthology series is a deep well of bleak, technology-based terror and the holiday-themed episode “White Christmas” is further proof. An anthology within an anthology, this episode follows two men at a remote outpost in the middle of a snowy wilderness as they tell each other about their lives to pass the time. Starring Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall (The Ritual), their stories are broken up into three segments, and they get bleaker and bleaker the more we learn about the men. It’s depressing, thrilling, and often very creepy. This episode is just as much a reflection on technology addicted culture as it is on humanity, and for those that want their Christmas themed viewings void of sickly-sweet holiday themes, well, this is for you.
Where to stream: Netflix
The Twilight Zone – “The Night of the Meek”
If Black Mirror’s Christmas episode left you feeling blue, this season two holiday themed episode of classic anthology series The Twilight Zone will lift your spirits and leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. Henry Corwin is a down on his luck drunk who happens to be a department store Santa. When he shows up to work plastered on Christmas Eve, he’s fired. All he wants is for the meek to inherit the earth, and to give the hungry children on his street a merry Christmas. When he stumbles upon a large burlap sack that can produce anything a heart desires, Corwin’s dreams become bumpy reality as he becomes Santa for the less fortunate.
Where to stream: Netflix and Hulu