By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
To hear howls of strange beasts can make the eve all the more chilling.
Assembled here is a list of monster movies threatening the holiday season by tormenting unlucky mortals who come across their way. Sometimes the message is clear in these films: it’s to help unite divided families to fight against a common threat. In others, it’s to show how better a person can become when not isolated away from society. For the rest, a good horror tale helps make communities stronger. Slasher films featuring a deranged serial killer is its own special category and they tend to dominate other holiday lists. Some of the films in this list have a lesson to end with, but not all of them do. Some movies are just made to simply entertain.A Christmas Carol (1951)
Charles Dickens’ classic is the penultimate ghost story set around Christmas to watch or listen to on a merry holiday. In any form, from Disney’s animated retelling in Mickey’s Christmas Carol to Scrooged, the horror content remains the same and the best scene is when Scrooge confronts what isolation and being a miser can do unto oneself. This holiday has always been about fostering community spirit over exchanging gifts. This feeling is what makes this film a true gem instead of the movies that are rotten tomatoes — not all of them necessarily makes sense.
Child’s Play (1988)
Aged porcelain dolls from the Victorian age have this creepy vibe when put in shadows. When placed into haunted house movies, there’s this ambience that they eerily exude no matter how beautiful they are. Ever since Poltergeist, looking at a a doll of a clown sitting silently on a chair with shadows across its face can never be treated with ease. Both the original and reboot are effective in that regard but what about those simple vinyl dolls? The success of the first Child’s Play film ands its sequels show how dangerous that can get.
Like Gremlins, Child’s Play revolves around a Christmas present gone awry. Unlike a mogwai, though, the Chucky doll does not need to be fed after midnight to turn evil. He does not even need batteries to come alive!
When considering Elves hail from Germanic Folklore, to cast them as the villain in a tale that takes its cues from Hitler’s dream to have a master race reign seems only fitting. It all begins due to Kirsten’s (Julie Austin) desire to participate in a pagan ritual to not celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense. She spills a little blood, and it awakens one of these creatures from the woods who tries to continue what the Nazi’s started.
This old gem does not have a proper DVD release. It might be hiding somewhere on a video shelf at a second hand store’s VHS library. It’s worth viewing at least once to see how horror movies were made back in the 80’s. Or people can go searching YouTube for it. These elves are apparently very good at hiding!
Feeders 2: Slay Bells (1998)
Technically, this film dualogy should be avoided. It’s tough to watch, but because the second film uses the Christmas holiday to pin when an alien invasion should hit this series gets an honorable mention. Logistically, just how can a second film follow-up on the first when everyone dies needs a willing suspension of disbelief. Maybe the first movie was a dream and the second film is the real story!
This horror-comedy presents what is traditionally an aviation monster to a prankster. From innocence to innocuous, the tiny creature that Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) receives as a Christmas gift shows how dangerous life can become if he does not follow the rules. This film shows what happens when accidents happen, and chaos that ensures explores all the deadly urban legends that can occur during the holiday. From exploding toys to the dangers of trying to climb down a chimney, well, some fears need to be confronted.
The dose of cute versus disgusting has a dark edge that makes this film a delight to watch. And who doesn’t love Gizmo? Howie Mandel lent his voice to give this character life, and this film is the epitome of what made the 80’s horror scene fun!
Jack Frost (1997)
This movie shows that not even the innocent snow-man figure can escape being turned evil. This movie gets wild and campy when serial-killer Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) is transformed from a human to a snow-figure hell-bent on continuing his trail of death.
In an accident straight out of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a tanker containing radioactive waste collided with the prison truck holding Frost, the result is both ludicrous and toxic. Despite being panned, Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman was made to continue this story. After this film, the saga was put on ice when the lead, Christopher Allport (who played the titular killer) sadly passed away.
Several movies now exist of this horned demon that purposefully goes out to punish children behaving badly. At least three films (Krampus The Reckoning, Krampus and A Christmas Horror Story) emerged this year and prior (Krampus: The Christmas Devil) to show that more folks are interested in celebrating the holidays in non-traditional ways while still acknowledging some features of what the festivities mean.
This icon is used to fight against the commercial aspects of what the holiday has become and in what the latest film (released in December) represents has a message in telling viewers to be careful in what you wish for.
Silent Night Zombie Night (2009)
There’s a love story buried in this tale that sets zombies loose in Los Angeles. L.A.P.D. officer Frank Talbot (Jack Forcinito) finds himself in a dilemma when he and his long time partner are in love with the same woman and just how that threatens their relationship makes for tough choices. But in the midst of this apocalypse, the choices that have to be made does not make for a strong film. Gorehounds will like the blood, but even that does not save this movie.
Some movies take the tradition of a well-established figure and distorts the figure for the sake of terror. Is Sinterklaas a killer out for revenge or something more? The people he chases down are descendants of villagers who put away the original figure — a bishop by the name of Niklas who led a group of vagabonds who pillaged a village. They fought back and burned the ship; centuries later, a legend would see them return as ghosts ala John Carpenter’s The Fog to wreak vengeance upon the descendents. In the way this undead leader commands the pack, perhaps he’s more Lich-like than ghost.
This short film is unique in the sea of horror movies where humans are often the victim for no particular reason at all. This story shows what the holiday is like from the perspective of living trees who tend to keep to themselves. They do not like the idea of being cut down from their happy wonderland and being put on display at a human home only to be decorated. Like the Ent uprising in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, they decided to fight back!