The Best of Festive Horror

As I sit here under nine blankets, two cats, three pairs of socks, and a hot water bottle jammed in every orifice, I can’t help but notice that we’re getting to the festive part of the year (if, like me, you happen to celebrate that kind of thing). And, in the grand tradition of this site, it’s only right we find a way to make this about horror. Horror and Christmas go together like brandy cream and my brother’s giant mince pie; which is to say, I can’t get enough and jam so much into myself every year I get a bit sick. Of course, there are some excellent go-tos already – Gremlins, Krampus, Rare Exports – but chances are, you know of them already, and you’re looking for something fresh for your foul festivities. So let’s talk about some of the finest festive horror movies out there, to get you in the spooky Christmas spirit!

Better Watch Out

Santa isn’t the only person pulling off a home invasion nightmare this year; 2016’s delightfully twisted horror Better Watch Out is about to give him a run for his money. Re-uniting The Visit’s Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbloud, it follows a babysitter trying to protect her two teenybopper wards from an apparent Christmastime attack – only to find out there’s actually something far, far more sinister going on under the surface. It’s packed with great performances from the young cast, with the kind of nasty twist that will have your jaw on the floor in the best way possible. The contrast between sweet suburban Christmas decor and dark, twisted social horror is downright irresistible.

The Lodge

The headline in The Lodge is a superb performance from Riley Keough, who plays a cult survivor trying to navigate her first Christmas with her new husband and his resentful kids, but there’s plenty more to recommend to it, too. Made by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, of Goodnight Mommy fame, it’s got a similar, woozy sense of unreality as their breakthrough hit; there’s a feel of giallo to The Lodge, as the truth and fiction start to blend together in an unsettlingly unreadable mess. If you like to spend your Christmas brandy-drunk doubting every single member of your family and their intentions, make this your Christmas Eve viewing.

Dead End

Lin Shaye gets a whole lot of love in the horror community, and, after her iconic turn in the Insidious franchise, rightly so. Dead End is a great chance to explore some of her other work, as she plays the matriarch of a family about to have the worst Christmas Eve journey of their lives. 2003’s Dead End blends fantasy and horror in a reticent but compelling story of metaphor, mystery, and people’s brains hanging out of the back of their head; led by Shaye and an excellent Ray Wise, it’s got a great sense of isolated, rural terror as things start to ramp up into the stranger and less sensical, especially against the wintery woodland backdrop. What could be cosier?

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By Lou MacGregor

(header image via IMDB)

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