10 Best Horror Movies Set During Christmas

The horror genre tends to most often be associated with Halloween. The holiday in October gets the credit for slasher flicks, creepy killers, and magical villains stalking their prey. But it’s not the only holiday that has a claim on horror. There are plenty of creative horror movies that use Christmas as a backdrop for thrills and chills instead.

RELATED: 10 Most Underrated Christmas Horror Movies, Ranked

Plenty of movie fans prefer feel-good family films or romantic comedies for the Christmas season, but for those who love a good scare, there’s a surprising amount of variety in the Christmas-horror subgenre — from evil Santas to people getting stalked on their holiday vacation to baby-sitting gigs gone awry and everything in between.

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P2 (2007)


Rachel Nichols holds an ax above her head in the parking garage in P2
  • Available to rent on Vudu

Unlike a lot of the horror movies associated with Christmas, P2 doesn’t really heavily feature Santa Claus or Christmas trees. It really could work as a cat-and-mouse horror game set at any time of the year; it just so happens to be centered on a woman who works late at the office on Christmas Eve.

When Angela attempts to leave, she ends up trapped in the parking garage overnight as she is pursued by the security guard who has become obsessed with her. It takes the idea of the Final Girl fighting off the killer in her house to a parking garage, which is unique enough to keep the audience watching. It also helps that it stars Rachel Nichols and Wes Bentley, who could probably make the audience believe in any horror concept.


The Lodge (2019)


Riley Keough in The Lodge
  • Available to stream on Hulu

Isolationism is king in a lot of horror movies, and that’s the case here as well. When a man takes his kids and new girlfriend to a remote lodge for the holidays but ends up called back to work, his new girlfriend is tasked with keeping an eye on the kids until he returns. Of course, the trio ends up stalked while waiting him out.

What makes this particular movie so great is the casting. It’s fairly standard horror fare, but Riley Keough as the girlfriend and Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh as the kids really sell the drama of the story. Placing children at the center of a horror story can be hit or miss for the audience, and this one is definitely a hit.


Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)


The joulupukki from Rare Exports: A Christmas Tail
  • Available to stream on Hulu

The idea of Krampus and killer Santas is pretty prevalent in the horror movies set during the holiday season. With so many similarities, the best of them have to have a unique twist — and Rare Exports delivers.

Produced in Finland, Rare Exports pulls from Scandinavian folklore to tell the story of the Christmas goat that punishes bad children and rewards the good. Not only does it do a good job at touching on class structure and materialism during the holidays, but it also gives savvy audiences a new origin story for one of Santa’s darker stories.

A Christmas Horror Story (2015)


  • Available to rent on Vudu


This particular movie is less of a narrative story and more of a horror anthology for fans of the holiday season. The different stories depicted all unfold at the same time, taking on different subjects, different tones, and different endings.

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Some might argue that the difference in tone makes for a less coherent horror movie, but when each segment is treated as its own story, it makes for a fun ride in which horror fans can find something to enjoy in every story. The stories are all unique as well, like Santa Claus fighting off zombie versions of elves.


The Advent Calendar (2021)


Eva looks at the wooden advent calendar under her desk lamp in the horror movie The Advent Calendar
  • Available to stream on Shudder

The Advent Calendar isn’t necessarily going to be everyone’s favorite horror movie, but it does take on a concept more often reserved for holiday-themed romantic comedies. An advent calendar has a surprise for the person gifted it, every day until Christmas in the month of December. Rom-coms tend to take those surprises and lead to romance, but this movie takes a different route.

Each day marks a wish granted by a malevolent genie of sorts, and the wishes granted usually end in some sort of blood sacrifice. It’s certainly a unique twist on the tradition that will leave audiences entertained.

The Children (2008)


A still from the 2008 horror film The Children
  • Available to rent on Vudu

In a lot of Christmas fare, children can be targets of evil Santas or other creatures. Here, however, the tables are turned a bit in this lower-budget British horror movie.

Two families are set to spend the holidays in an English estate, but the children start to get sick as soon as they arrive. It’s not just any “sickness,” though, as the children all begin to turn into brutal killers. It’s definitely a different take on the misbehaving children during the holiday season trope, and features some great tension.

Anna And The Apocalypse (2017)


Anna singing in the street as a house burrns behind her in Anna And The Apocalypse (2017)
  • Available to rent on Vudu

It can be hard to meld two genres, but Anna and the Apocalypse goes the extra mile and blends three: it’s a horror-comedy-musical. The movie manages to make a potential apocalypse happening during the holiday season fun instead of dreary as a result.

RELATED: 10 Best Horror Comedies, Ranked

It follows the titular Anna and her classmates as she discovers that a zombie apocalypse seems to be happening just as school is getting ready to break for the holidays. Musicals aren’t for everyone in the horror audience, but Anna and the Apocalypse certainly makes for an interesting break from more traditional holiday horror.

Better Watch Out (2017)


better watch out
  • Available to stream on Peacock

When a teenager sets out to babysit her 12-year-old charge during the holidays, it seems like Better Watch Out is going to fall into the classic babysitter horror traps, but it doesn’t.

The movie begins with a lot of the same tropes seen in other horror flicks centering on babysitters, like a friend stopping by for a visit, mysterious noises outside the house, and needing to protect the charge from a home invasion. Better Watch Out, however, features a massive twist that brings a fresh perspective to the genre. It’s the twist that keeps the audience invested until the end.


Gremlins (1984)


Mogwai from Gremlins looking up in a cute way
  • Available to stream on HBO Max

In the 1984 classic, a holiday gift results in small, angry creatures taking over a town just in time for Christmas. Gremlins is a Christmas movie, a family film, a creature feature, and a horror comedy all rolled into one. It has something in it to appeal to an incredibly wide audience, which is why Gremlins is considered a Christmas classic despite not being the feel-good movie audiences usually associate with the holidays.

While some might not think of it as a true horror movie, there are enough creepy moments, tortured characters, and all-out mayhem courtesy of the Gremlins for it to qualify.

Black Christmas (1974)


Still from the 1974 Slasher movie Black Christmas
  • Available to stream on Peacock

Halloween is often credited as the first true slasher flick, but Black Christmas (also titled Stranger in the House) predates it by a few years and centers on a different holiday. It follows a group of sorority girls still in their sorority house when they’re stalked by a predator on their holiday break.

The movie is responsible for giving audiences the camera shots that so many slasher flicks are now famous for, relying on the killer’s point of view to make for suitably creepy stalking shots. It also provides one of the best Final Girls of all time in Jessica Bradford as she tries to save her sorority sisters and combats the killer, taking the lead in the confrontation with a logical approach to her situation. Like a lot of classic slasher flicks, Black Christmas even got a remake, which is fun, but the original remains the best.


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10 Best Horror Movies Set During Christmas

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