While Hanukkah isn’t reaching my mailbox until February and Black Christmas remake number 2 is the mainstream movie that everyone is beating to death, I take a look at a whole load of December horror choices to add to the complete holiday horror page. So let’s see which ones deliver the fear and festivities we all asked for this season, beginning with a few short films to warm you up for your holiday horrorthon.
SCARY LITTLE FUCKERS (2015)
This 23-minute film is a spoof of the “is it or isn’t it Christmas horror film” classic Gremlins, with 80s style horror music and lighting, plus references to films such as E.T. and A Christmas Story.
An alcoholic dad buys a couple of creepy critters from a curio shop for his son for Christmas. One rule: never put them in the same cage together.
What does the son’s female friend convince him to do in between her flirtations with his dad? Put them in a cage together to screw, of course. Fricking’ Eve complex.
Silly comedy and kills ensue as the small cast carries the humor while fighting off little goofy creature puppets that are more reminiscent of Critters than Gremlins.
Sugarplum runs about 45 minutes long, is broken into “chapters”, and uses an odd narrative structure to tell a horror tale of the Sugarplum fairy and her connection to both Santa and Krampus.
A rock version of Christmas music, a quote from Christmas Vacation, and a storybook rhyme introduction set the tone before two buddies purchase a creepy figurine at a store then accidentally release a sugarplum demon!
It sounds like a setup for a Christmas slasher, however, Sugarplum is not after blood and guts. She wants soul food! But just be warned—we don’t get to see the creepy cool bitch until the end of the film. She’s just POV until then.
In between Sugarplum’s soul searching, there are disjointed chapters—one has a guy narrating the backstory of Krampus, Santa, and Sugarplum as pencil drawings appear on screen, and another super brief, pointless chapter has guys hunting Sugarplum in the woods.
Even though Sugarplum doesn’t mutilate teens, the film has a certain holiday horror charm, from the eerie colors of the Christmas lights that are like something right out of a 1980s horror flick to the final chapter when Sugarplum is revealed…along with another Christmas icon.
I’M DREAMING OF A WHITE DOOMSDAY (2017)
Horror cutie Damian Maffei (Christmas With The Dead) has a small role in this post-apocalyptic Christmas horror film, which focuses on what becomes of his wife and son in a bomb shelter after he goes out for supplies and doesn’t return.
The film runs only 70 minutes long, but it really could have been condensed into a 30-minute short in an anthology. It deals only with the mother trying to cope with being alone with her son, eventually using the celebration of Christmas as therapy for both of them.
We don’t know what exactly led to the apocalypse. We don’t see any infected/zombies during the course of the film.
The only real horror and hints of what happened come when the mom goes out alone looking for supplies, plus the final few minutes, which would be much more of a Christmas horror zinger if the film had been shorter and actually building to this conclusion. The final frame reminds me of the exclamation point on a famous Christmas horror short from a classic anthology that I can’t mention without giving away the ending of this film.
DARKEST NIGHT (2012)
Before I even talk about the horror of this one, let me get out of the way that although it’s about a family gathering for Christmas at a house in the mountains, there are absolutely no Christmas decorations and the holiday is only mentioned perhaps twice. What I at first thought was at least some garland I later concluded was probably just generic decor…
As for the horror, this is one of the most disjointed, badly lit and shot found footage films I’ve ever seen. Imagine watching a VHS bootleg of a grainy, low budget 1970s film that used only candles as a light source, so mostly everything on screen is lost in darkness while what little can be seen is saturated in one tint, and you’ll get the picture (that you can’t see).
As far as I can tell, a family is plunged into some sort of demonic plane of existence after they find signs of occult rituals in the woods.
Although some of the creepiest visuals come and go and are never revisited, I probably would have actually enjoyed the mishmosh of horrors being thrown at us if I could have seen any of it. Here’s an example of two freaky scenes.
This one has a woman giving birth to some sort of creature baby. Can you see it?
And this is a guy they find stuffed in a box with his arms and legs missing.
The clearest horror footage shows up on their television (not that I understand why).
It all comes down to issues about family and marriage, but it’s too chaotic to make much sense of. There are some truly haunting moments here that remind me of the weirdness of Euro horror. That makes me wish this had been made as a standard third person POV film rather than structured using the pretty nonsensical circumstances under which it is presented as found footage here.
INTO THE DARK: A NASTY PIECE OF WORK (2019)
Considering this film takes place in the mansion of a rich businessman during a holiday party, the Christmas decor is wonderful. However, this isn’t so much horror as it is a mean-spirited, dark dramedy in which the rich businessman pits competing employees against each other in a battle to the death.
Julian Sands is the boss.
The female side of Herman’s Head is his wife.
The two men competing for the job bring their ladies with them, and virtually everyone is a bad caricature.
Shit starts getting real when the couple hosting meets with the guests alone and jealousy mounts. Dirty secrets are revealed, nothing is as it seems, and chaotic violence erupts.
The brutality is served with a side of quirky, sarcastic humor, and there’s some good gore, but there’s also a lot of talking between the action. I’d say it’s fairly entertaining if you’re in the mood, just don’t go into it looking for a Christmas horror movie.
I TRAPPED THE DEVIL (2019)
Horror king AJ Bowen stars in this psychological horror film that takes place in a house all decorated for Christmas, although the film isn’t specifically about the holiday.
What would you do if you popped in to visit someone you love and they told you they had the devil locked in their basement?
AJ and wife drop in and surprise his brother for the holidays. But something is up. The television is on and acting all The Ring, and the brother has someone locked in a room in the basement that he claims is the devil.
It’s such a great premise and establishes an ominous tone, which is helped by the fact that the locked basement door is drenched in red light.
But as the couple fails to act in any way you think they would upon coming into this situation (like calling the police), you begin to wonder if the brother is actually mentally ill and they know it.
The minimal hints offered as to what is going on aren’t enough to clarify anything, and the creepy moments put us into single-minded focus…we want to know what’s behind the door. Don’t expect it to make sense when we finally do at the last second. However, the reveal and clues that never pan out did leave me with the chance to imagine plenty of solid plots that could have been in what instead is a head-scratcher.
AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS (2018)
This is a festive tale of a very dysfunctional family that becomes trapped at home for the holidays when a weird black substance completely covers the house.
Quite intriguing and creepy, the film sees the family receiving messages on their television screen with instructions on how to survive their quarantine. But would you immediately trust the orders if you were supposed to do things like inject yourself with a hypodermic that came down the chimney and landed in the fireplace?
That question becomes the conflict between the family members, however, their hateful relationships before they even start brutally turning on each other make this one hard to get through. They are all miserable fucking people who are just awful to each other. I think it would have delivered more of a punch if they were enjoying a splendid Christmas together before the horrific circumstances turned them against each other.
But I can forgive because the guys are cute, and the final act delivers some kick ass horror as we get to finally see what is playing them like puppets, even if its origin is not quite explained.
UGLY SWEATER PARTY (2018)
While the title doesn’t want to commit to it, this is an ugly CHRISTMAS sweater movie. There’s some truth to the title’s omission, because virtually the entire film takes place at a “Jesus camp”, with everyone running around in shorts in sunny woods. Part of me is okay with that aspect…
Ugly Sweater Party is a campy, wacky film with a bevy of indie horror names. It might not be for everyone, but it’s a bit of a messy good time with some funny adolescent humor and plenty of blood. I’m just disappointed in the lack of Christmas spirit.
After a gory, yet comic opener featuring indie horror daddy Brad Potts and Roach from The People Under the Stairs, we get right into the trashy tone, with the director and star of 2 Jennifer shaving his pubes while his buddy is doing a Christmas strip tease.
Then they head to an ugly sweater party. Turns out one of the sweaters they score is possessed, and pretty soon the person wearing it starts killing off all the God lovers at a Jesus camp. Sounds like my kind of Christmas. Among the Jesus crazies is Felissa Rose, who gets a good reminder of the body part that made her famous and scarred many Gen Xers for life.
Horror hunk Marv Blauvelt has a gay shower fantasy in which he flashes an adorable smile you would swear is inspired by Ralphie from A Christmas Story.
There are heavy metal performances, Satanism, a demon, laser guns, and a disgusting (in a fun way) scene involving a guy’s genitals.
One of the highlights for me (aside from the hot guys and gay stuff) is the awesome new wave novelty theme song that I would totally play on my Future Flashbacks show if I could score a copy. And of course, this funky film scores a place on my die, gay guy, die! page and my stud stalking page.
KILLER CHRISTMAS (2017)
It’s a little bit of a red flag when the description for a movie starts with “A slow-burn Christmas horror…”. Slow-burners are usually unapologetic, but this feels like it’s warning you that nothing much happens for the first 45 minutes but to give it a chance anyway.
I’m not disappointed that I gave it a chance. It’s a well-made film in the style of classic slashers. A group of friends goes to cut down a tree in the mountains.
The creepy guy that works there warns them to stay away from the abandoned hotel nearby.
So naturally they go to explore the abandoned hotel, where they are hunted down and killed by someone in a Santa mask.
The odd thing about Killer Christmas is that the acting improves when the horror kicks in halfway through and it’s time to act scared. The cast seems to flounder with the unnecessary dialogue while they are exploring the abandoned building before the good stuff.
The atmosphere, the dark lighting, and the dreary set are perfect for a horror movie, as are the camera angles and the score, which features children singing a Christmas carol and horror movie music played simultaneously. But there could have been some terror teases to keep us on edge during the exploration, which in itself isn’t enough to build the tension.
However, once the person in the killer stars attacking, we get a good old-fashioned slasher. Sure, it’s as typical as they come and there isn’t much in the way of blood, but it’s a new one for the holidays and does what it intends to do quite well, with chase scenes, some tragic decisions by characters, and a few surprises before all is said and done. You also might be left with a few questions, but just let it go and enjoy the seasonal slashing.