‘Twas a few weeks before Christmas, when in every cinema. Seasonal horrors were stirring and brought something sinister. There’s fun to be had but beware of a scare. As demon St Nicholas soon shall be there.
Seasons greetings! Welcome to an appropriately festive version of Genre Spotlight. Today’s subject, the Christmas horror film, provides Yuletide merriment to cult film fans, horror aficionados and anyone looking for a slice of gory R-rated seasonal joy.
Bur rest assured: although an equally blood-curdling experience to endure, the “hilariously” titled Nativity 3: Dude Where’s My Donkey?! will mercifully evade our spotlight! Our brand of Christmas nightmare is by every intention a purposeful, horrifying and gruesome spectacle.
On the face of it, the “season to be jolly” and the horror genre seem like polar opposites. Scratch a little deeper though and you’ll find some alarming similarities. Both flamboyantly push the boundaries of taste with the colour red; both are incredibly annoying when talked about all bloody year and both heavily feature the breaking in of our homes in the dead of night, albeit with drastically different results.
Christmas and horror have been unexpected bedfellows for some time now. Beyond the brazen Christmas horror film, think about every Doctor Who special you’ve had to sit through; think about mainstream film favourites like Gremlins or The Nightmare Before Christmas. All have, in varying degrees, flirted with the gooey warm mushy message of a Christmas narrative and the gooey warm mushy imagery of the horror genre.
This year’s standout piece of Christmas horror comes in the form of Krampus, which stands as an exemplary template for a successful Christmas horror film. Right off the bat it should be clear: comedy, specifically dark comedy, is a vital ingredient to this horror sub-genre. Unless you’re watching It’s A Wonderful Life, it’s hard to find much jingle or joy in a Christmas film that takes itself too seriously. That being said, the humour found here doesn’t really stem from parody or over the top silliness, but rather from a nod of respect to the film’s horror roots and the beautiful peculiarity of its premise. Take the 2010 Finnish Christmas horror, Rare Exports.
The trailer contains tons of comical and tongue-in-cheek nods to classic horror masterpieces like John Carpenter’s The Thing and George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. At the same time, it’s clear to see the twisted and humorous juxtaposition of the Christmas horror, which in this case is the depiction of our beloved Santa Claus not only in a bleak horror setting but also as a vicious, bloodthirsty, almost-feral creature.
This premise lies at the centre of the Christmas horror. The corruption and mutilation of our childhood images and symbols into all manners of demons, monsters and ancient creatures not only terrifies but intrigues us, as if we have uncovered the truth behind a children’s fairy tale; it almost seems to make sense that the reality of elves, flying Reindeer and talking snowmen is one of horror rather than happiness and rainbows.
Of course, as the poster boy for the holiday season, Santa Claus tends to be the primary target for horror metamorphoses, so here are a few of naughty St. Nic’s greatest hits for the holiday season:
Silent Night, Deadly Night
To All A Good Night