Thanksgiving is upon us. Eli Roth has delivered a fun throwback holiday slasher, but what are some of the other gems in this subgenre?
Why do some of the best horror movies revolve around a holiday setting? Could the thought of having to be cooped up with our families send us into a monstrous rage? Or maybe it’s the idea of something that is usually so cheerful and happy is invaded by death and terror. These two things typically don’t go together, so seeing the two mashed up together in all its bloody glory can be satisfying. Eli Roth is finally bringing his entry into the Grindhouse series to life, leaving only two trailers unmade. Thanksgiving is a bloody good time (read our review) and puts us in the mood for more holiday horror. When planning your horror year, what are some of the best holiday slasher films? Let’s find out.
Break out the cranberry sauce because things are about to get very red. This fun slasher film opens with a little boy named Terry killing a man at a drive-in. Anything with a drive-in has my vote. When people confront him about it, he hands the bloody weapon to his twin brother Todd and claims he was the one who did it.
Todd is sent away to an asylum and, ten years later, escapes on Thanksgiving night. He returns home to confront his brother about lying, but Terry begins a killing spree to keep the secret from coming out. An excellent slasher film for a holiday that doesn’t get enough horror love.
Santa? Killing people? The film was so controversial there were protests outside theaters by parents who felt Santa should remain a sacred icon. It was pulled out of theaters, which means it only became even more popular when it hit home video.
Billy witnesses his parents getting killed by a psycho in a Santa outfit. He endures a rough life in the orphanage, and when he is finally released on his 18th birthday, he finds a job at a local retail store. When he is forced to don a Santa outfit for the store, he snaps and goes on a killing spree. This film includes Linnea Quigley’s infamous death scene, which remains one of the most brutal of any holiday slasher.
For this list, I was only trying to do one movie per holiday, but Christmas has so many great films how can you not include Black Christmas? The holiday slasher that all others live up to. A sorority house welcomes an unwanted guest when Billy escapes from a mental institution and returns home to find someone else has moved in. He begins making dirty phone calls to the group and picks them off one by one. A chilling aspect of this film is watching his first victim being suffocated with a plastic bag, only to have her body propped up in a rocking chair in front of the attic window. She remains unnoticed by anyone else through the film’s last shot.
The only slasher film that I know of that kills according to time zones. During a pre-MTV televised rock and roll New Year’s Eve special, a killer calls the host and claims he will kill someone every time the New Year arrives in each time zone. The police try to track down the slasher, but he plans to ring in the new year in a bloody fashion. A lot of fun and kind of a weird premise that works better than you would think it would. It’s one that you should throw on during your holiday party.
A perfect holiday to grab the one you love and take their heart . . . literally. In the mining town of Valentine’s Bluff, Valentine’s Day hasn’t been celebrated since Harry Warden went on a murder spree decades ago. With enough time passing, it’s decided to hold another Valentine’s Dance among some of the residents. Soon, a killer in a miner’s uniform starts killing people. Did the return of the Valentine’s Dance bring Harry Warden back to get his ultimate revenge? This slasher doesn’t get nearly enough credit for how good it is. It never got a sequel but did get a remake that had the legendary Tom Atkins as part of the cast.
Nothing says Easter like some dismemberment. From the star and director of Highlander comes a crime thriller perfect for the holiday. Christopher Lambert, who also co-wrote the film, plays a police detective on the trail of a serial killer. Body parts from the victims are missing, and it’s revealed that the killer is trying to recreate the body of Christ. This gruesome idea is trying to cash in on the success of Seven, but I’m here for it. Lots of fun and a bonkers plot.
A fun slasher that lives up to its namesake. Muffy invites a group of college coeds to spend the weekend at her family’s mansion. Little do they know, the weekend will be deadly. One by one, they are meeting a gruesome end, and as their secrets are revealed, no one knows who will be next. The film is full of great twists and turns that culminate in an ending that might be one of the most memorable in slasher history.
This 4th of July, Uncle Sam wants you! This completely ridiculous slasher is a lot of fun and completely over the top. A Desert Storm vet dies in combat and is shipped back to his hometown. Once there, his body rises from his coffin, and he decides to kill those who are being unpatriotic. The kills in this film are themed along with the holiday and so much fun to watch. Not to be taken seriously, but a great time with friends and maybe a hot dog or two.
Everyone has their own personal holiday every year as they celebrate their birthday. Hopefully, you don’t celebrate it the same way these kids do. Three kids are born during the height of a solar eclipse. They grow up without a sense of right and wrong. When they reach the age of 10, they begin a murder spree in their small town. No one is safe, not even the town sheriff, who is one of the kid’s father. They begin to stalk their victims while taking glee in the fear they are causing. A great watch with some fun performances by the young actors. Who doesn’t love killer kids?
Of course, it’s Halloween. It has to be, right? While it’s not the first holiday-themed horror film, it’s the one that leveraged the idea to perfection. A young boy kills his older sister on Halloween night and is sent to a mental asylum. Fifteen years later, he escapes and returns to the house he used to call home.
Once there, he becomes obsessed with a high school girl he sees walking by. He proceeds to kill all her friends as she spends the night babysitting. This film sparked a whole genre and led to the 80s slasher boom. Until The Blair Witch Project was released, it was the most profitable independent movie of all time. Just try and imagine the horror genre without this legendary film. The world would be a much sadder place.
What is your favorite holiday slasher? Let us know in the comments.