So Christmas is drawing near…what’s the strangest festive movie filled with fright you could watch this year with kids? 

Putting aside the traditional argument over whether or not Die Hard is an Christmas movie or even The Thing, starring Kurt Russell surrounded by a lot of snow, you could look at presumably a lot of movies with snow and set around the end of the year – without a traditionally Christmassy theme. Nearly three decades later, Kurt Russell’s recent movie Christmas Chronicles 2 is possibly more traditional fodder for the kids.

So what is the least traditional onscreen Christmas, especially those aimed at children? You probably don’t have to look any further than those featuring fatal Christmas trees and electrocuting festive lights in Gremlins.  This 1984 comedy-horror could probably qualify as the one of the strangest seasonal movies aimed at kids, taking into consideration that lead Kate’s father meets a gory death dressed as Santa in the family chimney, an evil old woman flies out of a window to her snowy death, someone else is stabbed in the buttock with a syringe, and gremlins are killed in inventive ways, including in a blender as well as a microwave. There’s also the great anti-Christmas line, when the grumpy old woman hears some festive singers outside just before her demise: “I hate Christmas carollers. Screechy-voiced little glue sniffers.”

Next year another even stranger kids’ Christmas film arrived, Young Sherlock Holmes (1985). This Spielberg movie which features snow, presents, festive dinners and carols. This PG fantasy also features cakes that attack, and a turkey dinner that eats its owner instead of vice versa. There’s also human sacrifices, poisonous darts, fatal hallucinations, and characters believing they are buried alive. As in Gremlins, another victim falls out of a window to a present a snowy corpse in loving closeup (possibly an ‘80s theme). 

When choosing films with a creepily festive theme, Wizard of Oz could be a contender, as it features fake snow falling on to a sleeping Dorothy, Toto, Scarecrow and Tin Man to send them to sleep. Another could be J-Horror Antique Bakery, featuring a Santa driving through the snow to deliver seasonal treats, but also resolves around a child killer. 

festive fright

Psychologist Donna Dawson says Christmas in 2020 is more important than ever for everyone, as celebrating (safely) with family and friends becomes an even more vital part of the season. 

“Just in case this year hasn’t been scary enough for you, it can be good to turn to a slightly scarier onscreen Christmas to make you feel safer,” she suggests.

She mentions that the reason we like a creepy movie at Christmas goes back to the 19th century. 

“The appeal of horror at this festive time may relate back to the horror writer MR James, who used to tell a ghost story to students and staff at this time of the year. Also, Christmas can be too “nice”, so it’s a natural reaction to find the darker side of the season.”

So are we more receptive to scary staff this time of the year? Dawson believes so. “Short, dark days with snow covering things and muffling sound – it all adds an air of mystery and uncertainty and reminds us for things left out in the cold.” 

She points out that we are also surrounded by “bats, owls, raven, cats, and other creatures of the winter night.”

“It is also the end of the year, which creates a psychological drawing in, an introspection that is keen to dwell on endings, change, alternatives – all conclusive to the horror genre. Christmas horror also feels like an extension of Halloween, which is not that far from Christmas. And if Father Christmas is a fairy tale, it leaves the door open to other tales of imagination. 

“Christmas horror allows us to take back control; rather than being passive recipients by “waiting” for Santa to visit, we can become active agents in our own fright.

“Longer, dark evenings allow out imaginations to run riot and snow reminds us of ghosts and creates a ghostly, surreal world. Monsters don’t necessarily disappear at this time of year, just because we are busy giving each other gifts. They wait for us in the shadows.”

Dawson concludes: “No matter how strange this have been this year, at least you’re not being serenaded by a crowd of Gremlins dressed up a killer carol singers!”

So stay safe while you enjoy this holiday period with these Christmas’ offerings of child-(un)friendly movies… it’s not really the most wonderful time of the year. Even without the screechy-voiced little glue sniffers.

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About 

Nina Romain is living proof that small children shouldn't be taken trick-or-treating in Alabama in the 1980s as sugared-up tiny ghouls – they tend to end up obsessed with the creepier side of Halloween! Her horror shorts tend to be shot half in the seedier side of Los Angeles and half in the darker side of the UK, including the UK's "most haunted" village in Fright Corner.

Last year she AD’d on a Covid-safe rom-com and created three microshort horrors. These range from an LA found footage short about a Valentine’s Day spent in a deserted zoo that goes horrifically wrong, to a pandemic nightmare in lockdown London (www.raindance.org/shooting-in-a-ghost-town) and finally a party no one leaves early…or alive. For more information, please visit: www.girlfright.com