Slay Bells Ring: Five New Holiday Horrors for 2022

Horrorville editor Brett Petersel shakes the Christmas presents to find a robotic Santa Claus, a killer Christmas tree and an extremely evil Grinch among this year’s holiday horror treats.

The old Christmas slasher formula, where someone dressed as Santa Claus brutally murders everyone, has worked for horror movies for years. When you go through the library of the Christmas horror subgenre, there are hundreds of films showing that both Christmas and horror go hand in hand. Writers and directors continue to find creative ways to adapt holiday stories meant for children into gruesome, gore-filled films for all to watch and enjoy.

While many will cite Bob Clark’s 1974 college-slasher Black Christmas as one of the greatest Christmas horror films in cinema history (and it is), there’s a lot of love out there for other festive freak-outs, too. Steven C. Miller’s 2012 killer-Santa horror comedy Silent Night is hands-down one of the most fun and gory holiday films out there. Matt Donato writes that it’s “one of the few Christmas slashers to fully embrace holiday bastardization while also staying true to incredibly gory subgenre blueprints that have since been abandoned”. 

Olivia Hussey as Jess in Bob Clark’s 1974 holiday horror, Black Christmas. 
Olivia Hussey as Jess in Bob Clark’s 1974 holiday horror, Black Christmas

Let’s not forget the popular Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, which has been memed and shared extensively on social media platforms, and I can’t ever ignore that wise-crackin’, serial-killing snowman Jack Frost. With so many post-Hallowe’en holiday horrors in existence, Letterboxd members have naturally curated them into lists: Toshio’s Christmas Horror list has ample selections, and Richard has gone for a ranked approach. Jason Kleeberg’s ultimate guide to Christmas evil is stacked with more than 180 holiday horror films, and Benito Cereno has gathered together the titles that fall into the surprisingly robust subgenre of killer Santas.  

And still they come, holiday scare after holiday scare—and that’s on top of the normie Christmas movies we’re flooded with each festive season. According to Vulture, there are 153 new non-horror festive feature film offerings this year, a scary number indeed. 

So what’s wriggling around in Santa’s scary sack for 2022? I’ve bravely stuck my hand in and pulled out five new holiday horrors for your feasting table. Among this year’s gifts: a robotic Santa Claus, a killer Christmas tree, an extremely evil Grinch, and more. Slay!

Christmas Bloody Christmas

Written and directed by Joe Begos

Streaming exclusively on Shudder, Joe Begos’ Christmas Bloody Christmas feels like The Terminator on steroids. What can go wrong when a robotic Santa Claus malfunctions and goes on a balls-to-the-wall murder spree? You need to see for yourself! If you’re a fan of Samara Weaving’s roles in both Mayhem and Ready or Not, wait until you get a load of Riley Dandy. She lifts this already action-packed, blood-fueled holiday flick to new heights.

“Bloody neon splattered and and shot on 16mm gloriousness. This was 100% my shit,” writes Brad Henderson. “Also, I was stoked to see some much Vinegar Syndrome stuff hanging out in the background! New York Ninja even makes an appearance.” Paul Hibbard, meanwhile, likes how Begos’ “normal juxtaposed mix of gritty film to neon lighting just services itself to Christmas colors so perfectly” and “the thudding footsteps of Santa reminded me of being a kid and hearing Robocop walk for the first time.”

The Killing Tree

Directed by Rhys Frake-Waterfield, written by Craig McLearie

Be careful what you wish for, because if you don’t know the proper way to resurrect someone, your loved one may return as a friggin’ Christmas tree seeking revenge on those who caused his execution. With hints of Child’s Play thrown in (you have to hear it to believe it), The Killing Tree is a mostly laughable film about exactly what it sounds like. As Bill Killbride writes, “Of all the possibilities in which a Christmas tree is possessed by a killer and continues his killing spree, this is probably the best you could ask for. It’s fun and to the point.”

The CGI may get in the way of some over-the-top kills, especially when the tree’s branches extend both outward and upward, or you can see the black-clad actor inside the tree, but don’t let these things stop you from sitting back and watching a tree do all sorts of fun and terrible things to people. “This movie is dreadful, but it’s just the right kind of dreadful,” writes Nastybirdy. (If there’s a term for people who enjoy watching objects of nature maim or murder people, please let me know.) 

The Mean One

Directed by Steven LaMorte, written by Flip and Finn Kobler

David Howard Thornton (Terrifier and Terrifier 2’s Art the Clown) stars in The Mean One as the mean, green killing machine (aka The Grinch) who returns to terrorize the town of Newville twenty years after murdering the mother of a young girl, Cindy. Since that event, Newville has a policy of no Christmas decorations—until someone decides to reverse the rule. You know what happens next—and Cindy, now grown up, must stop the killer and save Christmas. 

Letterboxd member Brie, who is a huge fan of Jim Carrey’s Grinch, nevertheless has room in her holiday heart for The Mean One: “Hear me out. This movie is a technical (objective) 2/5. It’s overly long, uses absolutely nonsensical cgi blood, the acting is an atrocity, and the film features a fishbowl that makes the old windows screensaver look like The National Aquarium. How much did I enjoy it, though? 100 percent, 5 stars, an absolute blast.” 

Jack Frost

Directed by Liana Failla, written by Craig McLearie

Not to be confused with the 1997 horror film or the Michael Keaton-starring 1998 film of the same name, Jack Frost (also known as Curse of Jack Frost on many streaming services) has made its way to a few free streaming services (FreeVee, Tubi) in time for the holiday season. This time, Frost terrorizes a family who must learn why they are cursed and being terrorized. If you can get behind the tame plot summary and the fact that both Frost’s hands, which should be ice, flail in the wind and that his mouth doesn’t move when he speaks, then add this cheese-fest to your watchlist immediately. 

Zay says the film is a “competent supernatural slasher with a cool looking killer with a frosty rubber Halloween mask”, whereas Johnson Carter writes that “the cringe is off the charts”. With a 2.4 out of five star rating, Letterboxd members are split on whether Jack Frost is naughty or nice, but Agustin Garcia has just completed watching a run of “killer Jack Frost” films, and gives this one four-and-a-half stars

The Leech

Written and directed by Eric Pennycoff

During the holiday season, many people try to do nice things for others. Whether it’s donating food or clothing to those in need, or any other form of generosity, it’s the act of putting others before yourself that stands out. However, in Eric Pennycoff’s The Leech, a swift act of kindness unravels a hellish nightmare for a priest who takes in a man (and, eventually, a woman) in need, only to utterly regret it as he reaches breaking point. Maybe it’s best not to practice what you preach? You be the judge. 

Letterboxd member Sirvived calls the film “an “absolute delight”, and while wishing for a bit more absurdity, adds “the characters in this film are great and really spike my anxiety through the roof”. Pennycoff was influenced by films including Black Christmas and The Night of the Hunter, which he tells us is his go-to comfort film. You can read about more of the director’s influences on Horrorville.

These are just five of this season’s new holiday horror films to take you into the new year, and there are many more besides, including Nutcracker Massacre, Violent Night, and Mistletoe Massacre. I’m celebrating “Jewish Christmas”, which for us as a horror-loving family involves sitting back with Chinese food and watching some scary movies, while outside inflatable Santas and reindeer adorn front lawns all across town. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but Christmas always celebrates movie lovers.

From us at Horrorville, we wish you a fright-filled festive season and new year filled with scares!

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