Yeah, there's a soft spot in our coal-black hearts for the uplifting likes of A Christmas Story and It's A Wonderful Life. But sometimes, the holidays call for a little more darkness. A little more mayhem. A little more murder. Inappropriate? Maybe. But that's the way we like it.
1) Black Christmas (1974)
No list compiling off-kilter Christmas films would be complete without Bob Clark's genuinely frightening, oft-copied slasher classic, which tells the tale of sorority girls menaced by an obscene phone caller whose threats become all too real. Also boasts a top-quality cast (Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, the almighty John Saxon) and one of the best horror tag lines ever: "If this movie doesn't make your skin crawl, it's on too tight!"
2) Christmas Evil (1980)
The holiday-themed slasher-movie genre was still surfing its first wave in 1980, and it was 100 percent inevitable that someone was gonna seize upon the opportunity to title their film Christmas Evil. This cult classic — about a kid who spots Mommy, uh, kissing Santa Claus, grows up to work in the Jolly Dreams toy factory, and loses his jingle-jangle mind — has one of the best final shots in movie history. Like, 400 Blows territory. Almost.
3) Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)
To be clear: NO ONE DRESSED AS SANTA CLAUS IS SAFE in this delectably cheesy British exploitation classic.
4) The Gingerdead Man (2005)
Technically, this proud B-movie isn't Christmas-themed, but it's included here because: 1) Gingerbread is something we like to devour 'round the holidays; 2) Gary Busey; and 3) It gives us the chance to mention its sequels, The Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust and The Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver ... and crossover film Gingerdead vs. Evil Bong.
5) Jack Frost (1997)
Abominably corny horror-comedy about a serial killer who's reincarnated as a murderous snowman ... what's not to love?
6) Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
This darkly comedic Finnish film reveals the real story of Santa Claus. Spoiler alert: HE AIN'T PARTICULARLY JOLLY.
7) Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
This schlocky scifi marvel received new life thanks to the spelunkers of Mystery Science Theater 3000; even without onscreen snark, it's a wondrous succotash of homemade costumes, green face paint, eight-year-old Pia Zadora, and an arrestingly terrible theme song.
8) Silent Night, Bloody Night (1974)
A small town with a terrible and kinky past is the setting for this glorious oddity, notable for a cast and crew sprinkled with Warhol associates (Mary Woronov, Candy Darling, Ondine, Jack Smith), and for being produced by a pre-Troma Lloyd Kaufman.
9) Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Don't PUNISH! us, but campy cult behemoth Silent Night, Deadly Night is the greatest Evil Santa movie ever. Unless you factor in Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, which recaps the entire first film in its prologue, then gives you even more Evil Santa madness. Tough call.
10) Holiday Inn (1942)
What? The Bing Crosby-Fred Astaire-Irving Berlin classic is "inappropriate"? Just remember: In between all those dance numbers and "White Christmas" trillings and love-triangle shenanigans is that one scene that instantly jerks you out of the movie and into racist 1942 America. Merry Christmas! Yikes.
Top image via Film School Rejects.
Hat tip to Mike Desertt for the research help.