Going all the way back to Black Christmas and Halloween, holiday horror movies have remained a staple of the genre for well over four decades now. One of the more terrifying subgenres includes the killer Santa Claus movie, which gleefully subverts the childhood innocence of jolly St. Nick by turning the benevolent figure into a malevolent murderer who punishes naughty and nice behavior in equal measure.
While several killer Santa Claus movies have been released over the past 50 years or so, the horrific depiction of killer Kris Kringle varies widely. For the absolute scariest of the lot, scroll below.
10 Ricky: Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987)
While Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 recycles a lot of footage from its predecessor, the vengeful boy named Ricky (Eric Freeman), who grows up to follow in his older brother’s footsteps as a killer Santa Claus, is still quite alarming.
Following his release from a mental ward, now-adult Ricky still can’t shake the image of watching his older brother Billy get killed by police in front of his eyes. To exact revenge, Ricky picks up the mantle his brother left behind and dresses up as Santa Claus before going on a gory death-march.
9 To All A Goodnight (1980)
Made for roughly $70,000, David Hess’ To All a Goodnight is a festive and ferocious killer Santa Claus flick in which the boyfriends of an all-girls school are stalked and slashed, one by one.
During Christmas vacation at the Calvin Finishing School for Girls, a holiday party is held for all of the students. After drugging their headmistress, the girls invite their boyfriends over for a naughty celebration. However, a deranged maniac dressed in a Santa Claus outfit begins slaughtering the boys in wildly gruesome ways. What makes Santa extra scary is his Misses Claus accomplice.
8 Game Over (1989)
The little-known French slasher Game Over features one of the most terrifying killer Santa Clauses ever committed to celluloid. What makes it so scary is that a little boy is the direct target of the killer, who happens to be his own grandfather.
Written and directed by Rene Manzor, the film follows Thomas (Alain Lalanne), a brilliant and precocious young boy who is left alone with his withered old grandpa on Christmas Eve. When a psycho killer in a Santa Claus outfit breaks into the mansion and begins terrorizing the boy, Thomas is mortified to learn who is underneath the suit.
7 St. Nicholas: Sint (2010)
Dick Maas’ Dutch horror film Sint offers a refreshing slant on the killer Santa Claus subgenre. Rather than having a murderous madman dressed in the iconographic red Santa suit, Sint imagines St. Nicholas as a sinister figure of a different kind.
When the moon is full on December 5, 1492, a former bishop named Niklas (Huub Stapel) slaughters a gang of thieves and murders. On the anniversary of the ill-fated night, the ghosts of the deceased come to haunt the public during their annual Sinterklaas celebration. Sint also returns every 23 years to continue slaughtering victims with his sharpened staff.
6 Santa Claus: Rare Exports (2010)
The historical mythology of Santa Claus is turned on its head in Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, the deeply unsettling Scandanavian horror-fantasy film directed by Jalmari Helander.
On Christmas Eve in the mountains of Finland, an archeological dig unearths what appears to be Santa Claus’ frozen corpse. When little children in the region begin vanishing shortly after, all signs point to Santa’s involvement. As a little boy and his father attempt to return Santa to his grave, they are met with violent resistance from Santa’s evil elves.
5 Harry: Christmas Evil (1980)
Also known as You Better Watch Out, Lewis Jackson’s 1980 slasher film Christmas Evil features one of the all-time most disturbing deadly Santa Clauses. The reason why is because he’s both the protagonist and antagonist.
After being scarred by the image of Santa Claus going down on his mother on Christmas Eve, Harry is even more devastated to learn Santa Claus isn’t real. As an adult, Harry dedicates his life to making toys in a factory for kids at Christmas. However, when society shuns the holiday and dismisses Harry’s life work, he dons the Santa suit and goes on an indiscriminate killing spree.
4 Santa: Santa’s Slay (2005)
Although the movie is exaggerated for laughs, pro-wrestler Bill Goldberg as a buffed Santa Claus who massacres a whole family in under three minutes is as terrifying a prospect as they come. The former wrestler uses his domineering physique to brutally waylay anyone in his way in Santa’s Slay.
After losing a bet with an angel, Santa Claus is morphed into a deadly demon who has to pose as a well-behaved Santa Claus for 1,000 years. Now that time is up, Santa reverts to his wicked ways and begins making up for the lost time through a series of grisly murders.
3 Santa Claus: Silent Night (2012)
In the loose remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night, a new wrinkle is added to the killer-culprit that makes it nearly as scary as the original. In addition to jolly St. Nick perpetrating a string of gruesome murders, the person under the suit is also an entrusted lawman who is respected in the community.
Moreover, the killer Santa Claus in Silent Night is arguably the most violently inventive of the lot, using everything from a flamethrower and wood-chipper to a fire-ax and strand of electric Christmas lights as murder weapons.
2 Billy: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
The controversial “video nasty” Silent Night, Deadly Night is widely hailed as the greatest killer Santa horror movie ever made. The film centers on Billy (Robert Brian Wilson), a little boy who witnesses his parents get slaughtered by Santa Claus. When he grows up, Billy follows in his parent’s killer’s footsteps.
Fresh out of the orphanage at age 18, Billy adorns the Santa suit and goes on a ferociously fatal rampage in his hometown. He uses axes, crossbows, deer antlers, Christmas lights, box-cutters, hammers, and anything he can get his hands on to punish those who’ve been naughty.
1 Santa Claus: Tales From The Crypt (1972)
The first truly terrifying killer Santa outing that set the template for the rest belongs to And All Through the House, the opening chapter in the 1972 anthology horror film Tales From the Crypt. The TV adaptation recycled the story in 1989.
In addition to the novel originality, what makes Santa (Oliver MacGreevy) so scary in this chapter is how old, feeble, and endearing he first appears. Nothing about Santa seems threatening until he invades the home of a woman (Joan Collins) who just murdered her own husband and begins to stalk her in the house alone with lethal intent.
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