The image of Santa Claus has been curated over the years to become wholesome and a symbol of happiness. In the past, he had been seen as a representation of Saint Nicholas or Father Christmas. In the 80s, he seemed to take a darker turn as horror filmmakers decided to use his visage to corrupt the viewer’s expectations. This sweet and gentle man would now be a killer. Multiple films decided to use this idea, and a whole sub-genre of horror films was born. Which ones are the best killer Santa movies?
Violent Night (2022)
This newer film has the jolly man fighting for the side of good. This little twist makes the film even more fun. A wealthy family is held hostage, and it turns out their only hope is the fat man himself. David Harbour plays the legendary figure who is losing faith in the holiday. When he stumbles upon the situation, there is no choice but to free the family. What follows is Santa messing up a whole group of mercenaries. He kills one by putting a grenade down the back of their pants. When he starts to run away, Santa stops and looks into the camera, saying, “I have to watch.” He turns around just as the grenade goes off in all of its gory glory.
Santa’s Slay (2005)
This might be the most over-the-top title on the list, and that’s saying something. Goldberg, yes the wrestler Goldberg, plays Santa. In this movie, we learn that Santa is actually the son of the Devil. He lost a game of curling with an angel and had to be the jolly man we all know for 1,000 years. Well, time is up, and now it’s back to his demonic ways. His first order of business is killing a bunch of famous people that everyone has wanted to punch in the face for a long time. After that, he starts killing anyone he can get his hands on. Only an angel and apparently a couple of local teenagers can stop him. It is a goofy fun time.
Tales From The Crypt (1972 & 1989)
This is sort of a cheat as it is from one movie and one TV show. In 1972, Amicus Productions put out a Tales From The Crypt anthology movie. One of the stories involved a woman (Joan Collins) who killed her husband on Christmas Eve, being killed by a demented man in a Santa costume. The same story was redone for the HBO series and was done better, in my opinion, because of Larry Drake’s portrayal of the evil St. Nick. Both are great watches and so much fun.
Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022)
The only entry on the list to feature a killer robot Santa! That alone should sell you on the film. For some reason, people thought it would be a good idea to retrofit decommissioned military robots into store Santas. Surely, nothing can go wrong. Except, of course, it does as one comes to life and goes on a killing spree that spares no one. A kid gets an axe to the head. This Terminator-fueled holiday film is bonkers and a lot of fun. Seeing a robot Santa driving an ambulance into cop cars is enough to get you in the holiday spirit.
Christmas Evil (1980)
One of the earliest killer Santa films shows Harry as a young boy. He sees his mother and father getting “intimate” while his father is dressed up as Santa. Upon realizing Santa isn’t real, he cuts himself with a broken snow globe. When he grows up, he works for a toy manufacturing company and tries to spread Christmas cheer all year round. When he feels taken advantage of at work, he snaps and begins a killing spree while dressed up as Santa Claus. He begins to find those that he feels have been naughty and gives them more than a lump of coal.
Silent Night (2012)
The movie is supposed to be a “remake” of Silent Night, Deadly Night, but it really has nothing to do with that film. However, having a killer Santa running around with a flamethrower and chucking people into a wood chipper makes for a fun movie. A small Wisconsin town is besieged by the killer Santa and has to figure out where he will strike next. The film is an entertaining bloodbath that will get any horror fan into the holiday spirit, even with Malcolm McDowell chewing up all the scenery he can get his hands on as the town sheriff. While not as legendary as the film it’s supposed to be a remake of, it still brings a lot of fun.
Rare Exports (2010)
Technically, this film doesn’t have a killer Santa in it, but it does show where mall Santas come from. They are usually evil anyway. An excavation team finds a large being encased in ice, but soon they all disappear. A boy and his father find a bearded man in their shed, believing it might be Santa. They quickly find out he is one of Santa’s “helpers.” Santa is an evil being who had been imprisoned in ice years ago but now seems on the verge of being released. A swarm of these “helpers” arrives to stop the villagers from destroying Santa for good. A fun Finnish film about evil Santas and the strange folklore around them.
Deadly Games (1989)
This French film has gained steam over the years, especially after being shown on Joe Bob Brigg’s The Last Drive-In. A homeless man gets a job as a mall Santa but is fired after slapping a child. He heads to the manager’s house but finds that only a young kid and his sick grandad are home. What he doesn’t realize is that the kid is a technical genius who sets up booby traps all across their house. It quickly becomes a battle between the young lad, who seems obsessed with Rambo. Take one part Die Hard and one part Home Alone, then you get Deadly Games. Worth checking out.
This entry from The Netherlands shows St. Nicholas as an evil bishop who kidnaps children when there is a full moon on December 5th. A teenager and a disgraced police detective are the only ones who understand what is happening. They have to confront St. Nicholas and his minions before he kidnaps any more children. This film plays on old folklore legends that Santa is based on and has a lot of fun with the ancient European traditions that most American viewers may not know. It’s a great watch that brings something a little different to the killer Santa subgenre.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
While it’s not the first, it is for sure the most well-known killer Santa movie. The film was such a big deal that protests from parent groups got it pulled from theaters. Film star Mickey Rooney wrote a letter shaming the filmmakers, saying they should be run out of town for sullying the image of Santa. He would later star as the evil Toy Maker in the 5th entry in the series. This film not only has a killer Santa but, in fact, has two of them!
Billy sees his parents killed by a maniac in a Santa outfit. He had a rough time living in an orphanage but was released on his 18th birthday. When he gets a job at a retail store, he is forced to dress up as Santa for the kids. This brings back memories of his parent’s death, and he snaps. He goes on a killing spree as he decides who has been “naughty.” The film features one of the most famous holiday horror deaths. Billy lifts Linnea Quigley while she is topless and impales her on a set of deer antlers mounted to the wall. A great film that should be enjoyed every Christmas season.
What are your favorite killer Santa movies? Let us know in the comments.