Gather round the Christmas tree, boys and girls! Regular contributor Spencer Blohm is back, this time with a bag full of some of the best holiday horror movies to come down the chimney. Ho Ho Ho and all that claptrap!
Top Naughty & Not So Nice Horror Films for the Holidays
The “feel good” cheery holidays, like Christmas, are upon us and if you’re like me you enjoy the sugary sweetness for the first week or two, and then you’re itching for something a little more… menacing. Sure, the holidays are a time of joy, but it can also bring some sadness for horror fans – after all, the Halloween terror was so abruptly taken away with the arrival of November and yuletide cheer.
But thankfully there’s a special little genre set aside for this time of year. For all you horror fans who’re looking for year round terror and blood, check out this short list of the best scary holiday movies and embrace the season of Santa (which is oddly close to Satan ~Hunter)
Black Christmas (1974)
Home invasion movies are always the scariest; we’re supposed to feel safe in our own homes, and when we see that level of comfort invaded it makes us second guess our own safety. So, when a sorority house is terrorized by creepy perverted phone calls, in classic slasher fashion, the police turn out to assist them. But the true terror of Black Christmas begins when a young girl’s father, played by James Edmond, visits the campus when his daughter turns up missing along with a little high schooler who is found dead in the park nearby. Jessica (Olivia Hussey), the girl’s friend, must fight for her life and her friends’ when the attacker comes after her. Things are not always as they seem, and the bodies pile high in this holiday horror film (on Netflix) as killers are misidentified and safety is nowhere in sight.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
When his parents are murdered by Santa Claus, Billy (Robert Wilson) is forever haunted by the memories of Christmas past. Sent to an orphanage where he’s abused by the head nun and cared for by Sister Margaret (Gilmer McCormick), kindred spirits who seem to find themselves scolded frequently. When he turns 18 he leaves, desperate for a normal life, but Christmas rears its ugly head when he’s forced, by his employer, to put on a Santa suit and dress up for the children. He snaps and goes on a killer rampage leaving a trail of bodies back to the orphanage for revenge in true Michael Myers style. Followed up by a slew of sequels and a loose remake years later, none quite match the gruesome terror of the original bad Santa.
Many seem to forget that Gremlins is technically a Christmas movie. After all, it’s around Christmas when Billy, played by Zach Galligan, gets the strange furry creature called a Mogwai as a gift. While seemingly cute and adorable at first, these things quickly multiply and run wild. They drink and gamble and even flash the bartender throughout their rampage. Having Gremlins around is a lot like being terrorized by your pet or stuffed animals, but the scene where Lynn Peltzer (Frances McCain) kills a few gremlins with various household objects is amusingly akin to the typical panic of slasher films. The story continued in Gremlins 2: The New Batch (streaming info here) where the gremlin army threatens New York City, and there are rumors the third sequel could even feature a Godzilla-sized gremlin making the jump over to terrorize Europe.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
This movie’s not as scary if you only take it for face value. The true terror lies in the imaginative story Tim Burton brings to the film. What’s more horrifying than having the most joyous holiday of the year hijacked by the nightmarish creatures of Halloween or having your toys attack you? Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon), bored with his role as the Pumpkin King, becomes intrigued and inspired by Christmas’ strange customs and leader, Sandy Claws. So, he decides to take on Christmas himself. After kidnapping Sandy Claws and throwing him into the merciless hands of Oogie Boogie (Ken Page) Jack begins his sleigh ride. However, he soon realizes he should’ve stuck to his own holiday when he becomes sorely unwelcome. With amazing musical tracks The Nightmare Before Christmas is a true classic, family-friendly, and suitable for both Christmas and Halloween!
Jack Frost (1997)
Starting off simple, yet still a tad gruesome, Jack Frost is full of ridiculous death scenes and simpleminded humor. It’s very reminiscent of old slasher films in that regard. Scott MacDonald plays the murderous Jack Frost, an inmate who, while on the way to his execution, narrowly escapes a car accident, only to be mutated and turned into a snowman. With a second chance to exact his revenge, Frost goes after the one who locked him up, Sam Tiler (Christopher Allport), the sheriff of the small fictional town. Tiler must team up with arrogant FBI agents to take down Frost – with a little creative use of antifreeze!
So, there you have it: five holiday horror movies to hopefully get those carols out of your head, at least for a little while. Who says Christmas is a time for only joyous, mushy, feelings? It’s great to see this little genre getting recognition as the years go on – especially with Krampus, based on the folklore of Santa’s murderous helper, coming to theaters in December. It’s sure to leave a lasting impression on the kids.
They say timing is everything.
A day after I posted an article about how wonderful it’s been to work with my editor, Don D’Auria, we learned he was let go by Samhain. The outpouring of anger and disappointment with Samhain and love and admiration for Don has been overwhelming. I tried to follow as much as I could just on Facebook yesterday and couldn’t keep up. Suffice to say, we’re all in Don’s corner. I feel terrible for Don, but I also know that he will find a new home, one that I hope will appreciate his talent.
I could use this space to rant and rave and call people out, but I won’t. Cooler heads must prevail. Let’s just say I was reeling when I heard the news. To work with Don for 5 years only to have the rug pulled out from under me is a blow, for sure. Just have to stay positive that we will ride again some day.
Needless to say, I won’t be submitting future works to Samhain. I just don’t feel that erotica and romance editors will get the horror vibe. Call me crazy. I already work with several other publishers, so I’m not crying that the sky is falling. I promise, you will have new Hunter Shea books in the coming years. Heck, there are 3 slated to come out next year alone.
I do empathize with the authors who have only worked with Samhain who now have to hustle their asses off to find new publishers. And what about those first timers who signed with Samhain and Don whose books have yet to be edited or come out? What the hell are they supposed to think or do? As someone who got accepted by Leisure a month before that place went kerplooey, I know how they feel. Unlike with Leisure, Samhain will still have a horror line, but it won’t have the same cache. Think of a high school football star being signed up by a college with a legendary coach, only to fire the coach before they step on campus. There are other great horror publishers out there, but just so many open slots. Things will be a mess for quite a while.
For those of you who have been following my latest writing project, We Are Always Watching, through #HunterWrites, I wanted to let you know that manuscript is going on the back burner. I was working hard to get it to Don before Christmas. No need to do that now. Instead, I’m going to work on some side projects in a totally different genre that I had promised myself to get to after the new year. I do plan to jump back into We Are Always Watching during the Christmas break. I’ll then restart #HunterWrites and you can stand over my shoulder, so to speak.
Yesterday was a dark day. But like the Dude, we will abide.
We will abide.
I’m a reformed editor stalker. At least that’s what the state shrink has declared in my case.
Actually, following the career of my dream editor, Don D’Auria, turned out to be a pretty smart career move. When I talk to people about writing and getting published, I encourage this kind of behavior. And if you want to be a horror writer, Don is the man you should make a point to follow.
When I was a wanna be writer and tried and true reader, I hoovered horror novels like they were dust bunnies. The 80’s was an absolute horror boom, with tons of great and oodles of bad books, all waiting for my little eyeballs. Things slowed down a bit in the early 90’s. Finding books by authors other than King, Koontz, Barker and Saul was like searching for the holy grail or my last shaker of salt.
And then came Don (you can sing that to the theme from Maude). The first time I spotted a Leisure paperback in the horror section of my local bookstore (yes, there were still shelves dedicated to horror in the mid-90’s), I fell in love. In the front, or back, of all these wonderful books, I saw a common denominator – they all thanked their editor, this mythical dude named Don D’Auria. I wondered, who is this guy who’s bringing me great works by writers like Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, Tim Lebbon, Sephera Giron, Hugh B. Cave, Douglas Clegg, Graham Masterson, John Everson, Bryan Smith, Tim Waggoner and so many more? Talk about an eye for talent! As far as I was concerned, Don had an almost supernatural ability to find the brightest and the best, the old and the new.
When I set out to write my own horror novel, I did so with the express intention to write it for Don and Don only. I sent it to him at Leisure and waited…for years. Eventually, he offered me a contract with Leisure. Alas, the company imploded as I was signing, so I waited (while standing on the ledge of a tall building) until Don moved to Samhain, where he took me along for the ride. It’s been beyond my wildest expectations ever since.
I remember the first time I met Don face to face at a Horrorfind convention. The Samhain authors were making their con debut at a booth right where attendees checked in. Man, was I nervous. I was expecting this imposing Max Perkins character to come waltzing in. I did a lot of dry swallowing waiting for him to show. Turns out, he was one of the most down to earth, unassuming guys I’d ever met. I still couldn’t shake my fan boy apprehension during that con. He was the guy who rescued me from the slush pile. I owed him my entire budding career!
We discovered that we lived close to one another during that con, and made it a point to meet for drinks one night. That was many nights and martinis/beers ago. Don isn’t just my editor. He’s a true friend, a brother from another mother who grew up on Chiller Theatre and Famous Monsters Magazine. We’re two kids who get to play on the same field as the greats who shaped our passion. Sometimes, while we’re talking about Vincent Price movies or getting Barbara Crampton’s autograph, I feel like I have to pinch myself. How many people get to work with their dream editor? And of those, how many can call that person a true friend? I’m one lucky bastard.
As Samhain turns 10 this month, I want to thank Don for all he’s done for not just me, but all the lost boys and girls of the horror line. To show my undying thanks, I even tattooed their logo on my arm. Don’s portrait is next! :)
It’s Halloween, the time when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. Ghosts and demons lay in wait for little boys and girls who prefer tricks over treats!
What better way to spend the season than watching great horror movies? Here are what I consider the 5 best haunted house movies of all time. For my money, ghosts are far scarier than monsters because we’re potentially looking at our own destinies. Will you be among the trapped spirits some day, haunting the family living in your former home?
5. THE SENTINEL
The 70s were a treasure trove for horror. This is the decade that gave us true frights like The Exorcist, The Omen, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Last House on the Left and Halloween. Lost in the mix is this chilling classic about a NY fashion model who moves into a creepy brownstone apartment. The residents are the most disturbing cast of characters you’ll ever meet. Part ghost story, party possession tale, some scenes in The Sentinel will haunt you for the rest of your life. And it’s loaded with stars, including Christopher Walken, Chris Sarandon, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, Beverly D’Angelo, Ava Gardner. John Carradine and so much more.
4. THE AMITYVILLE HORROR
This flick needs no introduction. Even if the story the Lutz family told the world is total B.S., this is still a spine tingling movie.This one has it all – evil spirits, bleeding walls, mystery rooms, imaginary friends with bad intentions and a home clouded by the spectre of a mass murder. James Brolin is brooding and terrifying as the spirit of the house drags him down. Almost 40 years later and this one still gives me chills.
3. THE CHANGELING
George C. Scott plays a composer who lost his family in an accident. Trying to put his life back together, he moves into a huge old house that, as we come to find out, is quite haunted. First of all, Scott may be the biggest-name actor in a horror movie – ever. His performance gives a gravitas rarely seen in the genre. As the story unfolds, you’ll find your goosebumps just won’t go away. That’s one haunted house I might skip if invited to spend the night.
2. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY
I wasn’t a fan of The Blair Witch Project and the whole found footage dealio, but Paranormal Activity changed my mind. This one actually made my wife and I nervous when we went to sleep that night (it doesn’t help that we live in a haunted house). I can think of better things to film in the bedroom, but I’m glad they concentrated on the demonic spirit here. I just watched it again last week and it’s still unsettling. Find the BluRay with the alternate ending if you can!
Hands down, this is my favorite ghost movie ever. Short on special effects because it doesn’t need them, a college professor gathers willing subjects to live in a haunted mansion in Massachusetts. As the caretaker warns them in the beginning, “No one can hear you scream in the dark. In the night.” Using the twisted history of the house to put your nerves on edge, The Haunting is all about atmosphere and odd sounds and tortured souls. This is a must watch for any true horror fan.
So, what would make your top 5 list? There were so many I could have added here, but I forced myself to whittle it down to the 5 that deeply affected me, long after the end credits.
On the fence about picking up one of my 3 book releases this year? Take a gander at Erik Smith’s Low Budget Review show. He’s one of the few people out there doing video reviews of some of the best horror novels around. I think it’s pretty awesome that he takes the time to do this, with over 100 episodes loaded up on YouTube. I figured this is a great way for you all to get a preview of ISLAND OF THE FORBIDDEN, TORTURES OF THE DAMNED and THE DOVER DEMON.
Best part is that I never had to pay Erik off for a positive review. :) Subscribe to his channel to get reviews on all of the latest horror has to offer. Erik, take it away, my good man…
TORTURES OF THE DAMNED
“A terrifying read that left me wanting more. I absolutely devoured this book.” – Cemetery Dance
“One of the best novel’s I’ve read this year!” – The Horror Bookshelf
THE DOVER DEMON
“A fantastic monster story! Hunter Shea gets horror, and knows how to make it work.” – 2 Book Lovers Reviews
“This is my favorite monster novel of the year and I can think of few others in recent years that can rival it.” – Examiner.com
ISLAND OF THE FORBIDDEN
“One of the top 10 books of 2015.” – iHorror
“A deep and great read.” – The Scary Reviews