Why are Christmas horror movies always funny?

While many enjoy a cup of Christmas cheer and watch their favorite Hallmark movies at this time of year, others lean toward the Christmas horror genre. From classics reimagined like Black Christmas To a new age that takes traditional stories like Krampus And the A quiet nightHorror movie fans will have no trouble finding something to watch this season. But instead of leaving viewers with heavy thoughts about the killer’s motive or outrageous high blood pressure, Christmas horror always leaves the viewer laughing. This is because the horror of Christmas understands the task. The designers behind these movies know their audiences want to satisfy the same needs as a horror movie, but this is Christmas, after all.

Related: The ‘Amityville Christmas Vacation’ trailer offers a hilarious horror story

The History of Christmas Horror

Billy from Silent Knight, Deadly Night carries a gun

Horror movie fans might love good jump scares, huge plots with lots of twists, or big bad that make them feel like they might be on the side of evil. These items may not look like something you’d find in a traditional holiday movie, but that’s where Christmas horror comes in. This subgenre dates back to the 1971 Christmas-themed horror film in the United Kingdom. Who killed Aunt Roo? (1971). The subgenre won’t even become a thing Black Christmas in 1974, but the idea of ​​mixing horror into Christmas stories appeared in films such as Tales from the Crypt (1972), the first to show her killer dressed as Santa Claus, O.J Silent night, bloody night (1972), the first Christmas horror film in the United States. But it wasn’t even Black Christmas (1974) That Christmas scare took off and turned heads.

Horror has been around in Christmas stories long before these movies even came out. Many of the Christmas stories we know and love are rooted in horror. Charles Dickens Christmas carol It relies on the traditional haunting horror element to teach the main character a lesson. Even in the kids’ version of the classic holiday game, ghosts return from the dead to teach the beloved character a lesson. Across the world, there are macabre elements in Christmas folklore, including Germany’s Krampus, who punishes naughty children, Greece’s Kalikantazaroi goblins, and Perchta, the goddess who supervises Central European children to ensure they are well behaved. Then there’s Santa Claus, the jolly old man who breaks into homes to bring gifts to kids he deems good.

Image via NBC

do you see? The roots of the Christmas holiday itself lie in the dread of being on your best behavior or waking up on Christmas morning to find a spooky lump of coal under the tree.

Why does Christmas horror turn into humor?

Now that we’ve established that Christmas is essentially a holiday horror, we can ponder why Christmas horror is based on being funny rather than serious or scary. Like those delightful films on the Hallmark Channel, a good Christmas horror movie seeks to strike the same chord with its audience. First, a typical movie plot centers around Christmas or another seasonal event. Because there’s no better way to indicate that what you’re watching is indeed a holiday movie than to use sets with elaborate holiday lights, festive storefronts, and freshly fallen snow.

Then there is usually the tension between the main character(s) who catalyze the evil that is about to be revealed to them. This evil often happens for a good reason (unless you’re watching strangers). Like any solid horror film, there is a lesson to be learned or a thought-provoking plot point that seeks to leave viewers pondering. It may be dressed in silver and gold and presented comically, but a Christmas horror has the same intentions as the main genre.

Big bad

Santa with a bloodied nose wielding a hammer with an armed mercenary watching in fear

Of course, no Christmas horror movie is complete without a big bad. Sometimes, these bad guys serve a dual purpose: terrify and thrill all at once. For example, the German folklore-inspired villain Krampus has a game of minions doing his bidding. These violent versions of holiday games keep viewers laughing with over-the-top kills with just the right amount of violence and gore. It’s a necessary part of storytelling because what horror movie is complete without some kind of violence? Whether it’s physical violence, like a bloody murder, or mental warfare, or both, there’s a fine line between what we see in Christmas horror versus what happens in traditional horror. Holiday horror can and should involve violence in some way to scratch an itch like a horror fan, but there is an art to delivery.

Outside of films that draw on more traditional horror elements with a sprinkling of festivity, there are films like violent night that put Christmas icons like Santa Claus at the center of the violence. the David HarborThe -led flick is more of a Christmas action comedy, but it dances with horror elements such as violence and “lessons to be learned”. After all, the horror of Christmas was born out of increased consumerism, and it’s a very perfect platform for telling scary stories. Like many of the Christmas horror movies we’ve mentioned, like the movies violent night Satisfy the itch some horror movie fans have during this time of year. The movie doesn’t skimp on the elements horror fans are looking for, but creatively presents them in an almost light-hearted comedic fashion that could satisfy any horror fan.

Gizmo in Santa's hat in Gremlins
Image via Warner Bros.

Finally, the holidays are just the happiest time of the year for some. It doesn’t bother anyone, but real-world problems like homelessness and mental health don’t cease to exist just because Santa arrives. But that’s where the Christmas scares come in — these movies fill the void by reminding us that the holidays aren’t always happy and bright for everyone, and there are still real issues at play that need to be considered. However, people who may not be enjoying this time of year as much as others need not freak out any further, which is why Christmas horror tends to be fun sprinkled with jump scares, gore, and gore.

Like these Hallmark flicks, Christmas horror isn’t for everyone. But they are there for horror fans looking to party. From Black Christmasa really disturbing story about “the call coming from inside the house”, to the less terrifying And the Adorable Gremlins (1984), which horror movie will you be diving into this holiday season?

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