With the Christmas season comes the essential holiday viewing. For most people, this includes movies like A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer but for the horror fan this list is expanded to include Silent Night, Deadly Night, Black Christmas, Gremlins and many more. Horror has proved time and again that any calendar date can be made scary or—at the very least—gory. And while not all the entries on this list are among the goriest ever made, even the tamest offerings have proven that they can knock people off in imaginative ways.
That’s what we’ll be looking at here. Not the best or most iconic kills from holiday horror movies, but the most imaginative and unforgettable. These are the kills you just don’t see everyday. They deviate from the traditional stalk-and-slash formula and bring us some imaginative yuletide entertainment. Here are some of our picks for the most imaginative kills in holiday horror movies.
Mrs. Deagle (Gremlins)
It may not be a slasher movie, or an overt horror picture, but Gremlins has its share of carnage and is above all else a Christmas movie. Mrs. Deagle’s death scene is iconic. Throughout the film, the audience expects to see her get some kind of comeuppance and when she finally does, it’s brilliant. She’s an insufferable character, easily comparable with the Wicked Witch of the West. Late into the film, after the gremlins have begun to spread throughout town, the old woman hears some carolers, so she makes her way to the door to shout at them to go away. She immediately discovers they are not carolers and logically assumes that the devil and his minions have finally come for her. As she is old and feeble she gets into her chair lift which, in typical gremlin fashion, has been tampered with. Instead of simply moving upstairs, she goes flying out the window, leaving the audience cheering.
Santa (Don’t Open Till Christmas)
Don’t Open Till Christmas is almost the flip side of the controversial Silent Night, Deadly Night coin. This time, instead of Santa Claus going on a rampage and killing people, there is someone going on a rampage and killing people dressed as Saint Nick. There are a lot of impressive Santa deaths in the movie but the one that takes the cake for me harkens back to one of the most classic Christmas traditions. In this scene, the killer finds a Santa roasting chestnuts on an open fire and decides to help himself. He shoves poor St. Nick’s face into the grill he’s warming the chestnuts on and roasts him right along with them.
Claire (Black Christmas, 1974)
Claire’s death is pretty tame by today’s standards but more than forty years ago, it was incredibly shocking. Her demise was used as the image to sell the film. It’s been on nearly every poster, VHS and DVD cover since the picture was released. That’s thanks in large part to how it was done. Claire’s is the first character to die and her death sets up the entire feature. Her death, as well as her body, hang over the entire film. Claire is propped up in the attic, a plastic bag wrapped around her head, placed in a rocking chair with a doll in her lap. The audience knows what’s happened and knows she is up there but she is never found. It’s the rare horror kill that the audience alone is aware of while the characters remain in the dark.
Linnea Quigley has had some pretty spectacular death sequences in her career as a scream queen but this one just might be her best. As Denise, she has just finished having sex with her boyfriend when the deranged Billy bursts in. Her boyfriend Tommy is killed pretty typically, he’s thrown out a window. There’s not a lot to that. But Denise’s death is long and drawn out. It’s painful to watch and it becomes even more painful when the big moment finally arrives. Billy lifts her up and slams her into a pair of deer antlers, impaling her through the chest. It’s an unsettling image, but one that has stayed with audiences for thirty years.