Silent Night, Deadly Night -- The first one is the flick that caused all that nasty controversy back in 1984, yet when you look at it today ... the thing's almost embarrassingly bad. But once you've seen a few of the sequels -- Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987), Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989), Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990) and Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1992) -- the original doesn't seem quite so rotten anymore. (Actually, it is.)
Christmas Evil -- Also known as You Better Watch Out and Terror in Toyland, this 1980 cheese-fest benefits from an odd sense of humor (and the presence of longtime character actor Jeffrey DeMunn) but struggles to fill its overlong running time. It's basically another "looney in a Santa costume" schpiel desperately hoping to ape the success of Halloween, if not its attention to quality.
Silent Night, Bloody Night -- Just like the original Black Christmas was a forefather of Halloween and Friday the 13th, so too is this semi-starchy 1974 thriller a forefather of ... the original Black Christmas, kinda. It's about a guy who inherits an old mansion (one that used to be a lunatic asylum, natch) during the holiday season and must contend with, yep, a local psycho. Patrick O'Neal, Mary Woronov and John Carradine add a little color to the affair.
Jack Frost (1996) and Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman -- No, not that really creepy Michael Keaton holiday dramedy (which is a horror in its own right), but the low-budget goofball series from Michael Cooney. Chock full of intentionally silly kills and a decidedly dorky sense of humor, the Jack Frost flicks will most likely appeal to the twisted 15-year-olds out there, but I had a pretty good time with both -- which says a lot about my mental age, I suppose.
Black Christmas -- Bob Clark's 1974 slasher grand-daddy took the giallo approach to seasonal storytelling, and the result is a nifty little creeper that still stands up pretty well today. The flick's well-regarded enough to earn its very own new-fangled remake (and the jury's still out on that particular movie), and has certainly earned itself a place alongside the giants of the genre. (How they never made a sequel to this one is a true mystery.) Plus, c'mon, how often will you get to see Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea, John Saxon and Andrea Martin in the same movie?
The Nightmare Before Christmas -- OK, this one's kind of a cheat, I suppose, but I know I'm not alone with my love for The Nightmare Before Christmas. Heck, I just passed a trendy little clothing store that's got an entire aisle dedicated to Jack, Sally, Oogie Boogie and the rest of the NBC crew. Toss in some stellar stop-motion animation, some cleverly off-kilter tunes, a wonderfully weird sense of humor, and a strangely sweet style ... that people keep coming back to this specific flick is no mystery to me. Plus it works as a Halloween story AND a Christmas-worthy tale at the same time. Great stuff.
Gremlins -- Yeah, this was an easy pick. Gremlins is almost the perfect non-traditional Christmas flick. It's got the quaint little town nestled firmly in the holiday season, there's snow and tinsel and fir trees all around -- and the town's being invaded by a seriously silly pack of ravenous little beasties. Just harsh enough to sell the (mild) scares, but light and goofy enough to keep the little kids from crying, Gremlins is a near-perfect balance of Christmastime comedy and Muppet-style mayhem. And it's easily the best thing Chris Columbus ever wrote.