Holiday Horror Movies Like 'Gremlins' to Watch Next

For those looking for a little more bite to go with their hot chocolate and cookies, Metacritic highlights 10 films like 'Gremlins' to watch next.
by Annie Lyons — 


Warner Bros. Pictures

In Gremlins, Christmas cheer gives way to mayhem when the strange rules around a special gift are broken.

Directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg, the dark comedy horror draws inspiration from the titular mischievous folkloric creatures and playfully sends up more traditionally sentimental holiday films. The film revolves around cute, furry critters called mogwai (derived from the Cantonese word for devil) that can multiply and transform into scaly impish monsters when not properly cared for. After becoming enamored with a mogwai at a Chinatown antique store, struggling inventor Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) purchases him from the shop owner's grandson as a Christmas present for his son Billy (Zach Galligan). 

Randall names the creature Gizmo and relays the three rules for his care to Billy: No sunlight, no water, and, most importantly, no food after midnight. However, it doesn't take too long for some of these rules to be broken, setting the resulting gremlins loose on Christmas Eve to wreak havoc across the sleepy suburban town of Kingston Falls. 

For those looking for a little more bite to go with their hot chocolate and cookies, Gremlins is an offbeat Christmas cult classic and a stalwart of the holiday horror genre. The film received positive reviews from critics and has a Metascore of 70. (Though, some criticisms of its violent sequences led to the Motion Picture Association of America's creation of the PG-13 rating). The film's success led to a sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, which was similarly well-received and has a Metascore of 69, though it did not fare as well at the box office

If you're looking for more holiday horror films after spending time with Gizmo and Stripe, Metacritic has got you covered. The below list spotlights other holiday horrors, focusing especially on films that also feature dark comedy or tongue-in-cheek takes on folklore.   

Here, Metacritic highlights 10 films like Gremlins to watch next.


'The Nightmare Before Christmas'

Buena Vista Pictures

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Metascore: 82
Best for: Fans of stop-motion animation and those who prefer Halloween to Christmas
Where to watch:

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Runtime: 76 minutes

Though not a horror movie and more kid-friendly than most other entries on this list, The Nightmare Before Christmas' spooky-kooky aesthetic and instances of dark humor might appeal to Gremlins fans looking for more off-kilter holiday fare. Directed by Henry Selick and produced by Tim Burton, who conceived the story, the stop-motion dark musical fantasy revolves around Jack Skellington (voiced by Chris Sarandon, with singing done by Danny Elfman), the leader of the magical world of Halloween Town. Jack has grown weary of the usual Halloween traditions but finds new inspiration after accidentally stumbling upon Christmas Town. Delighted by the unfamiliar holiday, he decides to take over this year's Christmas celebration.  

"The movie has a grotesque charm, a pie-eyed magic. With its crack-brained, spidery-limbed, Edward-Gorey-eyed crew of dashing skeletons, Frankenstein ladies, mad scientists with detachable brainpans, swivel-headed two-faced politicians and big bad bug-bag monsters, it comes at you like a Saturday afternoon kiddies' special gone pleasantly berserk." — Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune


The cast of 'Rare Exports'

Oscilloscope Pictures

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Metascore: 71
Best for: Fans of dark comedy and mythology-infused holiday horror
Where to watch:

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Runtime: 84 minutes

This darkly comic Finnish action horror film plays around with Northern European Santa Claus lore, conjuring up an entity that's more monstrous than jolly. The film takes place in a remote area of northern Finland, where a covert research project is drilling into a mountain that's rumored to be the home of Joulupukki, a Finnish folklore figure that helped create modern-day versions of Santa Claus. But as the project grows closer to completion, children begin disappearing. After reindeer hunter Rauno (Jorma Tommila) finds a naked and feral old man in his wolf trap, he and his young son Pietari (Onni Tommila) go on a journey to learn the strange truth. 

"What unfolds is a dark comic thriller and action-hero send-up, a strange alloy of daredevil helicopter maneuvers and night of the living elves. Captured in atmospheric widescreen camerawork, the end-of-the-world frozen landscape (actually Norway) is spectacular and spooky." — Sheri Linden, Los Angeles Times


Olivia DeJonge in 'Better Watch Out'

Well Go USA Entertainment

Better Watch Out

Metascore: 67
Best for: Fans of horror with an unexpected twist
Where to watch:

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Runtime: 89 minutes

Much like Gremlins, Better Watch Out takes place in a sleepy suburb during the holiday season and blends dark comedy with horror. Formerly titled Safe Neighborhood, the Australian film is filled with twists and is hard to describe without giving too much away, but the basic premise goes as follows: When she goes to babysit 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller), 17-year-old Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) hopes for a quiet and uneventful evening. But after a series of strange happenings outside unsettle Ashley, a masked and armed intruder breaks into the house, forcing Ashley to fight to protect herself and Luke. 

"The sadistic horror comedy is the kind of film that's tough to categorize but easy to enjoy, especially if you like watching teenagers do some very twisted things for the holiday season." — Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter


Olivia Hussey in 'Black Christmas'

Ambassador Film Distributors

Black Christmas

Metascore: 65
Best for: Fans of slashers and 1970s horror
Where to watch:

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Runtime: 98 minutes

Hailed as one of the earliest slasher films, 1974's Black Christmas has a holiday atmosphere that's more chilly than cheery. Directed by Bob Clark, the film draws inspiration from a popular urban legend, following a group of sorority sisters who receive strange and provocative anonymous phone calls that grow increasingly threatening after one of the girls eggs the caller on during their Christmas party, he threatens to kill them. As their Christmas break begins, the calls continue as an unseen killer begins picking the house's inhabitants one by one. The film received two remakes: one in 2006 (Metascore: 22) and one in 2019 (49).

"Not only does Black Christmas provide real chills, it introduces devices — like the opening, which is shot from the slasher's point of view — that inspired John Carpenter's Halloween and countless genre flicks to follow." — V.A. Musetto, New York Post


Ella Hunt in 'Anna and the Apocalypse'

Vertigo Releasing

Anna and the Apocalpyse

Metascore: 63
Best for: Fans of horror comedies and zombie flicks
Where to watch: 

Runtime: 93 minutes

Musicals might make up a large subsection of holiday movies, but how many of them also feature a zombie dressed up as a snowman? Enter Anna and the Apocalpyse, a unique Scottish genre mashup that blends together comedy, horror, musical numbers, and a helping of holiday cheer. Taking place in the small town of Little Haven, the film revolves around a zombie apocalypse that begins the night of the local school's Christmas show. After learning about the outbreak the next morning, teenager Anna (Ella Hunt) and her friends must fight their way to refuge. 

"A delightful Christmas/horror/comedy/musical hybrid, with a great cast, entertaining gore and a storyline that's easy to take seriously… even though it's fundamentally absurd." — William Bibbiani, IGN


Jaime King in 'Silent Night'

Anchor Bay Films

Silent Night (2012)

Metascore: 53
Best for: Fans of slashers with tongue-in-cheek humor
Where to watch: 

Runtime: 94 minutes

In this slasher, a masked killer dressed in a Santa Claus suit goes on a Christmas Eve killing spree in a small Wisconsin town, targeting those that he considers "naughty." After discovering the body of a coworker, Deputy Aubrey Bradimore (Jaime King) begins investigating the killings, but the town's annual festivities make it difficult for her to keep track of any one Santa. Silent Night is the sixth installment in the Silent Night, Deadly Night film series and serves as a loose remake of the 1984 film that gave the series its name. 

"This brisk reimagining of the 1984 slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night delivers the seasonal goods with admirable efficiency and not a little wit." — Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times


Eugenie Derouand in 'The Advent Calendar'


The Advent Calendar

Metascore: 51
Best for: Fans of international horror and stories about gifts that go wrong
Where to watch:

Runtime: 104 minutes

Much like Gremlins, a Christmas gift with strange and strict rules leads to horror in this French-language film from Patrick Ridremont. Eugenie Derouand stars as Ava, a former dancer who was paralyzed from the waist down after a car accident a few years ago. For her birthday, her friend gifts her a beautifully ornate wooden advent calendar from Germany. Though the calendar contains some threatening rules about its usage, Ava decides to eat the first treat anyways. But as she begins to realize that the treats correspond to real-life happenings, some horrific and some gratifying, she embarks down a troubling moral path. 

"Most viewers will find themselves wishing that writer/director Patrick Ridremont had come up with a few variations on this standard theme in order to liven up this competently executed but painfully familiar genre exercise." — Peter Sobczynski, RogerEbert.com


William Shatner in 'A Christmas Horror Story'

Image Entertainment

A Christmas Horror Story

Metascore: 49
Best for: Fans of horror that doesn't take itself too seriously
Where to watch:

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Runtime: 99 minutes

This Canadian horror anthology consists of four loosely connected tales of festive mayhem set in the small town of Bailey Downs. The stories focus on a group of teenagers that investigates the murders of two students at a convent-turned-school, a young boy who goes missing while his family looks for a Christmas tree, a family being hunted down by folklore figure Krampus, and a zombie outbreak at Santa's workshop. In the framework story that ties the anthology together, William Shatner stars as Dangerous Dan, an alcoholic radio DJ doing the Christmas shift for the local station. 

"The anthology is a mixed stocking; if you reach inside, something's likely to grab you." — Rob Staeger, Village Voice


Adam Scott in 'Krampus'

Universal Pictures


Metascore: 49
Best for: Fans of creature features and horror comedies
Where to watch: 

Runtime: 98 minutes 

Fans of Gremlins' creature chaos might also enjoy this fantastical horror comedy. Directed by Michael Dougherty, Krampus draws inspiration from the eponymous Austro-Bavarian folklore figure, who is known for punishing misbehaving children during Christmas time — aka, an anti-Santa, of sorts. The film stars Adam Scott and Toni Collette as the parents of the dysfunctional Engels family, whose holiday tensions cause youngest member Max (Emjay Anthony) to lash out and tear up his letter to Santa. This act inadvertently summons Krampus, who seeks to punish them for losing their Christmas spirit. As Krampus lays siege on their home and invokes familiar holiday objects to do his bidding, the Engels must pull together to survive. 

"While the violent sequences are very effectively staged, the results are a strange hybrid that doesn't quite work. Lacking the antic, witty humor of something like the similarly conceived Gremlins or the full-out gore of a traditional horror flick, Krampus never really finds its niche." — Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter


Dennice Cisneros in 'Red Snow'

4 Digital Media

Red Snow (2021)

Metascore: 43
Best for: Fans of horror comedies and vampires
Where to watch:

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Runtime: 80 minutes 

In this horror comedy, a supernatural romance novelist must fight to survive against the very creatures that she has dedicated her life to writing about. Directed by Sean Nichols Lynch, Red Snow follows the misadventures of Olivia Romo (Dennice Cisneros), a struggling author who is spending the holidays at a Lake Tahoe cabin. After a bat injures itself by hitting her window, Olivia brings it into her garage to nurse it back to health, only to discover that the bat is actually a vampire named Luke (Nico Bellamy). Though the scenario seems like it's straight out of one of her stories, the reality turns out to be much less picturesque. 

"Home Alone meets The Lost Boys in this trashy half-way entertaining Christmas vampire movie from director Sean Nichols Lynch; it's a black comedy with some silly splattery gore." — Cath Clarke, The Guardian