Horror films love a holiday setting. The appeal of Halloween is obvious and anyone who’s ever hosted a holiday party may feel a sense of dread as Christmas or Thanksgiving approaches. But EVERY major holiday has figured prominently in a horror movie. The holiday theme proves a smart business move making these genre films rentable every year as the particular holiday comes round and people want something fun to watch. So here’s a way to celebrate all the major holidays with horror. To qualify for this list the holiday had to figure significantly in both the title and plot.
President’s Day (2010)
You’ve had Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter so how about Abe Lincoln, Serial Killer. President’s Day approaches at Lincoln High and a psycho dressed up as Abraham Lincoln goes on a killing spree. It’s class election time and the serial killer casts his vote by killing off all the candidates. An ultra-low budget homage to 80s slasher films.
Tagline: Hail to the Chief… or he’ll hack you to PIECES.
My Bloody Valentine (1981)
So there’s an urban legend about a deranged murderer killing anyone who celebrates Valentine’s Day. But the legend proves true as each local who celebrates Valentine’s Day turns up dead. There was a 2009 remake that boasted: “Nothing says ‘date movie’ like a 3D ride to hell!” The 3D — with a nice mining pick poking out an eyeball — was the only innovation to the remake.
Taglines: Harry’s out to steal your heart; Cross your heart…and hope to die; and This Valentine’s Day, romance is DEAD.
A killer in a Cupid’s mask sends threatening love letters to a group of girls. Turns out the killer is just proving hell hath no fury like a young boy scorned. All the victims are girls who had turned him down when he was a boy. And the way each girl rejected him foreshadows how they die. Just desserts.
Tagline: Remember that kid everyone ignored on Valentine’s Day? He remembers you. Love Hurts.
April Fool’s Day (1986/2008)
A hostess with a bent for practical jokes invites a group of college students to her island mansion on April Fool’s weekend. After they reveal some secrets, the kids start dropping like flies. But are they all dead or is the whole thing an elaborate practical joke?
Taglines: Childish pranks turn into a bloody battle for survival! and Don’t let the joke be on you!
Easter Bunny Kill! Kill! (2006)
Donnie Darko gave us an ominous Frank the Bunny but here we get a killer in a cute Easter Bunny mask coming to the rescue of a developmentally disabled teen. Nicholas is the teenaged boy who loves Easter and his pet rabbit. But his mom’s boyfriend verbally abuses him and threatens to kill his rabbit if the boy tells on him. When the good-for-nothing BF sells the kid to his pedophile friend, a killer in a bunny mask steps in to save the boy and show off his skill with power tools. Sometimes it pays to believe in the Easter Bunny. (The title also pays homage to Russ Meyers’ Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!)
Tagline: This Year There Will Be No Resurrection
Mother’s Day (1980)
Ah Troma! What would we do without this prolific, ultra-indie, and delightfully tasteless production company? Lloyd Kaufman has headed the company for almost 4 decades and he has consistently turned out no-budget cult favorites. Troma gives us not just Mother’s Day but also the perfect companion piece, Father’s Day. The mommy of Mother’s Day is a nasty piece of work who likes to see her boys commit rape and murder. As Troma puts it: “the independent horror classic which redefines the term ‘family values.'” You gotta love Troma.
Tagline: I’m so proud of my boys. They never forget their momma.
Memorial Day (a.k.a. Memorial Day Killer) (1999)
Wow, a group of young adults isolated in a cabin by a lake and stalked by a masked killer! Now if that’s not a formula for horror I don’t know what is. Seems the group has gathered on the Memorial Day weekend to try and lay some things to rest about the mysterious death of a young girl’s brother. But while everyone insists it was just an accident, someone lurking around the cabin suggests otherwise. Surely a weekend to remember.
Taglines: Beers, Burgers, Bloodshed … Gonna be a long weekend, and Pray for the weekend to be over.
Father’s Day (2011)
Ahab (yes shades of Moby Dick) is a man obsessed with seeking revenge on the person who killed his dad. But the murderer — known as Chris Fuchman, The Father’s Day Killer — proves as elusive as that great white whale. Troma boasts: “But fathers are still being violated in the behind, dismembered with hacksaws, and set on fire.”
Tagline: Sons, lock up your fathers… vengeance arrives on… Father’s Day!
Independence Day (1996)
Okay this is more sci-fi than horror but how could I leave the 4th of July off the list of holidays? Aliens invade earth, destroy cities, kill off massive numbers of people but July 4th becomes the day humanity will fight for its freedom.
Taglines: We’ve always believed we weren’t alone. On July 4th, we’ll wish we were. And: On July 2nd, they arrive. On July 3rd, they strike. On July 4th, we fight back.
Uncle Sam (1997)
Also set on the 4th of July but with a much smaller budget and more overtly horror storyline, Uncle Sam gives us a soldier who’s killed during Desert Storm. But the soldier — named Sam — rises from the dead to haunt unpatriotic citizens who don’t show enough respect for the good ole U.S. of A. And on the 4th of July Sam dresses as Uncle Sam to wreck havoc on the town’s Independence Day celebration. Cameos by singer Isaac Hayes and Robert Forster.
Tagline: I Want You…DEAD.
John Carpenter’s seminal film took the serial killer of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and gave him a boogeyman spin. Carpenter acknowledges Psycho as the “father of modern horror” but adds that “I don’t think audiences had seen a movie quite like Halloween, that really didn’t address the backstory of the killer but the killer was a force of nature, and he was part human and part supernatural.” And all terrifying. The film spawned 7 sequels and a remake but none were as good as the original.
Taglines: The night HE came home.
Trick ‘r’ Treat (2007)
Halloween night provides the backdrop for four interwoven tales of horror involving a reclusive serial killer, a virgin, a woman with a phobia, and some teens with a nasty streak.
Taglines: Poison, Drowning, Claw, Or Knife. So Many Ways To Take A Life.
A film to rival Troma’s for lack of budget and pure crass filmmaking bravado. It announces its tone with an opening close up of naked breasts and an axe wielding turkey that looks at the buxom pilgrim and exclaims: “Nice tits, bitch!” Later (centuries later in fact) a college student tells her slutty friend (who’s just flashed the boys): “Pull your shirt down, honey! It’s Thanksgiving, not Titsgiving!” In 2012, Jordan Downey skipped right over Thankskilling 2 to make Thankskilling 3 (but there was, according to the film, a Thankskilling 2 but is was so awful all but one copy of it was destroyed). I’ll give this one props for the best tagline.
Tagline: Gobble, Gobble, Motherf-cker!
This is the holiday movie that needs to be made: Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving. The film only exists as a faux trailer in the film Grindhouse. But like Robert Rodriguez’s fake trailer for Machete, Roth’s teaser is so good that a full length feature just has to be set in motion. But till then, enjoy these brilliant few minutes of Thanksgiving horror.
Tagline: You’ll come home for the holidays in a body bag.