In a month where festive cheer and heartstring-tugging advertisements seem to follow you down every high street and permeate your television shows, sometimes there’s nothing more gratifying than a chance to delve into the darker, more gruesome side of this most wonderful time of the year.
With that in mind, here are six horror shorts you can check out for a more ghoulish alternative to the sugar-sweet classics of holiday season cinema.
Treevenge (dir. Jason Eisener, Canada)
From Hobo with a Shotgun director Jason Eisener comes a gleefully grotesque tale of bloody revolution that refuses to take itself seriously for even one moment. While the first half of Treevenge sees a family of Christmas trees kidnapped and mutilated by their barbaric human oppressors, eventually the tables turn with even more horrific results. With loving nods to classic horror – from Cannibal Holocaust to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to The Evil Dead – Treevenge pushes its ridiculous premise to the limit with results as funny as they are disturbing.
La Otra Cena (dir. Albert Blanch, Spain)
Amidst a city in crisis, an old man insists on going home for Christmas dinner in an act of either touching loyalty or sad delusion. Albert Blanch’s tragicomic drama evokes the value of tradition as something familiar to cling to in times of catastrophe while also warning of the dangers of clinging too hard to the past, lest tradition becomes like the walking dead: a crude and soulless mockery of what it once was.
Humbug (dir. Justin Lee and Matt Thiesen, USA)
A curmudgeonly goth girl is kidnapped by her perky neighbour and forced to endure a brutal session of corrective therapy until she finally can get into the holiday spirit. Leading up to an agreeably bizarre final twist, Lee and Thiesen’s comedy will strike a chord with anyone who’s found the season’s insistent, omnipresent cheer to be as oppressive as it is heartening.
Here Comes Santa (dir. Chris Thomas, UK)
A diligent young boy stays up late on Christmas Eve with the hope of capturing on video what no child is supposed to be awake to see: a visit from Santa Claus. In a subversion of childhood mythology, the boy soon learns that Father Christmas isn’t as warm and fuzzy as the stories made him out to be.
It’s a Wonderful Knife (dir. Nick Lines, USA)
A vengeful ex-hooker with a deprived upbringing seeks vengeance on Santa Claus for never visiting her house as a child in Nick Lines’ stylishly dark story of childhood hang-ups and holiday consumerism. Among the short’s delightfully bleak twists on Christmas clichés, It’s a Wonderful Knife peaks with the suggestion that Santa’s own production-driven life is even more bleak and traumatic than the worst of ours.
Exit (dir. Daniel Zimbler, UK)
There’s an old-fashioned gothic charm to this Edwardian period drama, which sees the conversation at a family gathering take a sinister turn. As the atmosphere of the room transitions into eerie, existential dread, Exit manifests as a tribute to the power of words and storytelling, as well as a devious demonstration of a very British fascination with the macabre.