Santa Claus is an international icon of jolly happiness, gift giving and the joy of Christmas and has appeared in countless forms of media and entertainment either to promote a product or event or just as a character himself. It's hard to imagine this beloved figure conjuring anything other than excitement but sometimes he does just that. Whether intentional or not, sometimes TV and film just completely miss the mark with their depictions of the red-clad gift giver and make him super creepy. Here we look at the 15 creepiest to have graced our screens.
Coming from Austrian/German folklore, Krampus is the shadow of Santa Clause and so, although a separate entity, is intrinsically linked to the jolly red man and is the complete antithesis of him as it comes to beat children who have been bad. A horned, demonic beast, in 2015 filmmakers decided to make him the subject of a Christmas horror comedy.
Granted, he is not a direct interpretation of Santa but we thought he deserved a mention for being scary as heck!
14. Tales From The Crypt
A 1972 anthology film, in one section it tells the story of a murderous housewife who sees off her husband and is then stalked by an escaped convict dressed as Santa. Creeping through the house the killer is actually a very chilling depiction of the seasonal figure as when he is intentionally shown as creepy it is often chaotic and brutal.
Here, however, the methodical and calm stalking makes it all the more heart-stopping.
13. Bad Santa
Not horror movie creepy but certainly disturbing in the way it picks apart an icon and brings him to his knees as a sex-addicted, alcoholic thief becomes a department store Santa every year so as to get better access to the stock so he might lift it with greater ease. A comedy, of sorts, it doesn't redeem the character or give them an arc but rather shows them further spiraling out of control.
Granted, the idea of the film os to derive dark humor from Santa brought low but it is still unnerving.
12. Silent Night, Deadly Night
A god-awful horror film from 1984 that centers around the premise that a young boy sees a man dressed as Santa murder his parents and so he grows up to emulate this behavior. It is a ridiculous and unentertaining besmirching of the good character of Santa Claus but does try to offer up some sort of psychological tension.
With some genuinely disturbing moments, what's perhaps most unsettling is having to sit through the whole film.
11. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
A pretty decent Finnish horror film that speculates that the Santa Claus imagery has been changed from the truth of a demonic Santa who feasts on reindeer and wreaks havoc upon the towns and villages of the frozen wastelands he calls home. Trapped beneath the ice for hundreds of years, this demon Santa is then reawakened and all heck breaks loose.
Actually a pretty original interpretation on Santa Claus, it is still deeply worrying to think of Rudolph as more of a meal than a magical, sleigh pulling friend.
10. Santa's Slay
An overtly absurd dark comedy horror film that sees professional wrestler Bill Goldberg play a homicidal Santa who enjoys killing people. An origin story that suggests Santa is actually the son of Satan who was forced to change his ways by an Angel and some poor curling skills, he has now decided to revert to kind and kick up a whole lot of fuss.
Camp, gruesome and absolutely childhood destroying.
9. Doctor Who
One of Britain's biggest TV exports is a massive global phenomenon and has a Christmas episode every year that sees fans clamoring for the remote to make sure they get to view their favorite Timelord in action. In several Christmas editions of the sci-fi fantasy series, we see the foes known as Roboform trying to steal the Doctor's powers of regeneration.
Appearing as sort of mannequin Santas, their stiff beards and wide-eyed, unmoving faces are a pretty creepy effigy of the man in red and white and they do quite the bit of damage too. Although, the real Santa turns up in later Christmas editions so that's a bit better.
8. All Through The House
Another one for the deranged killer dressed as Santa Claus horror genre as this guy crops up out of nowhere to terrorize a small town. Unlike some of the other films on this list, though, there is some reasoning behind his murderous rampages that makes the film a little more interesting as it becomes part mystery also.
What sets this killer Claus apart from the others, though, is his wearing of a metallic mask behind the beard so as to completely hide his identity and just make him that extra bit scarier
7. Silent Night
A sort of rough remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night, it ups the ante by making the murderer a sort of vengeful Santa character who punishes those who have been bad and it also increases the Arsenal to absurd proportions. The Santa outfit is creepier, the deaths more over the top and the whole thing just a little unnecessary in all departments.
What makes it that little more unsettling, though, is the fact it is loosely based on a true story so...yeah, have fun getting to sleep with that knowledge.
6. Hardrock, Coco and Joe
In a short stop-motion animated film from the 1950s, this heart-warming story is just a tale of Santa's helpers who load up the sleigh. The problem is, the puppets used have permanently fixed expressions and so the ever-beaming Santa becomes quite traumatizing after any prolonged period of viewing as do his elves.
In terms of intentional creepiness, this is quite low down but it is because it is unintentional that it becomes so much worse. Only 3-minutes long, you can watch it above and if you can get past how they all look, it's actually pretty good.
5. American Horror Story: Asylum
American Horror Story has become known for subverting the ideas of the norm and in a Christmas themed one, we visit the asylum where a petty thief turned murderous criminal is held after he suffered great trauma in prison from guards who wore Santa suits. It is another, traumatized by Santa so becomes the traumatizing thing itself trope but this one is dark as heck, like...seriously dark.
The fact that he claims to know who's been naughty and who has been nice and then starts offing people in the most gruesome of ways is what makes this twisted Santa so darn skin crawling.
4. A Christmas Story
Featuring a mall Santa who clearly doesn't like his job or being around children, his impatience, callousness and unerring cruelty seem all the more chilling given that he actually looks like a decent iteration of Santa Claus. It taps into a notion of the bad Santa and set the tropes of the type for many years to come.
Not as horrific as some of the others on the list but the malice is just as chilling.
A Dutch horror movie that has Santa as a former gang leader, murdered by villagers and then brought back from the dead. It's a zombie movie with a supernatural, Christmas twist and really gruesome effects and the character becomes more gaunt and haggard as every attempt to stop him seems to fail but leaves their lasting marks.
We don't know what they were thinking when this was made but it's more likely to fill you with nightmares rather than Christmas cheer.
From the minds behind the Simpsons came another absolutely classic animated show but this time set in the distant future and often giving a pretty grim outlook on the state of humanity. In many of the Christmas episodes, a robotic Santa was featured who was built to distribute gifts across the globe to the good and punish the bad.
The problem was it malfunctioned and judged everyone so bad that it decided to murder them, thus making Christmas, a holiday filled with fear. A chilling indictment of the future but played for perfect comic effect.
1. Christmas Cruelty
Another murderer dressed as Santa, so what makes this one so creepy that he stands out as top of our list? Well, this Norwegian horror film does nothing to explain why this person is dressed as Santa Claus and is going about killing everyone in sight. It's just a straight up gore-fest for no real reason.
The fact that this lacks any logical reasoning to the costume or death just makes it creepier. It's creepy that someone came up with it and it's creepy it was filmed.