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The Joy of Horror During the Holidays

Florence Pugh in Midsommar (2019)

The holidays are, for some people, the most wonderful time of the year. For others, they’re just a period of time you get some extra days off from work, but for some of us who have weird relationships with this time of the year, rather than being joyful, it’s stressful. Between seasonal depression and the anxiety I get as the daylight shrinks during winter, the holiday season is not joyful for me; it’s actually quite terrifying.

Add on the fact that my family just aren’t holiday people, and it’s less a time for togetherness and more a time where I feel cloistered within my own mind. Holidays can be isolating, cold, and distant, which is why I like to watch horror movies during them.

Yes, Batman Returns and Die Hard rank among the traditional non-untraditional Christmas films, and Black Christmas has the theme in the title, but one of my favorite movies to watch has always been Let the Right One In. Ever since I first watched it in college, it has been one of my favorite films. A young boy in Stockholm ends up befriending a young vampire, and it’s one-half romance and one-half horror story. The amazing cinematography captures the snowy landscape, which means you can get a secondhand white Christmas vibe—perfect for really capturing those blood droplets.

The Wicker Man is also one of my favorite holiday films, even though it’s more of an Easter film. It’s a movie about celebration and the potential birth of a plentiful new harvest. Yes, one man has to die because of it, but you know what? Sometimes, that’s just what needs to be done.

Recent release Midsommar, despite not being a movie I loved when I saw it, has grown on me just by virtue of having so many amazing shots. Plus, one of the things I have grown to really love about Midsommar is that, as someone who does struggle with depression and reaching out, the scene where Dani cries with the other women has become more and more of a cathartic experience.

Sometimes, that’s honestly the only thing I want to do with my family during Christmas.

However, if you really want to reflect on how much worse your family could have been, there is also Ari Aster’s other film, Hereditary.

More than anything, horror movies are a comfort for me during the holidays because, most of the time, they’re mostly open-ended. It isn’t always joyful, and there isn’t necessarily a direct conclusion, but there’s endless possibility. So often, during the holidays, it’s a time for self-reflection as we enter the new year, but we’re expected to dress up all the bad times with tinsel and holly.

Christmas movies end happily, but horror movies are about the triumph of the day, while knowing there is so much more to be done. At least with the horror films, you spend the whole film being able to face the darkness and spit in its face.

That makes the eggnog taste even sweeter.

(image: A24/edited by author)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.