10 International Holiday Cult and Horror Movies to Chill You in Any Language

10 International Holiday Cult and Horror Movies to Chill You in Any Language

Because America and other English-speaking countries aren't the only ones bearing cinematic gifts of festive freakiness.

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A woman looks at a wooden cutout of a man from an Advent calendar
The Advent Calendar
Image: Shudder

You could spend every night of December watching a different Christmas horror movie—heck, there are almost enough Silent Night, Deadly Night entries to fill up an entire week by themselves!—but most of those would hail from America, with maybe a few British and Canadian entries tagging along. This yuletide season, why not dig a little deeper and watch some international films, too?

Here are 10 holiday horror films from around the world (including dubbed and subtitled entries) to get you started.

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The Advent Calendar

The Advent Calendar

The Advent Calendar - Official Trailer [HD] | A Shudder Original

This excellent 2021 French horror film follows a former dancer who becomes paralyzed after a car accident. To cheer her up, her best friend/frenemy brings her a traditional wooden Advent calendar, which soon reveals itself to be filled not with holiday cheer, but supernatural powers—tricky, nasty, but also maddeningly useful supernatural powers.

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Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE | Official Australian Trailer

Step aside, David Harbour: the true violent night lies within this 2010 Finnish film, a pitch-black comedy about the “real” (and not-so-jolly) Santa Claus.

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The Day of the Beast

The Day of the Beast

Day of the Beast Official Trailer

This 1995 Spanish film won multiple Goya Awards, including Best Director for the cult-beloved Álex de la Iglesia (The Last Circus). It imagines that on Christmas Eve in the year 2000, in a grim version of Madrid that feels like it’s already teetering on the edge of an apocalypse, the Antichrist will be born—and it’s up to a determined priest, a charismatic metalhead, and the humbug host of an occult TV show to save the world. The end result? Probably the best Satan-obsessed holiday movie ever made.

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Last Stop on the Night Train

Last Stop on the Night Train

Last Stop on the Night Train (1975) ORIGINAL TRAILER

Stomp out any warm holiday fuzzies with this absolutely brutal Italian film from 1975 that takes direct inspiration from Last House on the Left and that film’s own inspiration, The Virgin Spring. Except somehow it’s nastier than either of those movies, following a pair of schoolgirls targeted by lascivious thugs while traveling from Germany to Italy for Christmas—not for nothing, the film’s alternate title is Night Train Murders—and then the vicious parental revenge that follows.

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Inside

Inside

Image for article titled 10 International Holiday Cult and Horror Movies to Chill You in Any Language
Screenshot: La Fabrique de Films

One of the most traumatizing viewing experiences ever comes courtesy of this 2007 film from directing duo Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo (Leatherface, Kandisha, The Deep House). On Christmas Eve, a young mother-to-be is still very much grieving her husband, who died a few months prior in a car accident she and their unborn baby miraculously survived. An awful situation gets worse when she’s attacked by a mysterious woman who is deadly intent on stealing the infant right out of her womb.

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Calvaire

Calvaire

Calvaire trailer (2004)

“Traveler gets stranded in the worst possible place” is a well-worn trope for both horror movies and Christmas movies, and the 2004 Belgian film Calvaire (also known as The Ordeal) just might depict the most extreme “worst possible place” ever. Pity the small-time crooner whose vehicle breaks down in an isolated forest en route to perform a holiday concert, and experiences the absolute opposite of a warm welcome from the creepy locals.

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Tokyo Godfathers

Tokyo Godfathers

Tokyo Godfathers [Official English Dub Trailer, GKIDS] - Blu-ray/DVD June 2

Anime legend Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, Paprika) wrote and directed this 2003 action-adventure film inspired by an unlikely source: 1948 John Wayne-starring, John Ford-directed Western 3 Godfathers. It has its own distinct flavor, though, following a trio of unhoused people who discover an infant abandoned on Christmas Eve and have a truly wild time trying to keep it safe while tracking down its parents.

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Dial Code Santa Claus

Dial Code Santa Claus

DIAL CODE SANTA CLAUS | Trailer

This 1989 French film—which has several alternate titles, including Deadly Games and Hide and Freak—so closely resembles 1990's Home Alone that writer-director René Manzor grumbled about it publicly when the latter was released. But there’s room for both movies on your Christmas playlist, especially if you’ve ever thought the only thing Home Alone was missing was a higher level of intense violence.

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Santa Claus

Santa Claus

Santa Claus trailer (1959)

This schlocky 1959 Mexican fantasy—also known as Santa Claus vs. the Devil, and also available in a 1960 American cut... as well as, notably, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode from 1993—concerns Lucifer’s plot to send a demon to Earth and turn the children of the world against Santa Claus. Also, Merlin pops up as Santa’s assistant. Santa vs. Satan: what’s not to love?

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Dead End

Dead End

Dead End (2003) Official Trailer

This 2003 tale follows a family whose Christmas Eve drive spirals into surreal, “is it real, or is it a Twilight Zone-style head trip?” spookiness after the father takes an ill-advised shortcut through the woods. Though it’s a French production from writing-directing duo Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa, Dead End features a recognizable American cast, including Ray Wise (Twin Peaks) and Lin Shaye (Insidious).


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