Santa’s Slay Bells

Kier-La Janisse on holiday slashers and other ghost tales for Christmas


For all the glühwein and good cheer, mid-December also marks the darkest part of the year, when families around the world gather to watch their favorite holiday ghost story: A Christmas Carol. Easily the most famous spooky Yuletide movie, it is by no means the only one: Black Christmas was arguably the first American slasher movie; the mischievous creatures from Gremlins squealed their way into many hearts in 1984; and the Alpine Krampus has more credits to his name than Santa has reindeer. For generations, the heart of winter—not Halloween—was when we told unsettling stories around the fire, whether they featured the ghosts of our own pasts or Gryla the Icelandic ogre and her evil Yule cat. This week on Smarty Pants, writer and director Kier-La Janisse offers a primer on how these stories have found their way onto the screen, from annual BBC television specials to big-budget Hollywood bloodbaths.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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